Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally balanced veggies you can eat. It is an excellent source of vitamins A,C, K and many B vitamins.
Just one five ounce serving can provide more than sixty percent of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, eleven percent of daily fiber and about ten percent of the recommended amount of daily protein.
Not to mention a good selection of minerals including potassium, copper, manganese, iron and zinc.
These health benefits provide a number of unique advantages for women; antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to help fight many forms of cancer; healthy bacteria for the digestive system and immune boosting properties for common health ailments.
Asparagus is part of the lily family, whose Greek name translates as ‘sprout’ or ‘shoot’. While asparagus is grown just about everywhere in the world, it originates from the eastern Mediterranean, dating back more than two thousand years ago. Peru and Mexico are now the world’s leading exporters of asparagus.
The plant was highly regarded for its unique taste and texture as well as a number of medicinal properties particularly for its treatment of digestive problems.
There are actually hundreds of varieties of asparagus although only 20 are edible. While most people immediately think of asparagus as being green, you may also find it in colors of white or purple. White asparagus is more difficult to grow and harvest because it is more fragile. Purple asparagus is smaller in stalk size than the green variety, but has a sweeter, fruitier flavor.
Here are the Main Health Benefits of Asparagus..
Asparagus is chock full of nutrients that provide anti-inflammatory properties. These properties include rutin, flavonids, isorhamnetin, saponins, quercentin, and laempferol, which can all help with common ailments such as asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune conditions. Asparagus’s anti-inflammatory effects can also help with water retention, PMS, and menstrual cramps.
A Great Source of Antioxidants
Asparagus contains a compound known as glutathione, which is actually comprised of three different amino acids. These acids are known as cysteine, glycine, and glumatic acid. When these acids combine they make one powerful antioxidant that can provide super benefits to the body, particularly protecting against, and even reversing, free-radical damage and subsequent age related conditions.
Asparagus contains vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), selenium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C, which when combined with the glutathione provides exceptional protection against free radicals.
A Cancer Fighter
Oxidation of the cells in the body along with chronic inflammation can be linked to many types of cancer. The dense antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds found in asparagus can alter metabolic activity in the body’s cells and ultimately help to prevent them becoming cancerous.
Good for Heart Health
Asparagus is packed with complex B vitamins, most specifically Folate, which has been shown to provide many benefits for the cardiovascular system. Folate helps with transforming norepinephrine to adrenaline and serotonin to melatonin.
The B vitamins also help with allowing the body to properly metabolize starches and sugars which subsequently help to regulate homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid and high levels of it in the blood are an indicator of heart disease.
Just one cup of asparagus provides us with approximately 3 grams of fiber – One third being soluble fiber. It has been consistently shown that increasing the amount of soluble fiber you eat reduces the risk of heart disease.
Can Help Lower the Risk of Spina Bifida in Pregnant Women
Folate or folic acid, is responsible for managing the proper division of cells. Increased consumption of folic acid rich foods in the months before child birth and even before conception has been shown to help protect against a serious condition known as spina bifida.
Asparagus is a particularly rich source of folic acid. Just 1 cup or approximately 180 grams of asparagus contains around 66% of your daily recommended intake.
Eating healthy foods like asparagus that are rich in folic acid and other vital nutrients is particularly beneficial to pregnant women. As well as an overall health boost, it means they do not need to take extra supplements to make up for any nutrient deficiency.
Assists with Diet and Digestion
Asparagus contains a protein known as inulin, a unique carbohydrate that promotes the growth of two types of healthy bacteria – Lactobacilli, and Bifidobacteria.
These bacteria are necessary for preventing harmful bacteria from taking over the intestinal tract. They encouraging proper nutrient absorption and can help in lowering the risk of colon cancer.
As well as benefiting from valuable inulin, asparagus has a particularly good amount of fiber and protein. Both fiber and protein help stabilize the digestive system by keeping food moving through us at the desired rate.
Asparagus has a long history of treating digestive problems in early and alternative medicine and its unique combination of nutrients make it a desired food source for our diets.
An Excellent Source of Vitamin K
This tasty veggie provides more than one hundred and fourteen percent of the recommend daily allowance of vitamin K with just a one cup serving.
Vitamin K plays a major role in the synthesis of osteocalcin which is a type of protein that builds strong bones. Vitamin K also helps to prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis due to calcium build up in tissues.
Immune Boosting Vitamin C
As touched upon earlier, vitamin C is a powerful type of antioxidant, and asparagus has more than thirty percent of the recommended daily allowance.
Vitamin C can help build a strong immune system to help fight off many common ailments such as colds and viruses, lower blood pressure, and ward off eye conditions that come with aging such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
How to Select and Store Asparagus
The most common type of asparagus you will find in your grocery store is the green variety. As with any fruit and vegetables they will be cheaper to buy when in season. They should look like spears – rounded, without any twists or bulging.
They are usually sold in bunches of around 15-20 spears. Choose ones that are firm with bright green stems and dark green or purple closed tips.
To maintain freshness asparagus should be kept clean, cold and covered. Store them in the refrigerator (preferably the crisper) or a dry cool place such as a pantry. Keep the stem ends moist by wrapping them in a damp paper towel.
Asparagus is best eaten when bought fresh but should keep for 2 to 4 days afterwards if stored correctly.
How to Prepare Asparagus
Depending on the season you will find pencil thin or thick speared asparagus. Thin stems do not need peeling but the thicker varieties do, as the skins will be tough and stringy.
As with any vegetable, wash the asparagus under cold running water to remove any pesticides or soil that may still be on the skin.
How you cook them is your choice, but always cook them as a whole before trimming or peeling them. I simply place them into a container with 1 tablespoon of water and microwave for 2 minutes. The longer the time, the more tender they become.
They also taste delicious when grilled or roasted and you can add whatever seasoning you choose!
Once they’ve been cooked, cut off the bottom third of the stalk. The top two thirds of the stem should be tender and will become tougher and hard towards the bottom. You will be able to feel the change of texture. When you’ve done one, you can use it as a guide to trim the rest.
If you intend to eat them cold, place them in very cold water as soon as you’ve cooked them or they will lose their bright green color.
Here’s a good video that shows you how to prepare asparagus..
Adding Asparagus to Your Diet
Adding asparagus to your diet is quite simple. All you have to do is cook it to your liking, and season to taste. You can even eat it completely raw.
The Romans, who consumed asparagus on a regular basis, thought minimal preparation was best, and even came up with a saying, “as quick as cooking asparagus”, that they used when something needed to be done quickly.
Asparagus can be added to many dishes, such as cooked with chicken, added to an omelet, baked in casseroles or added to salads.
The health benefits of asparagus are truly remarkable and everyone should try to add more of this tasty veggie to their diets.
Even if you never used to like the taste of asparagus, try experimenting with various cooking methods. You may be surprised by how delicious it can be, and how much it adds to a meal.
If you have any questions or comments, please drop them below.