Alfalfa also called lucerne, is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. The name alfalfa is used in North America. Alfalfa Sprouts superficially resembles clover, with clusters of small purple flowers followed by fruits spiraled in 2 to 3 turns containing 10-20 seeds. Alfalfa is native to warmer temperate climates.
‘Sprouting’ alfalfa seeds is the process of germinating seeds for consumption usually involving just water and a jar. However, the seeds and sprouts must be rinsed regularly to avoid the accumulation of the products of decay organisms along with smells of rot and discoloration. Sprouting alfalfa usually takes three to four days.
Alfalfa is the most cultivated forage legume in the world. Worldwide production was around 436 million tons in 2006. In 2009, alfalfa was grown on approximately 30 million hectares (74,000,000 acres) worldwide; of this North America produced 41%.
Alfalfa is high in protein, calcium, and other minerals, vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Health Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
Sprouts are one of the healthiest foods to include in your everyday dietary requirements. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the most beautiful sprouts that have not one but multiple health benefits.
When used appropriately and in moderation, alfalfa sprouts can be a healthy component of a balanced diet. We do advise you to consult your physician before eating alfalfa sprouts on an ongoing or excessive basis, particularly if you have a medical condition or take medication.
Alfalfa sprouts are a good source of dietary fiber. Each 33-gram serving of alfalfa sprouts provides one gram of fiber or three percent of an average adult’s necessary intake. This makes alfalfa sprouts a suitable food for people suffering from chronic constipation, diverticulitis or other digestive upsets.
2Rich in Protein:
Every serving of alfalfa sprouts provides 1 gram of plant-based protein. Unlike most other vegan protein sources, such as beans and peas, alfalfa sprouts are edible and palatable without any exposure to heat. Alfalfa sprouts are a good protein source for people eating raw and vegan diets.
Alfalfa sprouts are a good source of several micronutrients, or vitamins. They contain B vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, alfalfa sprouts provide roughly 13 percent of an adult’s recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Because of alfalfa’s high vitamin K content, the National Institutes of Health advise patients taking blood thinners to avoid foods and supplements made from the plant.
4Lowers Bad Cholesterol Levels:
Alfalfa sprouts are rich in saponins, a chemical compound believed to help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while maintaining good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
5Rich in Antioxidants:
Alfalfa sprouts are known to be of the vegetables with the highest amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants are crucial in boosting the immune system as well as fighting free radicals. Antioxidants have long been known to lower the rate of cancer, stroke and heart disease.
6Controlling Blood Sugar:
According to some studies consuming alfalfa sprouts may help manage diabetes. Limited studies have shown a small reduction in blood sugar levels.
7Cancer Prevention Properties:
Alfalfa sprouts are rich in canavanine, an amino acid analog known to be beneficial in fighting leukemia, pancreatic and colon cancer as well as fibrocystic breast tumors.
The anti-inflammatory properties of saponins are believed to help prevent strokes, reduce the inflammatory process in arthritis and lower chronic inflammatory disorders. Alfalfa sprouts have these remarkable medical qualities.
Alfalfa sprouts contain only 8 calories per serving, making it an ideal choice for people who are trying to lose weight. They are a weight loss aid, low in calories, sugar, fat and saturated fat. Additionally, because alfalfa sprouts are rich in fiber and protein, they may help to facilitate sensations of fullness for people who tend to overeat. It is told that the trainers of athletes recommend this due to ‘no increase of weight and more protein’.
10Improving Heart Health:
Saponins are also believed to reduce atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries) and other cardiovascular diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them highly effective heart health improving agent.
11Immune System Booster:
Studies have shown that saponins also play a role in the immune system by boosting the activity of natural killer cells, T-lymphocytes, and interferon.
12Improving Bone Health:
Estrogen, a compound found in alfalfa sprouts, is believed to help increase bone formation and improve bone density, therefore helping prevent osteoporosis.
Alfalfa contains essential enzymes which are required for food digestion. There are 8 enzymes present in alfalfa:
- Lipase – fat splitting
- Amylase – acts on starches
- Coagulase – coagulates or clots blood
- Emulsion – acts on sugar
- Invertase – converts cane sugar to dextrose
- Peroxidation – oxidizing effect of the blood
- Pectinase – forms vegetable jelly
- Protease – digests proteins
14Regular bowel movement and reduced inflammation:
Chemicals in alfalfa have mild diuretic properties which help the kidney to get rid of excessive water from the body, and regulate bowel movement. By removing excessive water, swelling and inflammation in the body (such as legs and arms) will also be reduced.
How to grow Alfalfa Sprouts!
It is very easy to grow alfalfa sprouts, and it does not take many efforts. Generally, a serving of alfalfa sprouts takes 3 4 to germinate.
In order to grow handy alfalfa sprouts in the comfort of your own kitchen, you will require seeds, glass jar and a screen (you can use a light fabric which is porous).
- You want the seeds to be wet and to have access to air. Therefore, don’t let the seeds gather in clumps at the jar’s bottom. Roll the jar around, causing as many seeds to stick to the surface as possible, then lay the jar on its side. If the surrounding air is cooler than 70° – 80°, the seeds will grow slower than if they had more heat. Warmer temperatures encourage disease organisms. If you prefer growing them under warmer conditions, then rinse at least twice a day or more. If you are not rinsing enough, you’ll smell an obnoxious odor in the jar and need to rinse more often. At this stage, it doesn’t matter whether your sprouts have light or not.
- The seeds need to be soaked overnight in a jar, at least, quarter full and to be kept at normal room temperature. Rinse the seeds twice a day with cool water. You need to run the water into the jar, swirl the seeds around, then pour out the water through the top filter and repeat the steps mentioned earlier. This is required to rid the seeds of disease organisms and toxins that accumulate in the moist conditions inside the jar.
- When the sprouts are big enough, usually on the fifth or sixth day spread them out and keep them in sunlight for 15 minutes or more if you want. This important step activates enzymes and makes the sprouts prettier by making their leaves greener. The brown seed coats will have come off most beans. If you want, you can remove most of the coats by submerging the sprouts in water, then filtering out the coats, which tend to float to the top. Removing the coats won’t change the taste or nutrition.
Some quick recipes to try your hands at with Alfalfa!
You can try making an alfalfa sprout sandwich, using some mayonnaise, chopped basil, chopped tomatoes, and alfalfa sprouts. These are easy to make quick bites, packed with nutrition and good taste.
Another great quick to make recipe involving alfalfa is Char-grilled Pepper and Feta Cheese Salad. Use red, yellow and green peppers to make the salad look full of color. Served on a bed of crisp lettuce, this recipe calls for alfalfa sprouts too, making it rich in nutrients. The zingy olive oil, vinegar, peppers and sugar dressing makes this one of the best salads that is enjoyed by all.
Start enjoying the benefits of this amazing sprout right now by incorporating alfalfa in your daily diet. Alfalfa sprouts are a great addition to your selection of food due to all of alfalfa’s health and nutritional benefits. Make sure the sprouts are properly washed before consumption.