Monday, May 31, 2010

Alfalfa and Nutrition

(Medicago sativa) A LEGUME used primarily for fodder throughout the world. As a nutritional supplement, this plant is a rich source of TRACE MINERALS, BETA-CAROTENE, ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS, VITAMIN K, and the B COMPLEX vitamins. Alfalfa contains significant FIBER and is a rich source of PROTEIN (25 percent by weight). In Asia, alfalfa leaves are used in the form of greens as a VEGETABLE.
Claims that alfalfa boosts the IMMUNE SYSTEM may relate to its trace mineral content. It also has antibacterial activity, and there is some evidence that alfalfa can induce LIVER detoxifying enzymes that destroy toxins and pollutants. Alfalfa contains several classes of compounds, including SAPONINS, STEROLS, and FLAVONOIDS, which can affect the body. For example, alfalfa saponins decrease blood cholesterol levels in lab animals. Alfalfa may reduce damage due to radiation, perhaps due to the ANTIOXIDANTS it contains. Individuals who have heart disease, who are pregnant, who have a tendency to clot easily or take anticoagulants should avoid alfalfa supplements because their vitamin K content may promote blood clotting. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alfalfa during pregnancy and when breast-feeding, because it contains substances with weak estrogenic activity. Alfalfa sprouts are a healthful alternative to LETTUCE because it contains beta-carotene, VITAMIN C, and trace minerals at levels higher than those found in iceberg lettuce. In contrast with most lettuce, alfalfa sprouts are not treated with PESTICIDES. Alfalfa sprouts (100 g) provide 54 calories; protein, 6 g; carbohydrate, 9.5 g; fiber, 3.1 g; fat, 0.4 g; calcium, 215 mg; iron, 2.3 mg; thiamin 0.13 mg; riboflavin, 0.14 mg; niacin, 0.5 mg.