The name for asparagus — a member of the lily family — comes from the Greek word meaning “shoot” or “sprout.” Now widely cultivated throughout the world, this regal vegetable is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its unique texture and alleged medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities.
Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period. The most common types are green, but you might see two others in supermarkets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.
This giant veggie is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables — high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin, and vitamins A, B6, and C. A 5-ounce serving provides 60% of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories. You can enjoy this veggie raw or with minimal preparation, which the Romans seemed to appreciate. They had a saying, “As quick as cooking asparagus,” for something done rapidly.
Want more sources of vitamin B6? Boost your intake of avocados, bananas, oatmeal, and salmon.
In ancient times, asparagus was renowned as an aphrodisiac, and maybe for good reason. This succulent, savory vegetable contains a stimulating blend of nutrients that help boost energy, cleanse the urinary tract and neutralize excess ammonia, which can cause fatigue and sexual disinterest.
High in vitamin K and folate (vitamin B9), asparagus is extremely well balanced, even among nutrient-rich vegetables. “Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory nutrients,” said San Diego-based nutritionist Laura Flores. It also “provides a wide variety of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc, manganese and selenium.”
Furthermore, the vegetable contains the amino acid asparagine, which is important in the development and function of the brain, according to a study published in 2013 in the journal Neuron. It also contains chromium, a trace mineral that helps insulin do its job transporting glucose. It’s also especially rich in glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens. For this reason, asparagus may help fight or protect against certain cancers, including bone, breast, lung and colon cancers.
Asparagus is extremely low in calories at about 20 per serving (five spears), has no fat, and is low in sodium. It can be eaten raw or cooked; however, cooking times affect health benefits. A 2011 study published in Food Chemistry examined blanching (cooking asparagus briefly in boiling water) and saw a marked difference in the asparagus depending on how long the vegetable was submerged. In general, the longer the asparagus was blanched, the more nutrients it lost, though cooking it for too short a time resulted in hard stalks. Furthermore, the tip, middle and bottom sections of the spears had different sensitivities to blanching times, with the tip being the most likely to lose nutrients quickly. The authors of the study therefore recommend blanching different segments of asparagus for different lengths of time.
Here are the nutrition facts for asparagus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:
|Amt per Serving||%DV*||Amt per Serving||%DV*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%||Total Carbohydrate 4g||1%|
|Cholesterol 0mg||0%||Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Sodium 0mg||0%||Sugars 2g|
|Potassium 230mg||7%||Protein 2g|
- Health benefits
- Risks of eating asparagus
- Why does asparagus make urine smell?
- Asparagus facts
- Superfood: Asparagus
- Everything you need to know about asparagus
- Check out the 7 benefits of asparagus that make it the best spring vegetable.
- Is there such a thing as too much asparagus?
- What’s the best way to eat asparagus?
- Nutritious Asparagus Can Put a Spring in Your Step
- 5 Powerful Health Benefits of Asparagus You Probably Didn’t Know
- 10 Side Effects Of Asparagus
- 1. Might Experience A Dry Mouth
- 2. Bowel Mobility May Suffer A Setback
- 3. Foul Smelling Stools
- 4. Not Safe For People Having Edema Conditions
- 5. Could Develop Allergies To Asparagus
- 6. You Might Be Under Flatulence Attack
- 7. Not Safe For Those On Anti-Hypternsive Drugs
- 8. Sudden Weight Loss
- 9. Affects Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
- 10. Interactions With Drugs
- Asparagus: Health Benefits
Asparagus is good for your ticker in a variety of ways. Flores noted, “Asparagus is extremely high in vitamin K, which helps blood clot.” And the vegetable’s high level of B vitamins helps regulate the amino acid homocysteine, too much of which can be a serious risk factor in heart disease, according to Harvard University School of Public Health.
Asparagus also has more than 1 gram of soluble fiber per cup, which lowers the risk of heart disease, and the amino acid asparagine helps flush your body of excess salt. Lastly, asparagus has excellent anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of antioxidants, both of which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Regulating blood sugar
The Mayo Clinic notes that vitamin B6 may affect blood sugar levels and advises caution for people who have diabetes or low blood sugar. However, those with healthy levels can benefit from asparagus’s ability to regulate it.
Lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes
As with heart disease, risk of type 2 diabetes increases with excessive inflammation and oxidative stress. Therefore, asparagus’ impressive anti-inflammatory properties and high levels of antioxidants make it a good preventive food. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also suggested that asparagus’ ability to improve insulin secretion and improve beta-cell function also helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Beta cells are unique cells in the pancreas that produce, store and release insulin.
The antioxidant glutathione is thought to slow the aging process, according to a 1998 article in The Lancet journal. And the folate that asparagus provides works with B12 to prevent cognitive decline. A Tufts University study found that older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better during a test of response speed and mental flexibility than those with lower levels of folate and B12.
Yet another amazing thing about the antioxidant glutathione: it helps protect the skin from sun damage and pollution. A small 2014 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology studied healthy adult women ages 30-50 who applied a glutathione lotion to half their faces and a placebo lotion to the other half for 10 weeks. The glutathione side saw increased moisture, suppressed wrinkle formation and smoother skin. It is unknown if eating glutathione-rich foods like asparagus would produce a similar effect.
Keeping you cleansed and preventing kidney stones
Asparagus can act as a natural diuretic, according to a 2010 study published in the West Indian Medical Journal. This can help rid the body of excess salt and fluid, making it especially good for people suffering from edema and high blood pressure. It also helps flush out toxins in kidneys and prevent kidney stones. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health recommends that people who are suffering from uric acid kidney stones should avoid asparagus.
Flores noted asparagus’ significant amount of folate, which she said “is important for women of childbearing age to consume daily.” Folate can decrease the risk of neural-tube defects in fetuses, so it is essential that mothers-to-be get enough of it.
“Asparagus is known to help stabilize digestion due to the high amount of fiber and protein that it contains,” said Flores. “Both help move food through the gut and provide relief from discomfort during digestion.”
According to The Ohio State University, asparagus contains inulin, a unique dietary fiber associated with improved digestion. Inulin is a prebiotic; it does not get broken down and digested until it reaches the large intestine. There, it nurtures bacteria known to improve nutrient absorption, decrease allergies and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Immune system health and cancer risk
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which are found in great quantities in asparagus, are typically associated with decreased risk of cancers. A 2016 review in the journal Nutrients stated that polysaccharides (carbohydrate molecules) found in asparagus helped inhibit dangerous liver cancer cell proliferation in animal studies. When injected with anti-cancer drugs directly into the tumor, scientists saw “markedly suppressed liver tumor growth as well as prolonged survival time … with little toxicity.”
A group of phytonutrients called saponins are found in high qualities in asparagus. They have both fat-soluble and water-soluble components, meaning they can affect the body in more ways than some other phytonutrients can. They are known for their effects on cell membranes and immune response. Today, several animal studies have been done to learn more about how saponins can inhibit production inflammatory molecules and promote white blood cell activity. One such study, published in Biomedicine and Pharmacology in 2017, proposes that saponins from asparagus might be a helpful component in preventing secondary tumor formation. The study looked at the effect of saponins from asparagus being injected into mice for 56 days and saw an improvement in cellular immunity without the high allergic reactions typical in drugs used to prevent secondary tumors.
Risks of eating asparagus
“There are no life-threatening side effects of eating too much asparagus,” said Flores, “but there may be some uncomfortable side effects such as gas, and a noticeable smell to the urine.”
It is also possible to have an asparagus allergy, in which case you should not eat it, she said. People who are allergic to other members of the lily family, such as onions, garlic, and chives, are more likely to be allergic to asparagus. Symptoms include a runny nose, hives, trouble breathing, and puffiness or swelling around the mouth and lips.
Why does asparagus make urine smell?
According to Smithsonian magazine, asparagus is the only food to contain the chemical asparagusic acid. When this aptly named chemical is digested, it breaks down into sulfur-containing compounds, which have a strong, unpleasant scent. They are also volatile, which means that they can vaporize and enter the air and your nose. Asparaguisic acid is not volatile, so asparagus itself doesn’t smell.
