Jed Fahey, a nutritional biochemist in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Centre at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (New York), confirmed for me that his research applied to microgreens as well as sprouts. He also said “I find what you have written to be accurate and reasonable.”

I used the term ‘Superfood’ in the same way as growers of blueberries, broccoli and many other plant foods.

The following is some text I have taken from my book....


Functional foods

‘Functional foods’ is the newly coined name for food products that contain particular health-promoting or disease-preventing properties which are additional to their normal nutritional values. Microgreens are in this group and so demand for them is growing rapidly.

Microgreens also have been found to contain higher levels of concentrated active compounds than found in mature plants or seeds. Principal physiologist Tim O’Hare, of Australia’s Gatton Research Station, said studies showed that, generally, the chemo-protective potential of some plant compounds is most concentrated in seeds and sprouted seeds but declines with growth, which suggests extra benefit from microgreens over fully grown plants...

Factors affecting nutritional value

Microgreens are at their nutritional and flavourful best when they begin to display adult-size leaves. They have much higher concentrations of vitamin C and health-promoting phytochemicals when grown in the light, compared to sprouts, which are typically grown in the dark...

Super micro foods

Wheatgrass is the most well known microgreen that is grown for its healthy compounds and properties. It’s used as a supplement after juicing. Wheatgrass is believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increase red blood cells, relieve blood-sugar disorders such as diabetes and aid in the prevention of some cancers...

...Wheatgrass is the young grass of a common wheat plant. As a microgreen it has been around for years. Although classed as a microgreen, it is used in an entirely different way — to make a health-promoting juice.

Wheatgrass juice is abundant in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein and chlorophyll. It contains every amino acid, vitamin and mineral necessary for human nutrition, making it one of the few actual ‘whole foods’.

Wheatgrass is so nutrient-rich that only 30 ml (less than ⅛ cup) of freshly squeezed wheatgrass juice is equivalent in nutritional value to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of leafy green vegetables.

Kilo for kilo, it has more vitamin C than oranges and twice the vitamin A of carrots...

...Other species such as flax, broccoli, red radish and red brassica also have researched health-promoting qualities. There have been many studies showing the link between cancer prevention and the consumption of brassicas (also known as cruciferous vegetables) such as broccoli, cabbage, rocket and kale.

Broccoli microgreens

Broccoli microgreens are one of the ‘health heroes’. They contain a micronutrient, a chemical called sulphoraphane (sulforaphane) that shows effective anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-microbial properties. It is thought to kill the bacteria responsible for most stomach cancers and ulcers.

Jed Fahey, a nutritional biochemist in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Centre at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (New York) said, after a small, pilot study of 50 people in Japan, that broccoli microgreens, if eaten regularly, ‘might potentially have an effect on the cause of a lot of gastric problems and perhaps even ultimately help prevent stomach cancer’.

Young broccoli has been shown to have up to 20 to 50 times as much sulphoraphane as fully grown broccoli.

Along with providing possible protection against cancer, a regular intake of sulphoraphane in young broccoli has also been shown to help prevent a range of other conditions including ulcers and arthritis, as well as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Broccoli microgreens and sprouts are the first and only products with a guaranteed amount of sulphoraphane glucosinolate (SGS), a naturally occurring antioxidant compound in broccoli. (Antioxidants are linked with the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease.) Researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe that the presence of many phytochemicals including sulphoraphane may help explain why diets rich in fruits and cruciferous vegetables are associated with good health.

Low-fat diets rich in fruit and vegetables (such as broccoli microgreens), including vitamin C and fibre, may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Hopkins researchers are attempting to confirm the role that SGS may have in this process.

Other brassicas

A study of the cancer-preventing potential of Asian and Western vegetables belonging to the brassica family has rated radish, daikon (Japanese white radish) and broccoli sprouts as the most powerful brassica-based anti-cancer foods, with the radish sprouts possibly outperforming broccoli sprouts. Darker coloured varieties are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants...

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Comment by Lynne Udell on May 15, 2013 at 4:43pm

In light of this 'long ago conversation', this is interesting

Comment by David Sasuga on August 24, 2010 at 6:09pm
Superfoods or super hype? And what is a functional food anyway? Promoting a particular product as a superfood or functional food is the latest popular cash generating scheme. This is especially true when the superfoods marketing hype is done by invoking the fear of cancer.

Can Ms. Hill or Jed Fahey of Johns Hopkins University produce any studies that included microgreens? It would be very helpful and much more convincing than "he said"; but unfortunately, their studies did not include microgreens. Jed W. Fahey is cofounder of a company that sells broccoli sprouts!

Ms. Hill has cited sprouts in her attempt to substantiate her superfood/functional food claim. Sprouts are not microgreens and the research done regarding broccoli sprouts was not done on microgreens. It may be convenient for Ms. Hill to attempt to mix and match sprouts and microgreens in order to confuse the issue, but microgreens were not part of the Johns Hopkins research. More information about the difference between sprouts and microgreens can be found at:

In her book, Ms. Hill has in some cases, conveniently switched out the word "sprouts" and replaced it with the word "microgreens" when she talks about the various studies. In other cases she simply inserted the word "microgreens" wherever it would be most useful to her. This is a complete misrepresentation of these studies.

