Next time you’re browsing the produce aisle, consider this: Microgreens (the young seedlings of edible veggies and herbs) might just be the best things to put in your grocery cart. Once relegated to health food stores, these nutrition-packed, delicate greens, typically harvested less than 14 days after germination, have the flavor of the grown plant but contain four to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts, according to a study conducted at the University of Maryland.
“Microgreens are a definite new trend in food, and lots of chefs are incorporating microgreens into their dishes,” says Gabrielle Francis, a holistic physician in New York City for more than 33 years. The goal: By harvesting these greens before they’re fully grown and developed, you’ll end up with a health-packed plate of super-healthy greens that lend an added antioxidant and phytonutrient bonus to salads, sandwiches and sides. Read on as we explore nine of the most popular microgreens to add meganutrients to your salad bowl:
This microgreen contains glucosinolates (GSLs), ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and phenols that are believed to help fend off toxins and stave off environmental stress, says Monique Richard, RD, an adjunct professor of nutrition at East Tennessee State University. “Adding the peppery spice of arugula to sandwiches, salads, smoothies or as a colorful and edible garnish can be tasty and beneficial to your health,” she says.
The shoots of this tasty herb, that’s perfect in pastas or salads, have plenty of health benefits. “Basil is rich in polyphenols that drive gut health and general good health by reducing oxidation and inflammation,” says Barry Sears, Ph.D., a leading research scientist in the field of inflammation.
While this shoot contains few calories, broccoli is a cruciferous (sulfur-containing) powerhouse, Richard says. It’s also super-versatile. “Make a pesto with it for something different,” she says. “Or simply make a spread of crudités and hummus.”
These shoots offer endless healthy benefits. “Chia are an ideal addition to your diet thanks to their healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and satiety from the protein,” Richard says.
Known for its mild flavor, clover is packed with calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. Sprinkle these shoots over any salad for a tasty crunch.
Considered the new superfood, kale is known to be a vitamin C powerhouse. “If massaged with some tahini, lemon juice, dried fruit, apple cider vinegar and apples, it can be a satisfying lunch and the bitterness will subside,” Richard says.
Promising seven times the vitamin C of blueberries and eight times the folic acid of bean sprouts, pea shoot microgreens are equally delicious in a strawberry salad as well as one with radishes and pickled onion, Richard says.
With their signature peppery taste, radish microgreens contain beneficial amounts of folate and B6 and make a delightful finisher to a salad composed of watermelon and avocado.
Known for providing essential amino acids, crunchy sprouted sunflower greens contain high levels of folate, B complex vitamins and vitamins C, E and selenium. When using them in a salad, pair them with a creamy vinaigrette.