What’s weirder than a veggie causing stinky pee? The fact that not everyone can smell it. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this is. Most evidence seems to suggest that not everyone can smell the odor, though some scientists think that not everyone produces it.
In 2016, The BMJ medical journal published a study in which researchers examined data from The Nurses’ Health Study, a large-scale study involving nearly 7,000 participants of European descent, to help determine if there is a genetic basis for smelling asparagusic acid. More than half of the participants could not smell it and researchers found that genetic variations near olfactory receptor genes was associated with the ability to detect the smell. The researchers suggested treatments could potentially be created to turn smellers into non-smellers and thereby increase the potential for eating healthy asparagus.
Whether you can smell it or not, there are no harmful effects to producing, or smelling, the odor in urine.
According to the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board:
- Asparagus comes in three varieties: American and British, which is green; French, which is purple; and Spanish and Dutch, which is white.
- Asparagus was first cultivated about 2,500 years ago in Greece. “Asparagus” is a Greek word, meaning stalk or shoot.
- The Greeks believed asparagus was an herbal medicine that would cure toothaches and prevent bee stings, among other things.
- Galen, a second-century physician, described asparagus as “cleansing and healing.” Claims for medicinal benefits of asparagus persist to this day.
- The Romans became great lovers of asparagus, and grew it in high-walled courtyards. In their conquests, they spread it to the Gauls, Germans, Britons and from there, the rest of the world.
- The top asparagus-producing states are California, Washington and Michigan.
- Asparagus spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils.
- Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10 inches in 24 hours.
- Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.
- The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking. Early in the season, there may be four or five days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours.
- After harvesting is done, the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.
- An asparagus planting is usually not harvested for the first three years after the crowns are planted, allowing the crown to develop a strong fibrous root system.
- A well-cared-for asparagus planting will generally produce for about 15 years without being replanted.
- The larger the diameter, the better the quality!
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, et al. Herbal Medicine, Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000.
Dalvi SS, Nadkarni PM, Gupta KC. Effect of Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari) on gastric emptying time in normal healthy volunteers. J Postgrad Med 1990;36(2):91-94. View abstract.
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Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s almost prime season for one of the most super of all foods: asparagus. These fibrous stalks, which are surprisingly a member of the Lily family, come in green, white, and purple varieties and boast tons of health benefits, from knocking out hangovers to lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
Lean, Green, Nutrient Machines — Why They’re Super
Photo by Caitlin Covington
Asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse: It’s a good source of vitamin K (important for strong bones and blood clotting) and antioxidants, which repair damage done by free radicals and can help reduce risk of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancerRole of oxidative stress in cardiovascular diseases. Dhalla, NS., Temsah, R., Netticadan, T. Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, St Boniface General Hospital Research Centre and Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. Journal of Hypertension 2000 June; 18(6):655-73.Oxidative stress and the use of antioxidants in diabetes: Linking basic science to clinical practice. Johansen, JS., Harris, AK., Rychly, DJ., et al. University of Tromso, Tromso, Norway; Medical College of Georgia Vascular Biology Center, Augusta, Georgia, USA. Cardiovascular Diabetology 2005 Apr 29; 4(1):5.Dietary Antioxidants: Immunity and Host Defense. Puertollano, M., Puertollano, E., de Cienfuegos, G., et al. Universidad de Jaén, Facultad de Ciencias Experimentales, Departamento de Ciencias de la Salud, Área de Microbiología, E-23071-Jaén, Spain. Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry 2011;11(14):1752-66.. With a very low calorie content — only 27 calories per cup, or about 12 small spears — asparagus is an ideal veggie to add to any plate. Plus, it’s high in folate, which is key during pregnancy, and can also help prevent cancer and anemia in adults and children. One study showed that low-folate diets can also increase the risk of chronic diseases for the elderlyFolate: a key to optimizing health and reducing disease risk in the elderly. Rampersaud, GC, Kauwell, GP, Bailey, LB. Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2003 Feb; 22(1):1-8.. So on the next trip over the river and through the woods, ditch the basket of muffins and bring Grandmother some asparagus! Possibly the most super of asparagus’s superpowers? It may help ease hangovers! One study found liver cells treated with extract from asparagus plants had decreased toxicity and more active alcohol-metabolizing enzymesEffects of Asparagus officinalis extracts on liver cell toxicity and ethanol metabolism. Kim, BY, Cui, ZG, Lee, SR, et al. Institution of Medical Science, Jeju National University, Jeju, Korea. Journal of Food Science. 2009 Sep; 74(7):H204-8.. While the carryover to actual hangovers is still being looked into, it can’t hurt to chomp on some asparagus with those scrambled eggs and ginger tea the next time the dog bites.
