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    Wonderful Health Benefits Of Alfalfa – The Queen Of Forage

    Scientifically termed as Medicago sativa, the herb alfalfa is beneficial your health in numerous ways. Also termed as lucerne, alfalfa is one of the topmost beneficial herbs. The deluge of minerals, vitamins and protein in the herb makes it superior in comparison to other herbs and sprouts. Although alfalfa belongs to the legume family, it is also considered as a herb [1] .

    alfalfa

    The herb is widely used for its medicinal properties, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since ages. The seeds, as well as the dried leaves of the herb, are used as supplements. The dried leaves of alfalfa may help lower the cholesterol levels, improve your metabolic health, and can help in relieving the symptoms of menopause. The antioxidant effects encompassed within the leaves are beneficial for treating inflammation and damages caused by oxidation [2] .

    However, the most commonly used part of the legume is the sprouted seeds or alfalfa sprouts. The plethora of health benefits embraced by the low-calorie, nutritious legume can do wonders to your health. From promoting weight loss to improving the digestion process, alfalfa sprouts are a rich source of a type of plant-based oestrogen [3] which aids in improving women's health and manages the symptoms of menopause.

    Read on to know in detail about the benefits and nutritional value possessed by the legume cum herb, so that you can incorporate it into your diet.

    Nutritional Value Of Alfalfa

    100 grams of the herb contains 23 calories of energy. They have 0.7 grams fat, 0.076 milligrams thiamine, 0.126 milligrams riboflavin, 0.481 milligrams niacin, 0.563 milligrams pantothenic acid, 0.034 milligrams vitamin B6, 0.96 milligrams iron, 0.188 milligrams manganese, and 0.92 milligrams zinc.

    The other nutrients present in alfalfa sprouts are [4]

    • 2.1 grams carbohydrates
    • 1.9 grams dietary fibre
    • 4 grams protein
    • 36 micrograms folate
    • 8.2 milligrams vitamin C
    • 30.5 micrograms vitamin K
    • 32 milligrams calcium
    • 27 milligrams magnesium
    • 70 milligrams phosphorus
    • 79 milligrams potassium
    • 6 milligrams sodium
    alfalfa nutrition

    Health Benefits Of Alfalfa

    From treating kidney problems to upset stomachs, the legume sprouts are extremely beneficial for your health. Consuming sprouts are naturally beneficial for your body, and alfalfa stands apart due to the deluge of benefits it possesses.

    1. Prevents cancer

    Incorporating alfalfa into daily diet is extremely beneficial for various reasons. And one of the major reasons is its ability to prevent cancer. Alfalfa sprouts contain an amino acid known as canavanine, which is asserted to possess cancer prevention properties. The canavanine also aids in carcinogen binding, the ones present in the colon [5] . Likewise, the sprouts are packed with phytoestrogens and antioxidants that suppress the growth of cancerous cells and balance the hormones.

    2. Aids in weight loss

    The substantially low amount of calories present in the alfalfa sprouts, along with its fibre content will keep you full. This will also aid in reducing the constant need to snack, which is the major cause of unhealthy weight gain. The vitamins in present sprouts help stimulate your metabolism, which will increase the energy metabolism and energy levels, thereby aiding in burning excess fat [6] .

    3. Prevents UTI

    The diuretic properties of alfalfa sprouts aid in preventing the onset of urinary tract infections. The sprouts can speed up the removal of the bacteria causing the infection in the urinary tract or bladder. Being a natural diuretic, the sprouts increase the urine flow, thereby removing the UTI-causing bacteria [7] .

    4. Treats menopause irregularities

    Alfalfa sprouts are rich in phytoestrogens, the hormones which aid in managing the irregularities associated with menopause. Three types of phytoestrogens - coumestrol, genistein, and biocanine are found in the alfalfa sprouts[8] . Likewise, the minerals found in alfalfa can help with vaginal dryness, hot flashes, low levels of oestrogen, night sweats, postmenopausal osteoporosis as well.

    5. Prevents diabetes

    The rich fibre content in the alfalfa sprouts makes them an unavoidable part of daily diet in individuals who are trying to keep diabetes at bay. The fibre content aids in maintaining a balance of insulin and glucose in the body, thereby preventing the uneven hike and drop of blood sugar levels [9] . Regular and controlled consumption of the sprouts can also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome associated with diabetes.

