Many readers find their way here looking for “alfalfa sprout benefits”. As someone who has invested some time studying nutrition in all it’s glory beyond the commercialized myths, I thought it was high time I lay out some of the bleaker facts about alfalfa sprouts for everyone’s benefit. People generally tend to base their decisions on over-advertised research findings which generally focus on only 1 aspect of a certain thing at the exclusion of all others (for example benefits versus risks). It may serve you to know the following before you put your health at stake with the much-celebrated alfalfa sprouts :-
- Whatever few food-poisoning ever happened with sprouts, almost all of them where because of alfalfa; Nothing to panic about though. Just keep in mind that alfalfa is generally grown as an animal feed. These kind of alfalfa seeds – are NOT pathogen certified – & hence are more likely to be infected because animal feed products are beyond the purview of food-health regulations which have been formulated for farming done for human consumption.Recommendation : Grow your sprouts at home using “non-pathogen certified” organic seeds meant for sprouting. You can get them on eBay or in your neighbourhood health shop.
- Alfalfa sprouts have a relatively higher amount of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens may be good for menopausal women but not so for the rest of them (they contribute to PMS). Men can ofcourse do without them. If given in excess to kids (for ex. in baby food), they may interfere with optimum sexual development of boys while making girl childs achieve puberty pre-maturely. Again nothing to panic as phytoestrogens are already present in many common fruits & vegetables commonly consumed by all.Recommendation : I think we can do with one less source of phytoestrogens- given the huge choice of seeds with better benefits.
- Alfalfa sprouts contain sapotoxins, malonic acid and L-canavanine sulfate. Some people have reported negative health effects from their consumption. The toxic saponin levels are at their highest when alfalfa sprouts are 6-8 days old ie when it is commonly eaten. L-canavanine sulfate is present in the seed and decreases as the sprout grows. According to all this research, consuming large amounts of alfalfa sprouts is risky. For example, sapotoxins in alfalfamay reduce serum cholesterol by preventing its reabsorption after it has been excreted in the bile. Another research reports no harmful effects from consumption of moderate amounts of raw alfalfa sprouts. Low-saponin cultivars of alfalfa have also been developed.Recommendation : Given all the risks above, I’ll suggest you look elsewhere. There are 70+ seeds that we can sprout easily at home.
Now lets look at the purported benefits of the over-commercialized alfalfa sprouts :-
1. All the claims based on it’s nutrients can simply be applied to many other sprouts as well – but WITHOUT the risks high-lighted above.
2. Any claims about it being a complete food is a bit of an exaggeration as there is NO ONE single food on planet earth which possesses every nutrient human body needs. Spirulina comes close but no nutritionist will ever recommend eating just 1 type of food. Yes, one may kind of make this claim about the entire set of sprouts because if you eat a variety of them then indeed you will get almost all the nutrients including Vitamins T, H & P. Thats why I eat about a dozen different types of sprouts & soaks on a daily basis. They are easy to grow & takes just 15 mins or so a day if you follow the prescribed methodology.
I have been Sprouting @ Home for almost 8 yrs now & never went beyond my 1st packet of alfalfa seeds because –
- It takes much longer – actually double the time to sprout as compared to most other sprouts.
- It’s more finicky than most other sprouts.
- The seeds sprouting rate is lesser than many other sprouts.
- It is more temperature sensitive than many other sprouts.
These reasons coupled with the risks mentioned above were enough for me to explore further & I was happy to find even more nutritive sprouts out there. I have formulated them into 2 super-potent sprouts-muesli which provide me all the nutrients we can obtain from the interesting & versatile sprouts kingdom. I go out of the sprouting world only for the very few nutrients which I have not found in the otherwise enzyme-rich sprouting world.
Some of the posts here will give you a taste of it but do you really want to get a feel of the peak in nutrition, better than even what a “syllabus bound” nutritionist or commercially ‘sponsored’ researcher out there would ever recommend?
Anyways, there are some other commonly consumed sprouts which can actually be problematic. My course has the entire list. In the mean time, happy sprouting & never mind the over-hyped benefits of alfalfa sprouts.
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