Alfalfa Plant: Everything You Need to Know about This Superfood
In today’s health-conscious society, there are a lot of fad diets and exercise routines being used. Superfoods, in particular, have been gaining popularity and are slowly taking over people’s daily meals. One example is the alfalfa plant, which has been quietly serving people for quite some time now.
What Is an Alfalfa Plant?
This superfood is called “lucerne,” specifically in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Yet in North America, it is known as alfalfa. It is a perennial flowering plant part of the legume family. It's also considered an herb.
It is usually used for silage, grazing, hay, cover crop, and green manure. The alfalfa plant is grown all over the world, but is native to warmer temperate climates.
History of the Alfalfa Plant
The alfalfa plant originated from south-central Asia. It was first cultivated in ancient Iran. It was then introduced to Greece around 490 BC, when the Persians invaded Greek territory.
In America, the alfalfa plant was introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese. By the 1800s, many areas in southwest United States started producing this plant. However, it was having a hard time thriving in the eastern part of the country.
Its Ancient Uses
Traditional Chinese medicine has used the alfalfa leaf to relieve ulcers and to stimulate appetites. Indian Ayurvedic medicine has used it to improve blood cell production and relieve arthritis, water retention, and ulcers.
In the sixteenth century, Spanish colonizers used alfalfa as food for their horses. They were aware that the alfalfa plant was a better food than grass.
Native Americans used its seeds as a nutrient additive. They also used it to promote blood clotting and to treat jaundice.
Colonial Americans used it to fight menstrual problems, urinary problems, and scurvy.
In addition, herbalists of the 1800s used the alfalfa plant to treat anemia, indigestion, and dyspepsia.
Nutrient Content of the Alfalfa Plant
This superfood has been labeled as “the king of all foods,” and with good reason. The alfalfa plant possesses the essential vitamins A, C, D, E, K. It contains the complete vitamin B spectrum as well.
It also consists of copper, folate, manganese, thiamin, iron, and magnesium. Additionally, it also has riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus, and chlorophyll.
Lastly, it has a high content of bioactive plant compounds. And compared to other plants, the alfalfa leaf is very high in amino acids as well as protein.
Benefits of the Alfalfa Plant
So do you really find it hard to believe that these little shoots can do wonders for your body? Well, you better believe it! Here are the top benefits that you get from the humble alfalfa plant.
Helps Lower Cholesterol
The alfalfa plant has a high saponin content. These are plant compounds known to lower cholesterol levels.
They decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. They also increase the excretion of compounds used to create new cholesterol.
Furthermore, studies show that the intake of alfalfa increased the level of high-density lipoprotein. A reduction in the buildup of fats in the arteries was also observed.
Alfalfa is also considered a successful antihyperlipidemic. This means it helps lower the lipid levels in the blood. The reduction of lipid count can help avoid the risk of coronary heart disease due to high cholesterol levels.
Combats Breast Cancer
This superfood contains phytoestrogens. These are plant compounds that mimic human estrogen. Studies show that these compounds decrease the risk of death and recurrence in breast cancer patients.
Helps with Menopause Symptoms and Excessive Bleeding
Estrogen deficiency is the main cause for menopause. Since the alfalfa plant has phytoestrogens, then they’re the answer for women undergoing menopause.
Studies show that the intake of this plant can resolve night sweats and also eliminate hot flashes. They also help with the dryness of the vagina, headaches, loss of libido, and mood swings.
Also, women who experience heavy menstrual bleeding can benefit from alfalfa. Vitamin K is also a blood-clotting vitamin and can help prevent excessive bleeding.
The high vitamin K content in alfalfa is perfect for bone health. The human body needs vitamin K to properly utilize calcium. Alfalfa also has phytochemicals that can protect you against osteoporosis.
Helps with Diabetes
A study made by the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences showed that the alfalfa plant has the ability to lower glucose levels. They do so by increasing the release of insulin from the pancreas. Regulated blood sugar levels is necessary in treating diabetes.
Also, the intake of alfalfa helps decrease the dependency on insulin.
Promotes Good Digestion
The regular partaking of the alfalfa plant helps in most of the common digestive problems. These include gas pains, gastritis, nausea, indigestion, constipation, and appetite stimulation. This is because the plant contains eight digestive enzymes that promote overall digestion.
Also, since it belongs to the legume family, its fiber content naturally facilitates the digestive system.
However, in order for it to help with digestion, it should be taken as seed sprouts, juice, or as dried leaves in either tea, tablet, or powder form.
Helps with Kidney Problems
Regulated dosage of the alfalfa can be beneficial to those who are experiencing kidney conditions.
Also, sluggish kidneys show improvement with the regular use of alfalfa. It reduces the blood urea levels. In addition, it also improves creatinine clearance. These lead to fluid retention.
