Alfalfa Benefits Explained: How Healthy Are Alfalfa Sprouts?
There is a plant has been around since ancient times. It has been a friend and helper for both animals and humans. Some like it for its medicinal attributes. Some value it for its nutritional content, and some simply use it as garnish. This plant is none other than the alfalfa.
Full disclosure: alfalfa is not my thing. I have never enjoyed it as food, and I don’t consume it as an additive. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the plethora of health benefits that it possesses. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of those benefits, some backstory.
What Is Alfalfa? Where Does Alfalfa Come From?
Alfalfa is also known as lucerne in certain parts of the world (such as Australia and New Zealand), and it belongs to the pea family. Its scientific name is Medicago sativa, and it has a long and rich history with mankind.
It’s primary use, historically, has been as livestock feed. Alfalfa is documented as being used for grazing during the periods of ancient Rome and Greece, and it is still used for the same purpose nowadays, among others. It is thought that the origin of the plant is in south-central Asia, and today it is grown all over the globe.
The plant itself is a legume (though some consider it an herb), and it can thrive for many years. Depending on the climate in question and the condition of cultivation, the plant can live for over two decades. It has deep-reaching roots and grows to about 3.5 feet.
Health Benefits Of Alfalfa Explained
In ancient Ayurvedic medicine, the alfalfa helps enhance the function of the urinary tract and boosts blood circulation. It also aids digestion and acts as a mild laxative. It is considered a tonic and is used for revitalizing the body and mind.
The alfalfa plant is rich in vitamins and nutrients of all kinds, providing the body with much of the minerals and elements necessary for proper function. It has tons of protein and a lot less carb content than other, more common grains. It is used as a way to maintain weight, though some claim it can be useful in losing weight as well.
Alfalfa Seeds Explained
Eating the alfalfa’s seeds (particularly when sprouted) is a great way to reap the benefits of this plant. It is crunchy, it is mild-tasting (usually), and it can provide you with a boost and put a pep in your step. The alfalfa’s seeds are some of the most commonly-used seeds in the US, and it is grown primarily for consumption and garnish. Whether you choose to grow your own or pick up some commercial product, the sprouted seeds are low in calories and high in nutrients.
Like many legumes, there are natural toxins which are present in the seeds. You should eat sprouted seeds in moderation, and those with weakened immune system should avoid eating them raw. Cooked sprouts are your best option.
Are Alfalfa Dietary Supplements Safe?
Alfalfa tablets, capsules, and extracts are available as supplements. They are considered safe, but they are still being studied. Like with many other supplements which come from the ground, there is always the possibility of contamination or mistreated crops. Whichever supplement you choose, you should purchase from a reputable vendor, online or offline. As for dosage and appropriate consumption, follow the food label or healthcare professional instructions.
Over the years, the FDA has investigated different claims of links to illnesses, but these have been local and not national or global in any way. As mentioned, contaminated crops can be a serious thing.
Remember that dietary supplements are just that -- dietary additives, not a cure for anything. While the supplement does have its benefits and its many proponents, it is not actually medicine. Even ayurvedic medicine-men, who know the power of this plant, don’t prescribe it as a standalone solution for any condition. It always comes as a supplement to other changes or dietary instructions, and you must always take each individual person’s situation and medical history into account.
Salad With Alfalfa Sprouts Recipe
Here is a simple salad you can put together. Healthy, tasty, crunchy, fresh, and satisfying. It takes a few minutes to prepare, and -- like many salads -- it is best consumed immediately. No need to refrigerate or anything. Prep and serve. If you do find the need to refrigerate, make sure to store in a sealed container.
- 1 pack -- of alfalfa sprouts
- 1 handful -- of broccoli sprouts
- ¼ -- red onion, sliced
- 3-5 -- black olives, soaked (lower sodium levels)
- 1 tsp -- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch -- of Atlantic salt
- ½ -- lemon, sliced to thin quarters
- Black pepper to taste
- Cut the stems of the sprouts’ roots, since they tend to spoil quickly and affect the sprouts
- In a bowl, mix the ingredients and garnish with red onion slices
- Adding small cubes of chicken breast make this salad fly higher than most ordinary chicken salads!
I feel I need to stress this: there isn’t anything innately wrong with alfalfa. It has many benefits and is very useful, but you need to know how to handle the sprouts. If you prepare the food properly, and take the supplements as prescribed or otherwise recommended by a healthcare professional, you’ll be fine. Be aware of the contraindications, and if you plan on using it regularly in your diet or health plan, best to involve your physician.
Some people -- especially those in the food industry -- are sick and tired of seeing this garnish take over every random sandwich or salad. I tend to agree that alfalfa is grossly over-represented in restaurants and other food establishments, but if you look at it with newer eyes, as something which is more than mere garnish, it comes with plenty of advantages. Who knows? Maybe someday I too will be on board and join in the alfalfa celebration, instead of asking waiters and vendors to serve me sans alfalfa.
Thanks for stopping by here at Maple Holistics!