Whether perched on avocado toast at a restaurant, blended into a smoothie, or garnishing your meal, you’ve likely spotted the recently trendy alfalfa sprouts. Not only are they an aesthetic addition to restaurant foods, but these tiny sprouts are packed with nutritious ingredients.
Alfalfa has been used as a medicinal herb and livestock feed for centuries. Though alfalfa became less well-known in the 20th century, the plant has reemerged in the wellness world for its numerous potential health benefits because it is filled with protein, fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals.
As well as being a great source of protein, one animal study shows that alfalfa leaf may help with weight management and immune support. Whether you eat fresh alfalfa sprouts or take alfalfa supplements, this article highlights what you need to know about this small yet mighty plant.
The Bottom Line
- What is alfalfa leaf? Medicago sativa contains essential vitamins and nutrients, has been used for centuries as an herbal supplement, and is emerging as one of many dietary plant compounds.
- What are the purported benefits of alfalfa leaf? Alfalfa’s rich nutrient content may support weight loss goals, skin health, healthy brain function, and more.
- What are the side effects of alfalfa leaf? Experts recommend that you talk with your healthcare provider if you're unsure whether alfalfa is safe for you.
- Why we recommend Live it Up. Live it Up Super Greens includes alfalfa seeds in its unique powder, making it easy to get the nutrients of alfalfa in one scoop.
What Is Alfalfa Leaf?
Alfalfa’s modern superfood status is no surprise, considering its history. Though it was originally used as livestock feed, alfalfa or Medicago sativa was common in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years.
Today, alfalfa is often thought of as an herb because of its bitter, earthy flavor. However, this perennial plant is part of the nutritionally rich legume family, making it a close cousin of lentils, beans, and quinoa.
Much of the nutritional power of alfalfa comes from its seeds. Essential vitamins like A, C, E, and K are packed into these small plants, not to mention that they are rich in calcium, iron, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorus.
The seeds are commonly sprouted and eaten raw. Alternatively, the green shoots can be dried and blended into a supplement powder.
What Are Alfalfa Leaf's Potential Benefits?
Alfalfa is often considered a superfood, but why? Here are nine benefits that alfalfa may offer:
1. Fiber and protein-packed
One cup of alfalfa sprouts packs approximately a gram of fiber and more than half a gram of protein. Keep in mind that the exact nutritional amount is hard to pinpoint since levels vary by seed.
Experts suggest that diets rich in protein and fiber may help with weight management and regularity. Incorporating alfalfa into a balanced meal plan is one of the easiest ways to incorporate plant-based protein and dietary fiber into your routine, which may support digestive health.
2. Excellent source of antioxidants
One of the main nutritional benefits of leafy greens is that they are full of antioxidants. Studies have shown that this is also true of alfalfa extract.
Although this research is still in the experimental phase, there is evidence that supports that the antioxidants found in alfalfa leaf extract may help the body fight free radicals and support immune function.
Whether adding sprouts to your meal or taking alfalfa supplements, this plant-based superfood provides another way to potentially reap the benefits of antioxidants.
3. High in vitamin C
This essential vitamin isn’t found only in carrots and oranges. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of raw sprouted alfalfa seeds provides 8.2 mg of vitamin C, which accounts for approximately 9% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is also commonly used to support the immune system as well as fight free radicals.
There is also evidence that suggests that vitamin C may support collagen production.
Collagen is the protein that provides structure and support to protect the body’s many delicate systems, including skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissue. Collagen has been linked to the support of healthy nails, hair, and skin.
4. May support bone health
One cup of alfalfa sprouts accounts for 8% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Due to vitamin K's role in building bone tissue, it has the potential to support bone health.
A study conducted on a range of female participants found that those with higher daily vitamin K intake were less likely to break a bone than participants who consumed less of this same vitamin.
For the elderly or those with conditions that weaken bones, alfalfa is an easy way to ensure you have sufficient amounts of vitamin K in your diet.
5. Source of phosphorus
Though this essential mineral may not be as popular as iron and zinc, phosphorus is crucial for strong bones and teeth, forming DNA and RNA, supporting healthy metabolism, and even fighting urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Phosphorus reverses the bacterial growth caused by high calcium levels by binding to the calcium to circulate throughout the body and neutralize the acidic (and infection-prone) bacteria; this is why some experts have predicted that it may aid with UTIs.
Some experts predict that phosphorus may help reduce the likelihood of getting urinary stones. However, this mineral is not naturally occurring in the body and can only be attained through food.
One serving of alfalfa provides 70 mg of phosphorus. However, this is only 1.7% of the recommended daily intake. This means that alfalfa alone cannot meet the body’s needs.
6. High in iron
Like phosphorus, iron is an essential mineral that is obtained from food. Alfalfa provides 0.96 mg of iron in a single serving or about 50% of the recommended daily intake requirement. Though iron is not the most prevalent mineral in the superfood, it still packs many health benefits.
Iron is essential for making red blood cells, transforming food into energy (a process referred to as metabolizing), and supporting a healthy nervous system. Iron deficiencies are common, especially among women, and may lead to a variety of health challenges, like iron deficiency anemia in the most severe cases.
However, for most people, incorporating alfalfa or other vegetables into your diet ensures your body gets this vital mineral.
7. Linked to healthy weight management
Whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds or looking for ways to maintain a healthy weight, alfalfa may provide numerous weight management benefits. This seed is very low-calorie, making it a possible addition to a healthy weight loss plan.