In addition, the alfalfa plant can also help get rid of kidney stones.
Provides Healthy and Flawless-Looking Skin
Alfalfa has compounds that are quite effective in removing stretch marks. Also, the regular consumption of alfalfa also does wonders with skin diseases. This sprout is super effective in treating eczema as well as psoriasis.
For those who are battling with dry skin, then taking in some alfalfa will be a big help. The chlorophyll content and vitamin A content treats dry skin, making sure the skin is properly moisturized.
Improves Hair Conditions
The alfalfa plant’s vitamin content improves scalp circulation and provides antioxidants for the hair follicles. This ensures strong and healthy hair.
Its other nutrients are also great at improving and treating hair loss. Another helpful nutrient found in alfalfa is silica, which stimulates healthier hair growth.
Growing Your Own Alfalfa Garden
To ensure that the alfalfa sprouts that you will be getting are all-natural and safe, why not grow your own? That’s right, it’s possible.
All you need is a large mason jar, some cheesecloth, a rubber band, and of course, some alfalfa seeds. Make sure you purchase your seeds from trusted stores.
Now let’s get started!
First, put 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seeds into the mason jar. Cover them with a few inches of cool water. Next, cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth. Secure it with the rubber band.
Make sure that the seeds are soaked thoroughly overnight. Also, make sure to place the jar in a place away from direct sunlight. The next morning, drain off the water.
For the next few days, continue with more or less the same process. Rinse the seeds in the morning and evening by filling the jar with cool water, swish the seeds around, and drain out the water.
Shoots usually show up on day 3 or day 4. Continue with the “rinse, swish, drain, repeat” process until you start seeing green tips of the fully grown sprouts. Go ahead and store your homegrown sprouts in the refrigerator for future use.
Keep in mind that you should consume the alfalfa sprouts 3 to 4 days after storing them.
Alfalfa Recipes to Try Out
Veggie Lavash Snack Rolls
150 grams cheese
2 pieces wholemeal lavash
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
60 grams alfalfa sprouts
First, spread the cheese and chives dip over lavash. Next, sprinkle carrots and alfalfa sprouts. Roll lavash up firmly into a log. Cut each roll to desired length. Finally, serve and enjoy.
Artichoke, Avocado, and Alfalfa Salad
1 cup artichoke, roughly chopped
1 avocado, cubed
3 handfuls arugula
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
1 cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons basil pesto
Salt to taste
Simply combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly. Last, add salt to taste.
Sprout Surprise Juice
1 apple, peeled and cored
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
175 grams alfalfa sprouts
6 mint leaves
Place everything in a juicer. Next, juice until smooth. Serve immediately.
Mr. Turkey Sandwich
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 slice turkey
a slice of salami
1 slice ham
1 slice swiss cheese
To start, place all meat slices, the cheese slice, and other fillers between the two slices of bread. Cut diagonally and serve.
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
4 slices cheddar cheese
½ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces alfalfa sprouts
4 whole wheat rolls, toasted
honey mustard (optional)
First, in a saucepan, combine soy sauce, vinegar, and also sugar. Then cook over low heat for about 5-7 minutes, until the marinade thickens.
Next, cut the tofu into desired patty thickness. Place 4 patties in a bowl, pour in the marinade, and let sit for 15 minutes, turning the patties over once.
Next, heat olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Afterward, cook tofu patties 2 minutes per side.
Then, top each tofu patty with a slice of cheese. Continue cooking until cheese slightly melted.
Top with alfalfa sprouts and sliced radishes also.
Lastly, serve on whole wheat rolls. Add honey mustard if desired.
A Word of Caution
Like a lot of things in life, too much of something is bad. The intake of alfalfa should then be regulated. Also, there are some people who should avoid it.
Pregnant women who are close to their due dates are therefore advised not to take alfalfa. It may cause uterine stimulation or contractions.
Also, if you take blood thinners, alfalfa may be dangerous to you. Its high content of vitamin K may cause blood thinners to be less effective.
Another thing to remember about the alfalfa plant is that you should ensure proper cleaning before taking it in raw. This is because sprouts have a likelihood of getting foodborne illnesses. They might contain some forms of deadly bacteria, like E. coli.
There are also some reports of people suffering from infections with salmonella and listeria after taking in alfalfa.
Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling store-bought alfalfa sprouts. Also, make sure that you properly rinse the sprouts under cool water for around 1 minute. This ensures the elimination of surface dirt.
And before actual consumption of the sprouts, make sure to drain them on a clean paper towel.
If eating raw alfalfa sprouts don’t seem that appealing anymore because of possible bacterial contamination, you can always go ahead and cook the sprouts.
That’s right, cooking is known to kill the germs that might be in the sprouts. However, keep in mind that cooking will most likely alter its taste and texture.