Kale Microgreen Nutrition: Every Bite Packed with Vitamins
Suddenly, kale is everywhere. No longer considered gourmet ingredients in upscale restaurants, these nutrient-rich greens have become increasingly popular among gardeners, home growers, and home cooks.
Kale microgreens have concentrated levels of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K and calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phytonutrients, including polyphenols, glucosinolates, flavanol compounds, and carotenoid antioxidants.
Kale is a leafy, green, cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, as do cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy.
Kale microgreens are young plants that emerge from the seeds before they develop into full-grown, mature plants.
They have small leaves compared to mature kale, which has large, flat, or curly leaves and a strong central stem.
Kale microgreens grow quickly and can be harvested a week to 10 days after planting the seeds. Both the microgreens’ leaves and stems are edible.
There is more than one type of kale microgreen.
You’ll most frequently find Scotch Blue Curled Kale microgreens with white stems and curly, green leaves.
But I prefer Red Russian Kale microgreens with pink to violet stems light green, smooth seed leaves, and frilly true leaves.
Kale is often thought of as having a bitter taste, but Red Russian Kale microgreens are much sweeter and the tenderest of all kale varieties.
Not only do I love Red Russian Kale as a microgreen, but the leaf edges of the mature greens are dark with red stems and veins with ruffled edges that add a pop of color and contrast to other salad greens.
By the way, Red Russian Kale microgreens can also be planted in the garden, as there is no difference between garden seeds and microgreens seeds.
With their mild flavor, these young vegetable greens are easy to grow in the garden or buy at farmers’ markets everywhere.
Another good thing about kale, whether fresh microgreens or fresh from the garden, is that both have a long shelf life when kept in a plastic bag to reduce moisture loss.
Kale microgreens have become so popular because they’re considered one of the most nutritious “superfoods” available, with multiple health benefits and low calories.
In addition, research has found that kale microgreens have a much higher nutrient content than their mature counterparts.
Kale microgreens, red cabbage microgreens, sunflower microgreens, and pea shoots are some of the most nutritious microgreens.
Kale Microgreen Nutritional Facts – Providing a Nutritional Punch
Kale microgreens are rich in multiple essential nutrients, including the following potential health benefits:
- Vitamin A: Crucial for cell division, growth, vision, immunity, and reproduction
- Vitamin B6: Plays a crucial role in metabolism, converting food into energy; brain development, and regulation of immune responses
- Vitamin C: Crucial for the development, growth, and repair of body tissues and serves as an antioxidant, protecting cells against the effects of free radicals, which are molecules produced during the breakdown of food or exposure to radiation, tobacco smoke, and other external sources. (Free radicals are associated with developing heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases.)
- Vitamin E: Neutralizes or reduces free radicals, protecting molecular and cellular components, and preventing free radicals from oxygenating cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of stroke or heart disease
- Vitamin K: Plays a key role in wound healing, blood clotting, and bone growth
- Calcium: Critical in building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth and proper heart, nerve, and muscle functioning and may help reduce the risk of heart disease
- Copper: Helps to maintain healthy bones; proper functioning of nerves, blood vessels, and the immune system; the formation of red blood cells; and proper iron absorption
- Fiber-rich phosphorus: Important in managing the body’s energy use and storage, filtering and removing waste from the kidneys, and promoting nerve conduction
- Folate: Belongs to the B vitamins and is crucial in the formation of red blood cells, proper cellular growth and function, and reduced risk of brain and congenital spinal disabilities during pregnancy
- Iron: Helps produce the oxygen-carrying component (hemoglobin) in red blood cells, enhances the body’s energy use, and strengthens the immune system.
- Magnesium: Crucial in numerous biochemical reactions in the body, regulating blood pressure, supporting the immune system, and helping with muscle and nerve functioning, reducing the possibility of kidney stones
- Manganese: Important for bone and connective tissue development, blood sugar regulation, and normal brain and nerve function
- Potassium: Needed for proper cellular functioning, regulating the heartbeat, synthesizing protein, regulating muscle and nerve functioning, and metabolizing carbohydrates
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Kale Microgreens Contain Important Phytochemicals
Kale is also an excellent source of phytochemicals. These compounds produced by plants included polyphenols, glucosinolates, flavanol compounds, and carotenoid antioxidants.
Phytochemicals slow the growth of some cancer cells and are why microgreens, baby leaf greens, and other leafy vegetables are considered to have anticancer properties.
They prevent cellular DNA damage that may lead to cancer, reduce inflammation, and aid the immune system.
How Kale Microgreens are Grown May Impact Nutrient Levels
Recent research has found that kale (as well as broccoli) microgreens grown on windowsills of many homes or with artificial light are high in phytochemicals—yet the levels varied significantly between the two growing environments.
Even though kale microgreens can be grown in indirect sunlight, you will find elevated amounts of phytonutrients and greater nutritional value in young microgreens grown under LED shop lights or a grow light.
ACS Food Science & Technology, built on a previous study that Thomas Wang and Pei Chen did with Red Cabbage microgreens by growing broccoli and kale seeds on a windowsill in natural sunlight and in a refrigerator-like growth chamber to control temperature and humidity with 12 hours of artificial sunlight daily.
Harvesting the plants ten days after seeding, the team analyzed the phytonutrient content.
They found that the kale and broccoli microgreens were both high in polyphenols and glucosinolates regardless of the growing environment.
Yet there was significant variability in the amounts of specific individual phytonutrient types.
For example, the windowsill-grown microgreens had higher levels of three flavanol types that contribute to the microgreens’ dark color and taste.
While the chamber-grown microgreens had higher levels of two glucosinolates which are antioxidant compounds.
This suggests that the microgreen growth environment significantly affects the abundance of individual phytonutrients, which could impact flavor and their health benefits.
When indoor gardening, it’s essential to control environmental conditions such as room temperature and light intensity as they will affect some compounds’ levels and microgreens’ health benefits.
These differences are why I don’t like to include the often precise percentages of vitamins and minerals that microgreens may contain because the plants’ nutritional contents depend on how the microgreen is grown.
Some Are Better Than None
But what should not be forgotten is that regardless of the growing conditions, microgreens will contain levels of healthful compounds, detoxification enzymes, and anticancer-related compounds.
The levels of these compounds may vary, but some are better than none.
So, grow microgreens even if you can’t provide the perfect environmental conditions.
You will still benefit from all the nutritional and health-related phytonutrients they produce.
Are You Ready to Grow Kale Microgreens?
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