For people who want a nutritious boost in their diet, alfalfa sprouts are an easy and delicious option. These young seedlings provide a number of impressive health benefits like preventing aging, managing diabetes, improving digestion, balancing hormones, reducing cancer risk, and lowering cholesterol levels. As these sprouts are increasingly available in markets and menus, it is important to know the effects of this type of sprout, both the good and the bad.
What are Alfalfa Sprouts?
Alfalfa sprouts are immature seedlings of the alfalfa plant, which bears the scientific name Medicago sativa. While the plant itself is rarely used as a culinary element, due to the bitterness of the leaves, the young seedlings have a milder flavor and are packed with beneficial nutrients, minerals and antioxidants. This plant has been cultivated for sprouting for about 5,000 years, making it among the oldest staple foods in the world. Native to Central Asia and areas of the Middle East, this plant is popularly cultivated for use in livestock feeding, but the nutritional value of the seeds has become more widely recognized in recent times. Alfalfa sprouts are typically no more than an inch or two in size, and can easily be added to salads, sandwiches, and as a topping for certain savory dishes. In Asian cultures, alfalfa sprouts remain popular in local cuisines and this type of sprout can be easily prepared at home.
Alfalfa Sprouts Nutrition Facts
Alfalfa sprouts are a rich source of numerous minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, in addition to vitamin C, vitamin A and numerous B vitamins, such as folate, thiamin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. Impressively, one cup of serving (33g) of alfalfa sprouts delivers nearly 13% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, but only 7.6 calories, and a low glycemic index rating. You can also get a healthy dose of fiber, at nearly 2 grams per 100 grams of sprouts. There is also a notable amount of protein in these nutrient-dense sprouts, offering nearly 8% of your daily intake in every 100 grams.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
The most notable effects of alfalfa sprouts include skin care, improving digestion, boosting growth and repair, speeding the healing process, increasing bone health, weight loss, and aiding the metabolism among others.
These alfalfa sprouts are considered a high-antioxidant food and have been associated with certain anti-aging properties, such as reducing the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes, and improving the elasticity of the skin. The antioxidants can counter the effects of oxidative stress when eaten regularly (in moderation) and improve the glow and appearance of your skin.
Reduce Mood Swings
For women who are going through menopause or difficult menstruation, the estrogenic compounds found in these sprouts can be extremely helpful. As women age, their estrogen levels drop but regular consumption of alfalfa sprouts can help to keep their hormones balanced. Similarly, these sprouts can reduce the mood swings and other hormone-related symptoms of menstruation.
With a minuscule amount of calories in these sprouts, they are the perfect fiber-rich food that will keep you feel full without significantly increasing your daily calorie intake. Furthermore, the vitamins in these sprouts can help to stimulate the metabolism, which increases energy levels and boosts energy metabolism, thus helping to passively burn fat faster. While you shouldn’t eat too many alfalfa sprouts due to potential toxicity, daily consumption in your salads can definitely help to curb hunger pangs.
The notable fiber content in alfalfa sprouts makes it a prime food choice for people who are trying to prevent diabetes. Fiber can manage the balance of insulin and glucose in the body, which prevents the spikes and drops in blood sugar that can be so dangerous for diabetic patients. Regular consumption of sprouts can lower your risk of metabolic syndrome and other conditions related to diabetes.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Studies dating back more than 40 years have found that alfalfa sprouts do have cholesterol-lowering properties, which means that these are good food choices for people at risk of coronary heart diseases. By reducing LDL cholesterol levels, you are able to protect against plaque formation in the arteries and blood vessels, which can lower your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
Boost Immune System
A single serving of alfalfa sprouts provides nearly 15% of your daily required intake of vitamin C, making these sprouts an excellent immune booster. By stimulating the production of white blood cells, alfalfa sprouts can protect the body from infections and inflammation. They also help in improving growth and repair, as vitamin C is such a critical part of collagen synthesis.
Dietary fiber is needed by the body for many things including optimizing digestion and promoting the movement of stool through the bowels. Alfalfa sprouts are dense with dietary fiber, and are known to reduce symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal distress, and can even lower your risk for colorectal cancer.
Promote Growth & Repair
There is a surprisingly large amount of protein in alfalfa sprouts – nearly 10% of your daily requirement in a 100-gram serving. This can help with growth, development, and repair throughout the body, and will even help boost muscle mass and decrease fat deposition.
Speed Up Healing Process
Vitamin K is in high supply within alfalfa sprouts, which can increase the speed of blood clotting in the body, making the healing process for wounds faster, and thus reducing the chance of infection. While too much vitamin K can cause cardiovascular problems and excessive blood clots, a moderate amount of alfalfa sprouts shouldn’t have these negative side effects.
Magnesium, iron, calcium, and vitamin K, all play a key role in building strong bones and alfalfa sprouts have these nutrients in moderate supply. Regular consumption of these sprouts helps to prevent the early onset of osteoporosis.
With notable amounts of various B vitamins, these sprouts are able to stimulate the metabolism in critical ways, ensuring that enzymatic reactions, hormone production, energy metabolism and basic bodily functions take place smoothly. Being deficient in B vitamins has a number of negative side effects and these sprouts help to avoid them.
Side Effects of Alfalfa Sprouts
There are some potential side effects of alfalfa sprouts that should be taken into consideration, such as an increased risk of certain cancers, worsening of autoimmune diseases, potential infections, dangerously low blood sugar levels and bleeding problems.
- Autoimmunity – Due to the immune-boosting properties of alfalfa sprouts, consuming an excess of these can be dangerous for people suffering from autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to speak with your doctor before consuming these sprouts if you have one of these conditions.
- Infections – Lightly cooked raw sprouts always carry a heightened risk of infection, particularly because the preparation of alfalfa sprouts typically just involves damp beans sitting in a glass jar for days at a time. Food-borne illness outbreaks caused by infected or poorly stored sprouts have happened in the past. E. coli and Salmonella are some of the most common bacteria, so be sure to only eat fresh, healthy-looking sprouts.
- Cancer Risk – Some of the active compounds in alfalfa sprouts do show certain estrogenic qualities, which can be dangerous for women who are at high risk for or are already suffering from estrogen-related cancer, notably breast cancer.
- Hypoglycemia – The ability of alfalfa sprouts to manage diabetes and suppress elevated blood sugar levels is excellent for those trying to avoid developing diabetes. For diabetic patients on medication, the combination of these treatments can result in dangerously low blood sugar, which can have symptoms like lightheadedness, fainting, cognitive confusion, coma and even death.
- Bleeding Issues – One of the effects of these sprouts is that they will increase blood-clotting activity in the body, due to the high concentration of vitamin K. If you are at high risk of blood clots, have high blood pressure, or have had other cardiovascular events, you should definitely speak with your doctor before using these sprouts.