    6. Boosts immunity

    Regular consumption of alfalfa sprouts can help improve your immune system. Phytonutrients such as L-canavanine and chlorophyll present in the sprouts aid in improving your body's resistance to diseases. Likewise, the antioxidant property of the sprouts also benefits when it comes to immunity. The vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, thereby guarding your body against any sort of inflammation or infections [10] .

    alfalfa facts

    7. Improves digestion

    Rich in dietary fibre, regular consumption of alfalfa sprouts are extremely beneficial for your digestive system. It promotes your digestion and eases the bowel movement. The sprouts can reduce symptoms of diarrhoea, constipation, and gastrointestinal distress. It is also asserted to have the ability to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer[11] .

    8. Controls excessive bleeding 

    Alfalfa sprouts are rich in vitamin K, which is a blood clotting vitamin. The regular consumption of sprouts can manage conditions such as nose bleeding or uterine bleeding. Drinking alfalfa tea is one of the effective ways to control excessive bleeding, as it helps in clotting your blood. This property also helps in speeding up the healing process [12] .

    9. Prevents rheumatism 

    The legume sprout is widely used for its antirheumatic property. With its anti-inflammatory property, the alfalfa sprouts help in providing relief from pains affecting your joints tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles [13] .

    10. Manages acid reflux & heartburn

    Similar to alkaline foods, alfalfa sprouts help to regulate your stomach's pH level. In the event of lack of digestion, your stomach will produce an excess amount of acid - which will result in acid reflux and heartburn [14] . Consuming alfalfa sprouts can reduce the acidity level and maintain the pH level.

    11. Protects heart health

    Regular consumption of alfalfa sprouts can be good for your cardiovascular health. The high amount of antioxidants in the legume protects your heart from diseases such as arteriosclerosis. Also, being a natural blood thinner, it strengthens the rutin present in the blood vessels - further strengthening your heart [15] .

    12. Reduces cholesterol levels 

    Various studies point to the fact that alfalfa sprouts are extremely beneficial in reducing the levels of cholesterol. The legume reduces the LDL cholesterol levels, and thereby protects your arteries and blood vessels from plaque formation [16] . This results in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes etc.

    13. Improves metabolism

    The ample amount of B vitamins in the alfalfa sprouts play a crucial role in stimulating your metabolic activities. The sprouts ensure that the hormone production, energy metabolism and basic bodily functions are carried out perfectly[17] .

    14. Boosts skin quality

    The alfalfa sprouts work as a cleanser and prevent dry skin, thereby helping in maintaining healthy skin. The chlorophyll content in the legume clears out the toxins from your skin, leaving it fresh and rejuvenated. Likewise, vitamin A in the sprouts helps in improving your skin from the inside [18] .

    15. Improves hair growth

    Being rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, the alfalfa sprouts are undoubtedly beneficial for your hair. It helps in preventing and reducing hair fall. Consuming alfalfa sprouts can strengthen your hair from the roots, improving your scalp health [19] .

    Healthy Alfalfa Recipes

    1. Quinoa salad with tomatoes, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts 

    Ingredients [20]

    • 1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
    • 1 heirloom tomato, chopped
    • 1 cucumber, sliced
    • 2 ounces alfalfa sprouts, torn apart
    • 5 scallion, chopped
    • ½ lemon, juiced
    • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

    Directions

    • Heat olive in a pot, over medium heat.
    • Add garlic and quinoa and cook for 2-3 minutes.
    • Stir occasionally until lightly toasted.
    • Add the broth and bring it to boil.
    • Then, cover with a lid and simmer it for 15-20 minutes until cooked.
    • In a bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, alfalfa sprouts and quinoa.
    • Pour lemon juice and red wine vinegar over the quinoa.
    • Mix well and serve.

    2. Scrambled eggs with avocado and alfalfa sprouts

    Ingredients

    • 4 eggs
    • ½ teaspoon ghee
    • 1 avocado, sliced
    • 1 cup alfalfa sprouts

    Directions

    • In a frying pan, add ghee on low-medium heat.
    • Whisk the eggs and pour into the pan, stirring constantly until cooked.
    • In a plate, place the alfalfa sprouts, avocado and egg.
    • Enjoy the healthy, light meal.