It should also be mentioned that the lead researchers involved in these broccoli sprout studies along with Johns Hopkins University are equity owners in a company which licenses their technology to sprout growers. The researchers have founded a company called Brassica Protection Products (BPP). The Chief Executive Officer of this company is the son of one of the lead researchers. It is a for-profit business and it is in the best interest of the university and these researchers to promote the cancer fighting claims of broccoli sprouts whether or not they are truly effective. Sprout growers are also keen on having people think that sprouts and microgreens are the same thing as the popularity of microgreens grows, they hope to ride along with it.

The USDA has weighed in on the situation:
Although research suggests a promising role for SGS (Sulforaphane Glucosinolate) in promoting health, the research results do not permit definitive scientific conclusions on specific health benefits. At this time, the U.S. FDA has not reached any such conclusions or authorized any claims specifically for SGS or broccoli sprouts.

The primary premise of the Johns Hopkins researchers was to prove that three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in more mature broccoli. The highest concentrations of these chemoprotective compounds were found in the seeds and recently sprouted seeds. They did not include microgreens (which do not include the sprouted seed or root, are more mature than sprouts) in their research. Since microgreens do not include the sprouted seed, they are not likely to have any significant amounts of these compounds. More information about the study can be found at: (proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the United States of America.

Aside from the chemoprotective compounds, The Johns Hopkins University researchers did not investigate the primary nutritional elements of broccoli. The USDA has listed the nutritional value of sprouts compared to full-sized broccoli. In summary, broccoli sprouts are significantly lower in nutritional value when compared to full-sized broccoli. Of note: the sprouts were lower in protein (1.4 compared to 2.324 mg.), fiber (1.1 to 2.262 g), Vitamin A (561 compared to 1,082.64 IU), Riboflavin (none found in sprouts compared to .043 mg.), Vitamin B-6 (.07 compared to .112 mg.), Vitamin C (20 compared to 58.188 mg), Iron (.22 compared to .665 mg.). Since the more mature forms of have higher nutritional value than sprouts, it stands to reason that microgreens also have less than the mature form. More information can be found at:

Regarding the information cited by Ms. Hill of a study in Japan, with Dr. Akinori Yanaka of Tokyo University of Science:
Of key importance: this study was not done on microgreens; it was done on sprouts and therefore is probably not a relevant or reliable indicator that microgreens are a superfood. This study was a collaborative work of several individual researchers including J.W. Fahey who happens to be cofounder of Brassica Protection Products LLC (BPP), a company that is licensed by Johns Hopkins University to produce broccoli sprouts. J.W. Fahey may be entitled to royalty payments from the sale of broccoli sprouts. The study does include a disclosure of this conflict of interest. Copied and pasted directly from the Brassica Protection Product's website: Readers are cautioned that much data about broccoli, broccoli sprouts and SGS is based on animal testing models and has not been proven in humans.

Principal physiologist Tim O'Hare, of Australia's Gatton Research Station, said studies showed that, generally, the chemo-protective potential of some plant compounds is most concentrated in seeds and sprouted seeds but declines with growth, which actually suggests that since microgreens do not include the seed, or sprouted seed, that microgreens do not have significant amounts of these compounds.

Superfood is a term that has no legal definition and this has led to it being over-used as a marketing tool. Ms. Hill's book may be a perfect example of this. Not surprisingly, the superfood moniker actually means nothing, scientifically. "There's no official definition of what makes a superfood," says Marisa Moore, RD, LD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Anyone can claim anything is a superfood or functional food; there are no regulations, no guidelines, or verification.

Numerous lists of superfoods can be found popping up almost daily. For example, Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
is director of nutrition for WebMD, overseeing diet, nutrition, and food information. Among other duties, she serves as senior nutrition correspondent, writes features, columns, diet book reviews, and newsletters, provides expert editorial review of diet and nutrition articles, and covers national meetings.
Zelman has extensive media experience, including co-hosting a weekly radio program, 12 years as a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, and numerous print and television appearances including CNN, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. In 2007, Zelman
was awarded the prestigious American Dietetic Association "Media Excellence Award" for her contribution and commitment to educating consumers about food and nutrition issues through the media. She is a contributing writer for newspapers, magazines, and books including Paul Prudhomme's A Fork in the Road, Healthy Eating for Babies and Toddlers, and A Harvest of Healing Foods.
Here is her list of the top ten superfoods: Microgreens did not make her list. Anyone can put out a top 10 list of superfoods. Her list looks pretty good!
1. Low fat or fat free plain yogurt
2. Eggs
3. Nuts
4. Kiwis
5. Quinoa
6. Beans
7. Salmon
8. Broccoli
9. Sweet Potatoes
10. Berries

If Ms. Hill can simply provide a nutritional analysis of microgreens (not sprouts) compared to other foods, to substantiate her claims; we would all be most grateful. Less hype and more truth please.

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