Microgreens vs. Sprouts | What’s The Difference?

When it comes to adding a nutritious punch to your meals, both microgreens and sprouts have become popular choices. These tiny greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of any dish. Despite their similarities in size and appearance, there are distinct differences between microgreens and sprouts. Understanding these variations is essential for selecting the right option for your culinary needs or health preferences.

This post will explore Microgreens vs. Sprouts while shedding light on their distinct growing methods, taste profiles, as well as Microgreens, and Sprout’s potential health benefits. But before that, you must know what exactly are these two terms! So let’s have a look at that.

What Exactly Are Sprouts?

Sprouts are young plants that have just started to grow from seeds. They are usually consumed within a few days of germination when they are at their peak nutritional value. They contain an array of essential nutrients like vitamins C, A, and K, as well as minerals such as iron and potassium. They are packed with fiber and enzymes that aid digestion. Sprouts can come from various types of seeds, including legumes, grains, and vegetables. They are known for their crunchy texture and fresh taste.

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

How do Sprouts work?

Let’s take a closer look at the process of sprouting:

Soaking: The first step in sprouting is soaking the seeds in water for several hours or overnight. This helps to soften the outer shell of the seed and initiate the germination process.

Rinsing: After soaking, the seeds are rinsed thoroughly with fresh water to remove any impurities or residue. This step also provides the moisture necessary for sprouting.

Draining: Once rinsed, the seeds are placed in a container with drainage holes or a sprouting jar fitted with a mesh lid. Allowing excess water to drain out is crucial as it prevents mold growth and ensures proper air circulation.

Types Of Sprouts

With so many varieties available, if you’re confused choose the right one for your taste buds and dietary needs. Here’s a breakdown of some popular sprout varieties:

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

Alfalfa Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts are also known as Medicago sativa. These delicate and tender sprouts are rich in essential nutrients and have a refreshing, mild flavor. They are commonly used as toppings for salads, and sandwiches, and even incorporated into smoothies. These are highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals. They contain high amounts of vitamin K, which is crucial for blood clotting and bone health. They are an excellent source of vitamin C that boosts the immune system’s function while promoting collagen production for healthy skin. Alfalfa sprouts provide a good dose of dietary fiber that aids in digestion by promoting regular bowel movements.

Broccoli Sprouts

These tiny, nutrient-packed powerhouses are one of the most nutritious sprouts available. Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like potassium and iron, broccoli sprouts offer a concentrated dose of essential nutrients. Their high levels of antioxidants make them an excellent addition to any diet aiming to boost immune function and fight inflammation. They also contain a compound called sulforaphane. This potent antioxidant has been linked to various health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Sulforaphane is known for its ability to support detoxification processes in the body and may even have anti-aging effects on the skin.

One type of broccoli sprout is called “Waltham 29,” named after the town in Massachusetts where it was first cultivated. This variety is known for its robust flavor and crunchy texture. Another popular type is the “DeCicco” variety, which produces small to medium-sized heads that can be harvested as early as 50-60 days after planting. Both these varieties offer an abundance of nutrients and can be easily grown at home using simple sprouting techniques.

Mung Bean Sprout

Mung bean sprouts are small, greenish-white sprouts that have a mild flavor and a crisp texture. Mung bean sprouts are commonly used in Asian cuisine, particularly in stir-fries and salads. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins C and K, as well as minerals like potassium and iron.

What Are Microgreens?

Microgreens are young vegetable greens that fall somewhere between a sprout and a baby green. They are harvested just a few weeks after germination when the first true leaves appear. They come in various colors and shapes, ranging from delicate red amaranth to vibrant green broccoli. While they may be tiny in size, these little plants pack a powerful punch when it comes to nutrients. In fact, studies have shown that microgreens can contain up to 40 times more vitamins and minerals than their mature counterparts. Not only do they contain high levels of essential nutrients like vitamins C and E, but they also provide a rich source of antioxidants that help fight inflammation in the body.

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

Types Of Microgreens

With a wide variety of types available, each offering its own distinct taste and texture, there is something to suit every palate. Here are some common types of microgreens you should know about:

Brassicas

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

These tiny greens are harvested at an early stage of growth when they contain high concentrations of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In this article, we will explore some popular types of brassica microgreens and their unique flavors and health benefits.

