A member of the legume family, alfalfa is one of those “wonder foods” that contains such a shockingly wide variety of vitamins and minerals it almost seems too good to be true. (The list of vitamins found naturally in the alfalfa plant reads like the label on a bottle of dietary supplement pills, including vitamin A and four B vitamins, along with vitamins C, D, E, K, and U.) As a result, the benefits of alfalfa seem nearly endless.
For plant-based dieters, alfalfa is truly among the Holy Grail of foods that provide essential nutrients, while also packing a powerful protein punch.
Most are familiar with alfalfa in the form of sprouts, which are a common addition to sandwiches and salads. While sprouts will provide you with many health benefits, you need the mature alfalfa leaf to get the full power of this amazing plant.
That’s because the roots of the alfalfa plant reach up to 100 times deeper into the soil than most other plants, allowing them to suck up more nutrients. Those nutrients go straight to the leaf, which can be eaten both raw and cooked or ground into a powder and added to smoothies (it’s already in your Superfood Protein Smoothie!).
While this plant does many wonderful things for your body, there are a few specific benefits of alfalfa that athletes following plant-based diets will want to celebrate with each sip of their smoothie:
Not only does alfalfa contain more protein than most other leafy greens, it also contains more than beef. Actually, alfalfa is one of the primary food sources for cows and other animals that are raised for consumption. Since animals are using the protein from this plant as an energy source, humans who depend on animal products for nutrition aren’t getting the full benefit of alfalfa protein.
Alfalfa is a reminder of why plant-based dieters go straight to the source — and why it’s not as difficult as it may seem to get the protein required by your athletic lifestyle strictly from plants.
In addition to protein, which plays a key role in helping your muscles recover from a workout, alfalfa is also a great source of magnesium and zinc. These minerals help your body produce proteins and hormones that assist with the growth and development of strong, healthy muscles. What’s more, magnesium also aids hydration, loosens your muscles, and helps prevent cramps, making it an essential component of any fitness routine.
Thanks to a compound called saponins, alfalfa can be used as a natural, herbal remedy for reducing inflammation. This is great news for athletes suffering from joint pain and stiffness or sore muscles. By regularly including alfalfa in your diet, you’re helping to fight these symptoms before they have the chance to occur.
Another reason to love alfalfa is that it’s rich in antioxidants. Along with the saponins mentioned above, antioxidants give your immune system a boost so your body can fight off infection. Athletes know just how important this is following a rigorous workout when your immune system will be suppressed for a period of time.
If you haven’t already included alfalfa in your plant-based diet, consider taking advantage of this muscle-building, inflammation-fighting, immune-boosting, protein-packed power plant!