What are the health benefits of eating alfalfa?

Alfalfa is a common flowering perennial plant that originated in Asia, according to Medicinal Herb Info. One way you may be familiar with eating alfalfa is as sprouts in your salad or on your sandwich. But you may be surprised to know that alfalfa not only packs a nutritional punch, it may offer several significant health benefits too. Before you begin to use alfalfa to treat any health condition, consult your health care provider.

The Nutrition Research Center describes alfalfa as "a nutrient-rich food, high in chlorophyll, vitamins and micronutrients." Eating alfalfa or alfalfa sprouts offers the advantage of more protein than in most plants. Alfalfa is rich in vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E and K as well as calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.

Antioxidant Effects & Potential Radiation Protection
Alfalfa may also be able to protect cells from damage from such things as x-rays because of its antioxidant properties. A research study on alfalfa and two other herbal foods found that alfalfa reduced free radicals and cell damage in animal test subjects that had been given alfalfa prior to x-ray. The study was conducted in Antalya, Turkey and its results were published in the January/February 2008 issue of "Photochemistry & Photobiology."

Lower Cholesterol
When left untreated, high cholesterol can lead to several serious medical conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. But studies have shown that alfalfa may help reduce cholesterol levels in human patients. The results of one study were published in the May 1987 issue of "Atherosclerosis" and showed that alfalfa significantly reduced the overall cholesterol levels in the test subjects. In fact, the patients' LDL, or "bad" cholesterol levels were reduced by up to 30 percent by taking alfalfa seeds for a period of eight weeks. Once the study was over, the patients' cholesterol levels returned to their previous levels, indicating that the alfalfa had been successful in cholesterol reduction.

Jun 14, 2011 | By Lynn DeVries

Read more:
Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine
Alfalfa is not a bean but a tiny grain, although it can be soaked in the same way as beans to make a pleasant-tasting, nutty sprout that is rich in protein and nutrients. Alfalfa sprouts contain calcium, zinc, iron, potassium and magnesium, and the eight essential amino acids. They are useful for the treatment of fatigue, colds, stomach ulcers and urinary problems, as well as helping to reduce plaque formation in the arteries. 
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.