One well-known brassica microgreen is kale. With its deep green leaves and slightly bitter taste, kale microgreens add a delightful crunch to salads or sandwiches. Packed with vitamins A, C, K, as well as calcium and iron, these nutrient-dense greens are known for their potential anti-inflammatory properties. Another widely enjoyed variety is broccoli microgreens.

Alliums

Alliums are a diverse group of plants that include onions, garlic, leeks, and chives. They contain natural compounds that have antimicrobial properties. This means they can help strengthen the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. These microgreens are rich in vitamin C, which supports collagen production for healthy skin and aids in iron absorption for optimal energy levels. Incorporating alliums into your diet not only adds depth to your dishes but also provides numerous health benefits that contribute to your overall well-being.

Legumes

Legumes belong to the family Fabaceae and include well-known varieties such as chickpeas, lentils, and peas. They offer high protein content. These miniature plants are packed with amino acids that are essential for muscle repair and growth. Legume microgreens are rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and can help maintain a healthy weight by promoting feelings of fullness.

Microgreens Seeds

These mini green seeds can contain up to 40 times more nutrients than their fully grown counterparts. They are particularly rich in vitamins C and K, along with beta-carotene and antioxidants that support overall health and well-being. Microgreens seeds are a fantastic source of fiber. Incorporating them into your diet can promote digestive health by aiding regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Microgreens And Sprouts Are Not The Same Thing

Many people think that Microgreens and sprouts are the same, but they are not the same thing. Microgreens are harvested at a slightly later stage than sprouts. They are tiny versions of fully grown vegetables and herbs, typically harvested when the first true leaves have emerged. While both are young plants that pack a nutritional punch, there are distinct differences in their growth cycles and cultivation methods.

Microgreens Vs Sprouts – The Similarities

There are some notable similarities between these two greens that make them both popular choices for health-conscious individuals. Understanding the similarities can help you decide which to include in your diet.

  • Both microgreens and sprouts are young, tender plants that are harvested before reaching maturity.
  • They offer a concentrated burst of nutrients and flavors, making them popular choices for health-conscious individuals.
  • Microgreens and sprouts are both easy to grow at home, requiring minimal space, time, and effort.
  • They can be grown indoors throughout the year, providing a fresh supply of greens even in unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Both varieties are considered superfoods due to their high nutritional content, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes.
  • Microgreens and sprouts make excellent additions to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or garnishes on various dishes.

Sprouts vs Microgreens – The Differences

Here are some of the key differences:

Appearance

Sprouts are typically small, young plants characterized by their delicate stems and leaves, which are tightly packed together in a compact form. Sprouts often have a pale yellow or white color due to their lack of exposure to light during the growth process. Whereas, microgreens have tiny versions of fully grown vegetables or herbs that are harvested at an early stage. Unlike sprouts, microgreens have developed their first set of true leaves and resemble miniature versions of mature plants. These vibrant greens boast an array of colors such as deep green, purple, and red, depending on the variety.

Plant Length

Sprouts are typically harvested at a very early stage of growth, usually within 2-3 inches in height. These tiny plants are consumed whole, including the seed, root, and shoot. In comparison, microgreens have a longer growth period and are harvested when they reach heights of 4-7 inches.

Harvest

Sprouts are typically harvested within 3-5 days of germination, while microgreens require a bit more time to develop before being ready for harvest – usually around 7-14 days. Understanding these differences allows you to choose the perfect stage for your culinary needs.

Growing Medium

Sprouts, which are germinated seeds typically consumed whole, can be grown using water as a hydroponic medium. This method involves soaking the seeds overnight before placing them on a damp cloth or tray with constant exposure to moisture. The water acts as both a nutrient source and a support system for the growing sprouts.

Whereas, microgreens can either be grown hydroponically or in soil-based mediums. Hydroponic systems for microgreens involve suspending the roots of the plants in water that contains essential nutrients.

Nutrition

Although sprouts contain essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and fiber, their overall nutritional content remains relatively low compared to microgreens. Whereas, Microgreens have been found to contain higher levels of certain nutrients compared to sprouts. Research shows that they can provide up to 40 times more vital nutrients than their fully-grown counterparts!

Consumption

When consuming sprouts, the entire plant is generally eaten, including the seeds and roots.
On the other hand, microgreens are also young plants but are slightly more mature than sprouts. They are typically harvested after one to three weeks of growth when they have developed their first true leaves. Unlike sprouts, only the above-ground portion of microgreens is consumed, which means that their seeds and root systems are not part of what is eaten.