Alfalfa leaves are filled with fiber, which helps you feel full for longer without sudden cravings sneaking up later. Aside from its obvious appeal for people on a diet, there may also be potential metabolism-supporting properties of alfalfa.
Although more data confirming the alfalfa’s metabolic effects on the human body is needed, scientists believe that the effects may be similar.
8. May assist cognitive function
Vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate are all nutrients found in alfalfa leaf that may help maintain cognitive function. Vitamin E contains antioxidants that protect the brain from free radical damage, and vitamin K has been linked to helping memory and mental performance. Similarly, folate may aid in the prevention of cognitive decline in older adults.
Because of its neuroprotective properties, alfalfa leaf may help maintain healthy brain function, especially in those suffering from age-related cognitive decline. While more research is needed, a proper nutritional and mineral balance can protect the brain and cognitive function.
9. Can support skin health
Alfalfa leaves are high in nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and chlorophyll, all of which are necessary for healthy skin. Vitamin C promotes skin firmness and elasticity by assisting with collagen production, whereas vitamin E provides antioxidant effects and protects the skin from free radical damage.
Furthermore, alfalfa leaf's zinc and chlorophyll content may help reduce skin inflammation and severe acne, promote wound healing, and combat premature aging. By supplying these essential nutrients, alfalfa leaf could support healthy skin and reduce inflammation.
What Are the Side Effects of Alfalfa Sprouts?
Like most foods, moderation is key. Though numerous possible benefits of alfalfa exist, it is an ingredient that experts recommend consuming in small quantities. Here is a closer look at some of the possible side effects of alfalfa.
High risk of foodborne illness
You may have seen the raw alfalfa sprouts on the grocery store shelf. Since water is needed to grow alfalfa sprouts, the sprouts you see on the shelves are at higher risk of bacterial contamination, including E. coli, Salmonella, or Listeria.
These bacteria are likely to cause foodborne illness and are especially dangerous for anyone with a compromised immune system. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are unsure whether you should avoid alfalfa.
Reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners
For many people, the high levels of vitamin K are one of the main benefits of alfalfa. However, studies show that large quantities of vitamin K may weaken the effectiveness of blood thinning medications, making alfalfa a potentially harmful supplement for people taking these medications for blood clotting.
Small quantities of alfalfa are generally safe. But as a general rule of thumb, it is best to avoid adding large amounts of alfalfa if you are part of this group. Again, it is best to clarify with your healthcare provider whether alfalfa is safe to add to your diet.
How to Use Alfalfa Seeds and Sprouts
Alfalfa can easily be added to your diet in a variety of ways. For those who prefer the herbal taste of sprouts, purchase a container at the grocery store and keep them on hand to add to salads, scrambles, or whatever meal you are cooking.
Remember that raw sprouts have a higher risk of foodborne illness, so make sure you thoroughly wash the sprouts and that you’re not part of the high-risk groups described above. If you want to avoid raw alfalfa sprouts, you can find a range of supplements and powders at your local grocery store or online.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate alfalfa into your daily life is with an everyday greens powder or dietary supplement. Several greens powders contain alfalfa and other superfoods intended to bridge nutritional gaps and make it easier to manage a healthy lifestyle.
To take the guesswork out of your micronutrients, all you need to do is blend this superfood powder into a smoothie to experience the potential benefits of alfalfa. Be sure to check the ingredient label to add the proper dose and ensure you meet your intended nutritional intake goals.
Why We Recommended Live it Up
Finding ways to incorporate superfoods into your daily diet can be difficult, especially if you want to eat lesser-known and often pricier health foods like alfalfa. That’s why some people opt for superfood powders like Live it Up Super Greens.
This health food supplement includes alfalfa plus probiotics and other essential nutrients. Because these plant-based superfoods are blended together, Live it Up Super Greens makes it easy to get essential nutrients without any of the added sugars or preservatives in other dietary supplements.
Plus, you can avoid purchasing sprouts from grocery stores, which poses the risk of foodborne illness.
Just add one scoop to your daily smoothie or juice. Because the blend is filled with nutrient-dense ingredients, Live it Up Super Greens makes feeling, looking, and leading a healthy lifestyle a cinch.
Opting for Live it Up Super Greens also makes getting your greens delicious. Whether you are kale-adverse, can’t stand the smell of nutritional supplements, or don't want to worry about buying sprouts, Live it Up Super Greens packs delicious minty flavor so that eating healthy isn’t a chore.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alfalfa Leaf
Though experts believe that there are numerous potential benefits of consuming alfalfa, further research is needed to solidify these claims. That’s why we answered some of the most frequently asked questions.
What is alfalfa leaf used for?
Since one serving of alfalfa contains protein, fiber, vitamin K, and essential minerals like iron and phosphorus, alfalfa is often consumed as a dietary supplement. Some experts believe alfalfa may support healthy weight management, cognitive function, skin health, and more.
Is alfalfa leaf good for you?
Alfalfa is generally considered safe for most people and has nutrients that are essential for keeping your body healthy. One cup of alfalfa sprouts contains a gram each of protein and fiber, 8% of your recommended daily vitamin K intake, and only eight calories. You also get essential minerals like zinc, iron, and phosphorus, all of which are essential for your body.
How much alfalfa leaf should you take per day?
There is no firm recommendation for how much alfalfa you should eat. However, some people may want to limit or avoid alfalfa. Raw sprouts have a higher risk of bacteria that may cause serious food-borne illness.