Micro, Baby or Mature Leafy Greens?

microgreens imageA new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that microgreens had 4 to 6 times the vitamins and nutrients of mature greens of the same plant. In this study, 25 varieties of different types of microgreens were tested against mature greens for levels of vitamins C, E, K and beta carotene (1).

Microgreens are the next phase of plant development after a sprout.

Microgreens are generally 14 days old or less and, unlike a sprout, which is germinated in water, a microgreen is germinated and grown to about 1-2 inches in height in soil. Once a pair of leaves develops, this baby plant is cut at the stem and voila – you have a microgreen.

While much more research needs to be done to replicate this study, there is more and more evidence mounting that microgreens, and possibly baby greens, provide more nutrients than the mature leaf. According to Colorado State University research, baby greens tend to be more tender, nutritious, and milder in flavor than mature greens (2).

How About Baby vs. Mature Leafy Greens?

But all the results don’t seem to be in – yet! Some studies have shown baby greens to have more vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoids than the mature leaves, while others show they have less.

While there is surprisingly little research on this subject, and much of it is contradictory, it seems the quality of the soil, the season, and the climate in which the leafy greens grow may play a part in the confusion.

One logical way to consume leafy greens would be to eat the microgreens and baby greens raw in a salad, because they are very delicate and are an easy way to get leafy green nutrients without cooking them. Mature greens, which have more dense cellulose to chew through in order to release the nutrients, are generally best eaten steamed or cooked to help break down the cellulose.

References:
1. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. August 2012
2. Colorado State University Extension; Health Benefits and Safe Handling of Salad Greens; M. Bunning, et al.; June 2007

 

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