Ventilation

Ventilation is an essential factor to consider when growing sprouts and microgreens. While sprouts are typically grown in a closed environment and do not require ventilation, microgreens thrive in well-ventilated spaces. Sprouts are usually cultivated in a controlled setting, such as jars or trays, without the need for air circulation. This closed system helps retain moisture and promotes germination without the risk of drying out.

Whereas, microgreens benefit from good ventilation during their growth cycle. Adequate airflow helps prevent the buildup of excess humidity, which can lead to fungal diseases or mold growth on delicate plants. Ventilation also aids in maintaining optimal temperature levels and ensures proper gas exchange for healthy plant development.

Light Intensity Needed

Sprouts and microgreens are both nutrient-dense and easy to grow indoors, their light needs differ significantly. Surprisingly, sprouts do not require any direct light to thrive. These young plants rely solely on water and air for nourishment as they germinate from seeds. This lack of light dependency makes sprout cultivation an ideal option even for those with limited access to natural sunlight or growing space. Whereas, microgreens necessitate an adequate amount of light in order to flourish into vibrant leafy greens.

Fiber Content

Sprouts contain relatively low amounts of fiber compared to their more mature counterparts. Whereas, microgreens are harvested at a slightly later stage of growth when the seed has just produced its first set of true leaves.

Recipe

Sprouts are ideal for stir-fries as their slight tenderness complements the other ingredients perfectly. Their crisp texture adds a satisfying element to your favorite Asian-inspired dishes or hearty stir-fried vegetables. Whereas, microgreens are excellent for salads, soups garnishes, and even sandwiches. These small but mighty greens pack a punch in terms of both taste and nutrition. Microgreens can be easily grown at home, making them an accessible addition to your culinary adventures.

Plant Varieties

Microgreens boast an impressive array of over 80 types of plants to choose from. Unlike sprouts which are harvested after just a few days of growth when the first leaves appear, microgreens are allowed to grow for slightly longer periods – generally between one to three weeks.

Cost

Sprouts are known for being comparatively cheaper than microgreens. These are typically grown in water without soil, which reduces production costs and allows for mass cultivation. As a result, they can be purchased at a lower price point compared to their more mature counterparts.

If we talk about Microgreens, the cultivation process of microgreens requires soil or another growing medium, which incurs additional expenses such as purchasing quality substrates and fertilizers. Growing microgreens often takes longer than sprout production as they need time to develop their leaves fully. This longer growth period translates into increased labor costs and potentially higher overheads for farmers or suppliers.

Microgreens vs. Sprouts

Which Is Better Microgreens Vs. Sprouts?

When choosing between two of them, microgreens prove to be the superior option. One of the main reasons why microgreens surpass sprouts is their higher nutritional value. Microgreens contain significantly higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to their mature counterparts. These tiny greens pack a powerful punch when it comes to providing essential nutrients for our bodies.

Are Sprouts Safer Than Microgreens?

Sprouts are typically grown in warm and humid environments, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. This is because sprouts are grown from seeds that are soaked in water, allowing these harmful pathogens to multiply quickly. Whereas, microgreens are grown in soil or other growing mediums that provide a more controlled environment. Unlike sprouts, they require sunlight and air circulation to thrive. This difference in growing conditions makes microgreens less susceptible to bacterial contamination compared to sprouts. In fact, studies have shown that microgreens have a lower risk of harboring foodborne illnesses due to their cultivation methods.

Concluding “Microgreens vs. Sprouts”

Whether you prefer the vibrant variety of microgreens or the simplicity of sprouts, incorporating these tiny greens into your diet can elevate your meals to new heights. So why not experiment with both and see which one tickles your taste buds? Give these mini powerhouses a try and embark on a flavorful journey toward optimal health.

FAQs

Are microgreens just baby plants?

Microgreens are indeed young plants that are harvested when they are only a few inches tall, usually within 7-14 days after germination. What set them apart from sprouts or baby greens is that microgreens are harvested after the emergence of the first true leaves.

What is another name for microgreens?

Microgreens are also known as baby greens, sprouts, or young lettuce.

What is the difference between sprout microgreens and baby greens?

Sprout microgreens are smaller, younger plants that have not yet developed a strong root system. They are typically grown in water instead of soil and are harvested shortly after they emerge. Baby greens are mature plants that have developed a strong root system. They are typically grown in soil and may take several weeks to harvest.

Iram Khan