    Precautions

    • Pregnant women should avoid alfalfa as it may cause uterine contractions or simulations [21] .
    • Individuals who are using blood thinners should not consume alfalfa due to the high vitamin K content.
    • Alfalfa can cause severe negative effects in people with autoimmune disorders. The immune stimulating property of the herb may reactivate the disorders.
    • Individuals having a compromised immune system should not consume alfalfa due to the chances of the herb being contaminated by bacteria.
    • Women suffering from breast cancer should avoid alfalfa due to its oestrogenic qualities[22] .
    • Alfalfa may react with diabetes medications, resulting in dangerously low blood sugar that can lead to lightheadedness, fainting, and cognitive confusion.
    View Article References
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    2. [2] Wang, J. C., & Kinsella, J. E. (1976). Functional properties of novel proteins: Alfalfa leaf protein. Journal of Food Science, 41(2), 286-292.
    3. [3] Kao, K. N., & Michayluk, M. R. (1980). Plant regeneration from mesophyll protoplasts of alfalfa. Zeitschrift für Pflanzenphysiologie, 96(2), 135-141.
    4. [4] Thomas, M. D., Hendricks, R. H., Collier, T. R., & Hill, G. R. (1943). The utilization of sulphate and sulphur dioxide for the sulphur nutrition of alfalfa. Plant physiology, 18(3), 345.
    5. [5] Reddy, B. S., Watanabe, K., & Sheinfil, A. (1980). Effect of dietary wheat bran, alfalfa, pectin and carrageenan on plasma cholesterol and fecal bile acid and neutral sterol excretion in rats. The Journal of Nutrition, 110(6), 1247-1254.
    6. [6] Donalson, L. M., Kim, W. K., Woodward, C. L., Herrera, P., Kubena, L. F., Nisbet, D. J., & Ricke, S. C. (2005). Utilizing different ratios of alfalfa and layer ration for molt induction and performance in commercial laying hens. Poultry Science, 84(3), 362-369.
    7. [7] Lu, C. D., & Jorgensen, N. A. (1987). Alfalfa saponins affect site and extent of nutrient digestion in ruminants. The Journal of nutrition, 117(5), 919-927.Sharan, F. (1995). Natural treatment of menopause using herbs. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 1(3), 147-153
    8. [8] Swanston-Flatt, S. K., Day, C., Bailey, C. J., & Flatt, P. R. (1990). Traditional plant treatments for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice. Diabetologia, 33(8), 462-464.
    9. [9] Sharan, F. (1995). Natural treatment of menopause using herbs. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 1(3), 147-153.
    10. [10] Pugh, N. D., Balachandran, P., Lata, H., Dayan, F. E., Joshi, V., Bedir, E., ... & Pasco, D. S. (2005). Melanin: dietary mucosal immune modulator from Echinacea and other botanical supplements. International immunopharmacology, 5(4), 637-647.
    11. [11] Gergely, V., Montes-Bayón, M., Fodor, P., & Sanz-Medel, A. (2006). Selenium species in aqueous extracts of alfalfa sprouts by two-dimensional liquid chromatography coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and electrospray mass spectrometry detection. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54(13), 4524-4530.
    12. [12] Kaur, C., & Kapoor, H. C. (2001). Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables–the millennium’s health. International journal of food science & technology, 36(7), 703-725
    13. [13] Hess, E. V., & Litwin, A. (1985). Drug-Related Rheumatic Diseases. In Immunology of Rheumatic Diseases (pp. 651-668). Springer, Boston, MA.
    14. [14] Robillard, N. (2005). Heartburn Cured: The Low Carb Miracle. Self-health Publishing.
    15. [15] Plaza, L., de Ancos, B., & Cano, P. M. (2003). Nutritional and health-related compounds in sprouts and seeds of soybean (Glycine max), wheat (Triticum aestivum. L) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) treated by a new drying method. European Food Research and Technology, 216(2), 138-144.
    16. [16] Hong, Y. H., Chao, W. W., Chen, M. L., & Lin, B. F. (2009). Ethyl acetate extracts of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) sprouts inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Journal of Biomedical Science, 16(1), 64.
    17. [17] Malinow, M. R., McLaughlin, P., & Stafford, C. (1980). Alfalfa seeds: effects on cholesterol metabolism. Experientia, 36(5), 562-564.
    18. [18] Fransisca, L., Park, H. K., & Feng, H. (2012). E. coli O157: H7 population reduction from alfalfa seeds with malic acid and thiamine dilauryl sulfate and quality evaluation of the resulting sprouts. Journal of food science, 77(2), M121-M126.
    19. [19] Pinter, A. J. (1968). Hair growth responses to nutrition and photoperiod in the vole, Microtus montanus. American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content, 215(4), 828-832.
    20. [20] Yummly. (2018, 19 Feb). Alfalfa Recipes. https://www.yummly.com/recipes?q=alfalfa&taste-pref-appended=true
    21. [21] Marton, M., Mandoki, Z. S., Csapo-Kiss, Z. S., & Csapo, J. (2010). The role of sprouts in human nutrition. A review. Acta Univ. Sapientiae, 3, 81-117.
    22. [22] Branca, F., & Lorenzetti, S. (2005). Health effects of phytoestrogens. In Diet diversification and health promotion(Vol. 57, pp. 100-111). Karger Publishers.

    Story first published: Monday, February 18, 2019, 17:16 [IST]
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