Wondering what makes that baby spinach at the market so special? RD Amy Gorin explains.
Venture to a nearby restaurant or walk through the produce section of your local grocery store, and you may see a new trend prominently displayed: microgreens, the seedlings of vegetables and herbs (older than sprouts, younger than baby greens). These come in many forms—including micro arugula, micro cabbage, micro kale, micro watercress, micro pea leaves, and more.
Are these greens healthier than the baby and mature varieties? One study in theJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested the nutrition content of 25 commercially available microgreens—finding that the microgreens generally contain higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than their mature counterparts. Study authors found that red cabbage microgreens have up to six times the immunity-helping vitamin C content of mature red cabbage, with 147 milligrams per 3 ounces. That’s well above an adult’s daily need of 75 to 90 milligrams. Those red cabbage microgreens offer about 260 times more vision-promoting beta-carotene than mature red cabbage. Additionally, many of the microgreens in the study had higher levels of eye-helping lutein and zexanthin.
As for how microgreens compare to baby greens, study authors found that 3 ounces of micro arugula contain 46 milligrams vitamin C, making up to 61 percent of your daily need. The same amount of baby arugula offers 20 percent of your daily need, and mature arugula provides just over 7 percent. Other research shows that baby spinach has higher levels of vitamin C, vitamin K (important for blood clotting), lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene—much higher than mature spinach. In general, microgreens contain the most nutrition, followed by baby greens, then mature greens.
The downside? Microgreens can be expensive, of course. A search on FreshDirect.com shows arugula microgreens at about $2.00 an ounce, arugula baby greens at $0.80 per ounce, and mature arugula at only $0.30 an ounce. If your food budget allows, consider buying microgreens or baby greens sometimes for added nutrition, but you’ll get important healthy nutrients from any type of green that you eat!