4 Alfalfa Benefits You Should Know + The Easiest Way To Get More In Your Diet
Alfalfa may not be the most popular plant, but it can provide a number of health benefits and is simple to incorporate into a balanced diet. The plant is actually a part of the legume family but is often referred to as an herb, registered dietitian Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, explains. "The sprouts are what' most commonly consumed as food," she says, "with the leaves and roots more frequently consumed as an herbal supplement."
Health benefits of alfalfa.
Alfalfa has been shown to possess a number of compelling health benefits:
Alfalfa is packed with nutrients.
"Alfalfa sprouts are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese," registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, R.D., tells mbg. To break it down even further, Cording says one cup of alfalfa sprouts contain 5% vitamin C, 13% vitamin K, and only 8 calories. "You'll also get about a gram each of fiber and protein per cup," she says.
It may help lower cholesterol.
In a few small human studies, alfalfa has shown evidence that it may improve cardiovascular health, Cording says. One study, which tested the effects of alfalfa on people with high blood cholesterol levels, found that eating alfalfa seeds three times a day can lower total and LDL cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol).
"High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. So these results, though small, show promising benefits of alfalfa on cardiovascular health.
What's more, alfalfa's inflammation-reducing properties are also important for cardiovascular health.
Alfalfa is high in antioxidants.
Similar to other green leafy vegetables, alfalfa contains a number of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals and in some cases can manage inflammation and support immune function. The antioxidant effects of alfalfa have been proved in animal studies, but more research is needed in humans, Cording says.
It may help manage menopause symptoms.
"Alfalfa also contains phytoestrogens," Cording says, "which have been studied for their potential benefit to menopausal symptoms." In a study conducted on 30 women going through menopause, 67% found that taking sage and alfalfa supplements improved hot flashes and night sweats. "Again more research is needed," she adds.
What are the potential side effects of alfalfa?
Anyone with a weakened immune system (i.e., older adults, infants, people with autoimmune conditions, pregnant and breastfeeding women) should avoid raw alfalfa sprouts. "[They] are prone to bacterial contamination, mainly salmonella and E. coli," Michalczyk says. This can increase the risk of foodborne illness.
"Heating them up can help lessen the chances of bacterial contamination," she says.
Certain blood-thinning medications require users to limit vitamin K consumption, Cording explains, so it's best to limit alfalfa consumption to small amounts. If you're not sure, consult your doctor to find out if this applies to you.
If you fall into these groups, Cording recommends consulting with a doctor before taking alfalfa in supplement form, as well.
How to get more alfalfa into your diet.
The easiest way to add more alfalfa to your diet is through a supplement or powder, like in mbg organic veggies+ greens powder. The mbg vegetable blend, in particular, contains dark leafy greens, sea veggies, and alfalfa grass. These vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that support cognitive function and promote hormonal balance.* It also features turmeric and ginger, to further support immune function in conjunction with alfalfa.*
You can also try adding alfalfa sprouts to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. That said, if alfalfa sprouts aren't available at your local market, Michalczyk suggests microgreens, which are "baby sprouts of veggies, like kale, broccoli, and more," but have a similar texture and taste to alfalfa. Otherwise, mbg organic veggies+ are an easy go-to option.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.