I would definitely consider myself a proud apartment farm-girl. How about you? Have you ever tried to grow your own greens? If not, don't worry! Everything I will tell you about growing your own sprouts and Microgreens is super easy, everyone can do it. I actually grew my first microgreens in kindergarten - without even understanding what I was doing there. We grew our own cress on a cotton pillow in my class and I clearly remember that I didn't like the taste of cress back then. Now I am obsessed (in a positive way).
My point is, we can do this together and there are tons of reasons why you should get into the beauty of "mini greens". But let's start from the beginning and the question of what the terms "Sprouts" and "Microgreens" actually mean and how they differ. Thereafter we will deep-dive into the health benefits of eating your own homegrown greens.
By the way, if you are interested in my top 5 reasons why I grow my own mini greens, take a look at my article about the reasons why I am a "Mini Green" Farmgirl
Sprouts as well as Microgreens are basically "baby plants in their prime". However, there are distinct differences between the "sprout" and the "microgreen" stage of a plant. Once a seed has started to shoot (after its extensive soaking period), it first turns into a sprout. During the sprout stage, tiny stalks start to grow out of the seed over time. A plant is defined as a sprout as long as the seed by itself is still intact.
Once the tiny sprout has developed its first roots, thicker stalks and fine leaves, we use the term "Microgreen". At this stage, the plant leaves start to gravitate towards the top /towards the sunlight. Day by day your tiny greens grow in leave-, stem- and root size from now on.
As we basically "catch" the sprout during its germinating process (the state in which the sprout is on its nutrient peak), we are the beneficiaries!
Sprouts and Microgreens typically contain a maximum level of protein, vitamins and minerals.
When we place our seeds into water to kickstart the shooting process, we basically trigger a fascinating chemical process that brings the seed to life. Proteins parse into amino acids, fats turn into essential fatty acids, complex carbohydrates parse into mino- and disaccharids (this is why sprouts taste very sweet by the way) , natural acids and toxins break down and the amount of water within the seed rises to a level of over 70%.
Let me translate this for you: As we basically "catch" the sprout during its germinating process (the state in which the sprout is on its nutrient peak to speak), we are the beneficiaries. Sprouts and Microgreens typically contain a maximum level of vitamins and minerals, including folate, Vit C, zinc, calcium and magnesium, during this stage.
Vitamins play a crucial role in our overall wellbeing. Unique about the vitamins we absorb through Sprouts and Microgreens is, that they always come "packaged" with a large number of enzymes. Together, our body can absorb and process the vitamins much better than supplements for example. Besides, the vitamin content of Sprouts and Microgreens by itself is absolutely impressive. During the sprouting process, the amount of Vitamin E can increase sixfold, Vitamin A and K levels tenfold, and the amount of Vitamin B can grow 20 times over its initial value.
Minerals and Trace Elements
Just like vitamins, minerals play a crucial role in our bodies and are basically irreplaceable building blocks for our bodies. Sprouts and Microgreens are loaded with minerals and trace elements and they are even better digestible for us in this state. Just like vitamins, minerals link to enzymes in the gradual shooting process resulting in its facilitated digestibility. Let's take a look at Alfalfa sprouts for example. While the seeds only contain 1.4g of calcium per 100g, the sprout contains 210mg/100g. In comparison, 100g spinach contains 99g calcium (see chart below).
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Now, let's talk about fats. We all know that polyunsaturated fats are the good ones for our health. They contribute to the development of our cell membrane and play a crucial role in the reduction of our blood lipids /cholesterol values. There is only one problem with unsaturated fats in foods - it's accessibility! For example, even though a certain food we eat (let's say a "chia pudding"), contains a certain amount of unsaturated fatty acids, we may not be able to access them, i.e. our body may not be able to process the unsaturated fatty acids of the chia seed within the pudding and therefore won't able to take advantage of it. The solution is sprouting! If we sprout the chia or flax seeds beforehand, the biological availability rises significantly.
Proteins consist of chains of different amino acids and are the basis of every cell in our body. Sprouts and Microgreens are a great source of amino acids as during the sprouting process, proteins parse into amino acids for easy digestions. By the way, many sprouts contain all 8 essential amino acids that we need to receive through our food to stay healthy.
On average, sprouts and Microgreens also contain much more fibre than "grown" fruits and veggies. Therefore, they form a great addition to your favorite beans, peas and lentils to for the intake of your daily source of fibre. Besides, if you are one of those persons who just can't find a way to connect with legumes, sprouts and Microgreens are almost a must for your diet I would say.
According to various sources, there is actually no other food which is that enzyme-rich as "baby greens" / sprouts. The Ann Wigmore Institute states, for example, that the enzyme content in sprouts is up to 100 times higher than in raw veggies as enzymes are the major driver of the sprout's metabolic process ("survival and growth process") - just like they are in our bodies. Enzymes help us to detoxify, alleviate inflammations and to remain an overall healthy state of being.
Enzymes are very sensitive to heat and other handling processes though. Therefore, I highly recommend eating sprouts and Microgreens "raw" / added to any dish after cooking. By the way, the older your Microgreens, the fewer enzymes they contain.
Last but not least, sprouts and Microgreens are rich in chlorophyll. The greener your Microgreen, the more chlorophyll it contains is the rule here. Among many other benefits, chlorophyll increases the number of red blood cells in our body and provides our blood with oxygen, it positively influences our digestive system, balances our acid-base balance and has an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and blood cleansing effect.
1. Healthline.com (2020): Raw Sprouts: healthline.com (May 29, 2020)
2. Sproutpeople (2020): Sprouting: sproutpeople.org (May 29, 2020)
3. Harvard (2020): Are sprouted grains more nutritious than regular whole grains?: Harvard.edu (May 29, 2020)
4. Book: Angelika Fürstler (4. Auflage 2019): Sprossen & Mikrogrün
5. Book: Barbara Rias-Bucher (2. Auflage 2019): Keimlinge und Sprossen - Vitamine und Mineralstoffe von der Fensterbank