By Naini Setalvad November 2009 A handful of alfalfa sprouts in your diet has amazing benefits When I first started hearing about alfalfa seeds among the health-conscious a few years ago, I was stumped. What are they? I wondered. I started scouting for alfalfa seeds, and found them primarily in health shops. I learnt that it took two to three days to sprout but it is worth the effort.Although we have been hearing more about them recently, alfalfa has a tried and tested history. It has been used as a medicinal herb for over one-and-a-half millennia. Traditional Chinese medicines used alfalfa for several problems – as a cure for digestive disorders and kidney problems. Closer home, ancient Hindu societies used alfalfa to cure indigestion. A paste of the seeds was used to cure boils. Alfalfa was a popular remedy for arthritis and water retention. If you feel that it is easier to pop a pill rather than take the time and effort to sprout the seeds, remember that a pill does not supply all the vital nutrients. The sprouting process is not very difficult once you learn the technique. The benefits of alfalfa sprouts are ten-fold. My clients swear that it has made their skin glow and increased their energy levels. It also alleviates the eye strain caused by prolonged computer use. Personally, after a few days of consuming alfalfa sprouts I felt a surge in my energy levels, and my hair quality vastly improved. Intrigued, I delved deeper and here is what I found:• It is high in vitamin A, and helps ocular health. It also fights viral infections, cures night blindness, clears the skin and makes for lustrous hair. Macular degeneration, a common age-related eye problem, significantly improves with the addition of alfalfa sprouts in the daily diet.• Calcium deficiency, leading to osteoporosis is a major concern today. Alfalfa provides a good source of calcium essential for building healthy bones and teeth. A little known fact is that it is a far richer source of calcium than milk and has fewer calories. A fistful of sprouts should be included in the daily diet.• Water retention problems in women are common in the pre-menstrual and post-menopausal stage. The diuretic properties of these sprouts are amazing. They help in increasing urination, cure bladder problems and maintain overall kidney health. Alfalfa could also be used as an oestrogen replacement, thus helping new mothers to increase breast milk.• Being a natural diuretic it helps in reducing swollen feet, a common problem in heart-related ailments. It promotes cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol levels and decreases chances of severe heart conditions. Its anti-oxidant properties act as little soldiers that prevent free radical damage in our bodies that raise cholesterol levels.• Alfalfa is high in iron, and helps to cure anaemia, a huge problem in India.• Alfalfa is also useful in curing diabetes. It is low in the glycaemic index, and controls insulin levels especially when added to vegetables in the diet.The high vitamin C content of alfalfa automatically improves immunity preventing common cold and flu. It is also rich in vitamins D, E and K. Toss it on salads, sprinkle it on vegetables, add it to soups or eat it as a snack garnished with lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves. You could add it to bhel. Just get creative and reap the health benefits. It is best, when consumed as a regular dietary supplement to keep ailments at bay and improve immunity levels. Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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