Microgreens and Diabetes: What’s the link?

Microgreens may help reduce the risk of diabetes in people who eat them regularly. In those who already have Type 2 Diabetes, microgreens may support healthy blood sugar regulation.

Diabetes is a threat to Americans because only 12% of adults in the United States are metabolically healthy, according to a 2019 report. Researchers generated this percentage based on the waist size, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol readings of more than 2 million adults.

What’s even worse, apparently 99% of us have insulin resistance – a precursor to diabetes. According to another study, which used the HOMA-IR score to measure insulin resistance among a population of 6,247 adults aged 18 to 44, almost nobody had an ideal score below 1.3.

So, let’s explore the connection between microgreens and diabetes.

What are Microgreens?

First, microgreens are seedlings, not sprouts. They are harvested when just 1-3″ tall, after the first full set of leaves have developed. Microgreens have a reputation for high flavor. Not only that, but they are also bursting with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Four Ways Microgreens Support Health

When we think of regulating blood sugars, most people understand the importance of balancing the macronutrients – carbs, fats and proteins. But micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – play a tremendous role in normalizing blood sugars, too.

Microgreens may contain up to 40 times more micronutrients than their mature vegetable counterparts. Amounts vary depending on the specific type of microgreen and its growing conditions. But in general, microgreens offer specific nutritional traits that are important for the prevention and improvement of insulin resistance and diabetes.

  1. High nutrient density.
  2. Excellent iron and vitamin C profile.
  3. Notable magnesium.
  4. Abundant folate content.

Nutrient Density and Insulin Resistance

Nutrient density means that based on serving size and calories, microgreens have a higher quantity of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants ratio than other foods of the same volume and calorie count. In other words, they are anything but “empty calories.” Eating empty calories drives cravings up as your body sends signals to eat more to satisfy its nutritional requirements.

On average, a 25-gram serving of microgreens (about an ounce) is only about 25 calories. Yet this small addition to a meal can boost your intake of micronutrients by as much as 25% for that meal. By eating microgreens, you feel more satisfied. You eat less in the long run because your cravings decrease. Lower caloric intake cuts your risk for diabetes by reducing your insulin resistance.

Microgreens, Iron, and Diabetes

Just an ounce or two of radish microgreens gives you 10 – 15% of the recommended daily allowance for iron, and roughly 17% of your RDA for Vitamin C. Iron is difficult to absorb and depends on vitamin C for its assimilation. The pairing of these two nutrients in microgreens means you can absorb the iron more readily. Thus, you are less likely to develop anemia due to iron deficiency.

Diabetes doesn’t cause anemia and anemia doesn’t cause diabetes. But the two conditions are related. Up to 25 percent of Americans with type 2 diabetes also have anemia. There seems to be a direct link between anemia from iron deficiency and higher amounts of glucose in the blood, as shown in this 2014 study.  A 2017 review of several studies found that iron-deficiency anemia was correlated with increased A1C, an average of blood glucose over three months’ time.

The bioavailability of iron in microgreens, therefore, has great potential to impact your risk of diabetes by reducing blood glucose.

Magnesium and Blood Sugar Regulation

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, potassium, and sodium. However, the standard diet in America contains roughly 50% of that. That means as much as half of the total population is magnesium deficient, according to this study. Microgreens can boost magnesium intake.

You need magnesium to synthesize insulin and maintain insulin sensitivity. So, a person with insulin resistance needs more magnesium than a healthy individual. This dynamic creates a vicious circle in which magnesium deficiency increases insulin resistance then insulin resistance causes magnesium deficiency. In this study, researchers concluded that keeping serum magnesium within the reference range is essential for normal insulin secretion and activity.

Folate Rich Microgreens

Folate is generally found in leafy green vegetables. Red cabbage microgreens contain three times more folate than the mature vegetable. Other microgreens high in folate include arugula, beet, and broccoli. You require folate for healthy glucose regulation.

Folate levels are generally decreased in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes. But can folate deficiency cause Type 2 Diabetes? A 2018 study on mice examined the effect of chronic folate deficiency on glucose metabolism. The researchers found that folate deficiency could indeed induce glucose disorders in the test subjects.

Adding Microgreens to Your Diet

Although a serving of mature vegetables is about a cup, a serving of chopped microgreens is only a tablespoon or two. So, it is easy to toss them into whatever you are eating. Add them to:

  • Smoothies
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Stir-fries
  • Sandwiches
  • Oatmeal
  • Sauces
  • Spaghetti
  • Pizza
  • Tacos
  • …even ice cream!

Although you can purchase ready-grown microgreens, it is easy and economical to grow your own. You can plant microgreens in less than 2 minutes, and harvest in 7 to 10 days. Purchase a microgreens kit here.