Bek’s Bites: The Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
Spring has sprung, and so have all sorts of plants. Including nutritious vegetables that are starting to come into season. Lettuce, Broccoli, Peas, Asparagus, you name it, it’s sprouting. Speaking of sprouting, one of the best things to eat at this stage of plant growth is alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the healthiest things that you can put in your body, and it is one of the easiest things to add in a dish for extra texture. There are also quite popular. In early 2006, it was the most cultivated legume worldwide being cultivated at 436 million tons. What is their appeal? What makes people go gaga over alfalfa? Let’s talk about them and find out.
The Many Uses of Alfalfa
While the mature shoots are far too bitter, and the seeds themselves are too toxic for consumption, the sprouts themselves have many nutritional benefits. These benefits include:
Vitamin K: This vitamin is essential to both the regulation of calcium in the bloodstream, bone metabolism, and blood clotting. When our bodies do not have enough Vitamin K, there is a good chance that any injury can lead to hemorrhaging, and possibly even bleeding out. There is also a correlation between low levels of vitamin K and osteoporosis.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is a strong antioxidant that can reduce the chances of chronic disease, can help regulate blood pressure, can reduce the chances of gout attacks, and can help white blood cells function better. Our bodies can’t make this ourselves, and we need it in our diet in order to function. A deficiency of this vitamin often results in scurvy, a disease that leads to bleeding in the gum, lethargy, bone pain, and in worse cases, jaundice fever, and neuropathy until death.
Protein: Protein is responsible for things like cell growth, hair and nail growth, and hormones. While it is true that protein is found in meats like fish, and nuts, they can also be found in plants, legumes, and even whole grains. Without it, our bodies would not be likely to repair themselves if there was some sort of damage involved.
Potassium: This is another vital nutrient that we cannot make ourselves. It is responsible for making our muscles work, including the muscles that are responsible for our heartbeat and breathing. Without it, our muscles will get too weak to function, our heart rates can become abnormal. In the worst case scenario, it can even cause paralysis.
To think that one little sprout can have so many nutritional benefits! It is almost downright insane. But the presence of this plant does more than help us with our own nutrition.
It Helps the Wild Bee Population
Contrary to popular belief, not all bees make honey. In fact, only one specific bee makes honey, the English Honeybee. This cultivated species of bee is well-protected and is growing larger than ever, thanks to human effort. But, the same cannot be said for native bees. “Of the nearly 4,000 native bee species in the United States alone, four native bumblebee species have declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three others are believed to have gone extinct.”
However, alfalfa plants are not exactly friendly to the honeybee population. “; the pollen-carrying keel of the alfalfa flower trips and strikes pollinating bees on the head, which helps transfer the pollen to the foraging bee. Western honey bees, however, do not like being struck in the head repeatedly .”
So, farmers have had to look for other species of native bees to solve this pollination problem. Which means that there had to be some wild bee conservation efforts on the part of the agricultural community to make it happen.
It is Good for Livestock
The primary use of alfalfa for livestock is feed. It is considered high quality for dairy cows since it has highly digestible fiber and protein, both of which are important for milk production. It is also given to beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and even meat rabbit. There are several ways in which it is used for feed, but for the most part, it is fermented to retain high nutrient levels similar to those of fresh forage and is also more palatable to dairy cattle than dry hay.
Alfalfa sprouts play a huge role in not just our own nutrition, but in livestock production and local ecosystems. So much is contained in such a small sprout. It is no wonder that this is considered the most popular legume on the planet!