There are a number of impressive health benefits associated with alfalfa, including its ability to lower cholesterol levels, improve digestion, protect heart health, prevent cancer, improve respiratory conditions, detoxify the body, aid immunity, speed healing and reduce inflammation.
What is Alfalfa?
Alfalfa is an important foraging crop in countries around the world, and sometimes goes by the name lucerne in Europe and other countries. Although it was originally cultivated in south-Central Asia, it has now become a globally recognized crop due to its impressive nutritional content and versatility in use. It is primarily used for feedstock for animals and livestock, particularly the hay of this plant. Scientifically known as Medicago sativa, this plant remains an important staple crop for humans as well, primarily for the alfalfa sprouts. The fiber content and nutritional profile that benefits animals is slightly different than the part of the plant humans tend to eat, but the value is clear. With high levels of vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and a variety of proteins and other important minerals, adding these sprouts to salads and sandwiches is an easy way to give yourself a nutritious boost.
There are some risks when it comes to alfalfa, namely the toxicity that can occur when eating raw alfalfa sprouts, as it can interrupt the amino acid balance in the body, even causing inflammation and lupus-like symptoms in animals and humans. Therefore, alfalfa should be prepared properly and eaten in moderation. Similarly, alfalfa consumption for livestock and other animals should be monitored or eliminated completely. That being said, alfalfa is a concentrated source of nutrients that you should definitely add into your diet.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa
The health benefits of Alfalfa include its ability to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and treat gastrointestinal issues, among others. Let’s discuss the common benefits in detail.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Alfalfa has shown that it has an impressive amount of dietary fiber, which is very important in the battle against cholesterol. In addition to numerous other chemical compounds, called saponins, fiber can attach to cholesterol and prevent it from locking on to arterial walls, thereby helping balance “good” cholesterol levels in the body. This can prevent the buildup of plaque, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
This plant was often used in the traditional treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Given our recent research into the nutritional activity of alfalfa, this makes sense. Alfalfa possessed high levels of vitamin C and vitamin B, as well as calcium and antioxidant compounds, all of which can reduce inflammation in the joints and around the body, while also strengthening the immune system and preventing chronic disease and oxidative stress.
Improves Bowel Movements
Dietary fiber is heavily relied on by the body to monitor and optimize digestive health. Dietary fiber is not only able to bulk up the stool and speed up its movement through the bowels, but it can also reduce inflammation in the gut, thus clearing up issues like indigestion, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and a bacterial imbalance in the gut microflora.
Speeds up Healing
In its more traditional usage, alfalfa sprouts were used to make a poultice to apply on wounds and injuries to induce faster healing and the prevention of infection. The antioxidant components of alfalfa protected the exposed area, while other minerals and nutrients stimulated blood flow to the area and increased the rate of repair and healing. The high supply of protein in alfalfa, when consumed, is also a major boost to growth, development, and repair.
Boosts Immune System
With a high content of vitamin C, this sprout is an ideal booster for your immune system. Vitamin C not only stimulates the production of white blood cells but also acts as an antioxidant to eliminate oxidative stress. Furthermore, B vitamins and vitamin E also act as metabolic regulators and antioxidant compounds throughout the body, and both of those are also found in this unassuming sprout.
Detoxifies the Body
Alfalfa has been widely used around the world in the treatment of kidney conditions, namely due to its diuretic properties. By stimulating more frequent urination, alfalfa is able to speed up the detoxification of the body, along with excess salts, fats, and water.
Phytoestrogens are some of the most impressive chemical compounds, and they are extremely important for the body in the battle against chronic diseases, such as cancer and coronary heart disease. These hormones essentially act as antioxidants and prevent mutations in healthy cells, thus lowering your risk of cancer. The active components of this plant are also known to bind well with carcinogens in the body and colon, thus promoting their expulsion from the body before they can do any more damage.
Traditionally, alfalfa was widely used in the treatment of respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis, the flu and the common cold, as well as other viral and bacterial infections. Alfalfa has anti-inflammatory properties, which made it useful in treating various breathing conditions, such as asthma, while also strengthening the immune system to neutralize the underlying infections attacking the respiratory tracts.
Protects the Heart
Potassium and iron are both found in significant supply within alfalfa, and these benefit the heart in different ways. Potassium is a vasodilator, which helps to lower blood pressure by releasing the tension on blood vessels and arteries. Furthermore, the iron content of these sprouts boosts red blood cell production, thus improving circulation and ensuring that the body’s organ systems are properly oxygenated. This puts less strain on the heart because the extremities will be demanding less blood and oxygen from an already overworked heart.
A Final Word of Warning: Due to the high content of saponins and canavanine, excessive consumption of raw alfalfa sprouts can have adverse effects on the body. If you are pregnant or already suffering from lupus, you should not consume these sprouts. For others looking to make a change to their nutrient regimen, it is always a good idea to speak with a medical professional or a nutritionist before adding alfalfa into the mix.