A member of the pea family, alfalfa is a typically purple flower that’s used in a lot of different ways. Much of the alfalfa crops around the world are used for feeding livestock, but many of us know it as an addition to particular food dishes. History of the alfalfa dates back for more than 2,500 years, though it didn’t make its way to North America until the 18th century when it was referred to as lucerne.
Now, just about every region is familiar with alfalfa and uses it as a food. When most people eat alfalfa, it’s just after the seeds have sprouted, which is why many simply refer to alfalfa as “sprouts” or “shoots.” Eating alfalfa can be an afterthought for some, but adding it to your diet is a great way of getting some fantastic health benefits. Let’s take a look at the nutrition of alfalfa, and what some of those benefits are.
Nutrition of Alfalfa
Alfalfa sprouts are one of those rare foods that you can seemingly eat during the entire day without taking in many calories. An entire cup of alfalfa brings in just over seven calories, while delivering more than a gram of protein and three percent of your daily recommendation for dietary fiber. While there’s not one nutrient that’s high in content in alfalfa, it does have a wide range, and you can certainly eat more than one serving.
Vitamin K is the most important nutrient in alfalfa with 13 percent of the daily recommendation, and you’ll also get five percent of your daily vitamin C. Other vitamins in smaller amounts include thiamin, riboflavin, folate and pantothenic acid. As for the minerals, alfalfa contains just under five percent daily recommended values of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese. With no cholesterol and only 0.2 grams of fat in alfalfa, you can boost your nutrient numbers by eating more than the one cup serving without worrying about the calories.
Sprouting Weight Loss
As we pointed out, alfalfa is incredibly low in calories to the point where you’re almost not eating any at all in a single serving. In fact, there are many people that consider alfalfa to be one of those “negative calorie” foods because your body burns calories by digesting alfalfa. That might very well be true since there are only around seven calories in each one cup serving, which is one of the biggest calorie ratios you can find.
Because of your ability to eat a lot of alfalfa in one sitting, you’ll feel more full and satisfied despite taking in fewer calories. There are also benefits for your digestive system and an increase in antioxidants that can boost your metabolism and make your thyroid function more properly. This makes alfalfa a fantastic weight loss booster, but just don’t make an entire diet based around it.
Many know that if you suffer from diabetes, there can be a long list of foods that you’re not allowed to eat. Thankfully, alfalfa sprouts aren’t among those foods as they’re great for diabetics. It’s been shown that alfalfa sprouts have the ability to lower your blood glucose levels overall, leading to fewer crashes and spikes and the ability to stay away from insulin injections for a longer time.
A large part of this is thanks to the fiber content in alfalfa that makes it so low on the glycemic index chart. Doctors recommend to patients with diabetes that they increase their fiber intake as it’s the closest thing to a natural cure that’s been found so far. Even other diseases that could cause diabetes can be treated with eating more alfalfa, including metabolic syndrome.
We showed you earlier how vitamin K is the most abundant vitamin found in alfalfa, and it’s one that often goes overlooked. Vitamin K is essential to bone health as it plays a large role in bone metabolism. Some researchers even believe that getting enough vitamin K is more vital for your bones than calcium, though you can find both in alfalfa. One study showed that the most common factor in people with osteoporosis was a lack of vitamin K instead of other minerals.
Still, it’s important to combine vitamin K with all of the other helpful minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to maintain stronger bones. Since alfalfa has all of them, it makes alfalfa one of the better foods you can eat for your bones. There are even some anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the painful symptoms of arthritis in your joints!
Hormones are usually something that we’re told about as teenagers, but then we seem to forget all about them as we become adults. Balancing your hormones, however, can prevent a lot of problems that even include cancer. Estrogen is the hormone found in every female, and alfalfa can effectively act as estrogen in the body. This is helpful for women going through menopause, regulating the estrogen levels to relieve symptoms.
Even younger women who’re going through menstruation will see a benefit from adding alfalfa to their diet in several different ways. Overall, though, the main takeaway is that the hormonal effects of alfalfa can lower your chances of breast cancer. It’s been found that those who do eat alfalfa have a lower risk because of the amount of isoflavones found in each serving.
One of the many reasons that people suffer from heart disease is by having too many lipids in their bloodstream. Alfalfa is one of those foods that can lower your lipid count and decrease your overall LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that those who eat alfalfa will naturally have a better blood flow and lower cholesterol, thanks in part to the fiber and anti-inflammatory properties. This will greatly reduce your chances of a stroke, heart attack and many other heart diseases down the road, which is good news since these are among the most common killers of the world.
Summing it Up
While you can certainly have more than one serving of alfalfa at a time, it’s not recommended that you overdo it. This is because some research has claimed that alfalfa might cause sensitivity to the sun, and in rare cases, lupus erythematosus. This is a result of your immune system becoming overactive from eating too much alfalfa, so those that already have an auto-immune disease should steer clear of alfalfa for the time being.
Those with hormone-sensitive types of cancer should also avoid alfalfa since it can be used in your body the same way as estrogen. Lastly, those who suffer from low blood sugar will need to monitor their alfalfa intake as it has the ability to lower blood sugar even further. Most doctors will suggest that alfalfa doesn’t have many problems for the average person, but just to make sure you’re not eating too much. With that in mind, adding alfalfa to your diet is incredibly easy, and will bring about all the health benefits we mentioned earlier!