Three Cheers for Spears! — Your Action Plan
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Maybe. Asparagus, among other foods, is high in purines, which cause the body to produce uric acid when it breaks them down. Too much uric acid in the blood can lead to gout, a form of arthritis, or make symptoms worse for those who already suffer from it. There are many other risk factors for gout though, such as obesity and genetics, so most people needn’t really worry about adding asparagus to their diet. But let’s attack the biggest elephant in the room: super-sulfurous asparagus pee. This smelly side effect has to do with how the body reacts with asparagusic acid (a sulfur-containing compound unique to asparagus) and also whether or not a person can detect the smell — research suggests not everyone can, as a specific gene must be present for a person to be able to smell itExcretion and perception of a characteristic odor in urine after asparagus ingestion: a psychophysical and genetic study. Pelchat, ML, Bykowski, C, Duke, FF, et al. Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA. Chemical Senses. 2001 Jan; 36(1):9-17.. While there’s no surefire way to avoid the smell, small lifestyle changes like drinking more water or sipping on cranberry juice may help lessen the scent. When shopping for asparagus, there’s no need to go organic: it’s on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 list of fruits and vegetables with the lowest occurrence of pesticides. But be mindful of its relatively short shelf life — it’s best to use it within 48 hours of purchasing to avoid dry and withering stalks. Studies have shown that exposure to light further decreases its shelf life, so storing in a dark place is best. It’s also helpful to wrap the stalks in a wet paper towel to keep them from drying out. Asparagus can be prepped basically any way, from roasting or grilling to sautéing or steaming. Plus, it’s delicious on its own or in pastas and other dishes. But how to know where to trim off the tough root end when prepping this superfood? Asparagus has one final superpower: Each spear will show exactly where to trim when you hold it by each end and bend it until it snaps. Now, will someone please pass the asparagus?
Our Favorite Asparagus Recipes from Around the Web:
Breakfast: Spring Veggie and Potato Frittata via Fit Sugar Lunch: AsparagusSalad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette via MyRecipes.com Side:Oven-Roasted Asparagus via Everyday Food Dinner:Ginger, Corn, and Asparagus Stir Fry via Cooking Light What’s your favorite spring veggie? Does asparagus make the cut? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Lots of people call on nutritionists to help them overhaul their diets when they want to slim down. But what do R.D.s make sure to eat themselves if they notice their jeans have gotten a little snug? We surveyed 10 to find out which foods they swear by when they want to see results. And we’re happy to say that, while lots of veggies made the list, there are also some other options that will help you keep things interesting when you’re trying to drop a dress size.
“When I’m trying to shave off a few pounds, I drink at least two glasses of green tea a day and aim for a mix of protein, such as salmon and eggs. On these days, I also make sure to up my greens. Combined with the protein, you’ll feel fuller for longer!” —Keri Glassman, R.D., Women’s Health contributor
MORE:The Right Way to Drink Green Tea for Weight Loss
“Nuts—they’re high in fiber, and nut eaters are generally healthier.” —Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., a wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
“Cauliflower. At just 25 calories per cup, it’s a calorie bargain. Plus, it’s super versatile, so you can use it as a low-carb alternative for your favorite foods…make cauliflower mashed ‘potatoes,’ create a cauliflower pizza crust, or pulse it in a food processor for ‘rice.’ I also eat cucumbers. It’s just 45 calories for a whole cuke, and they’re loaded with water. I like to cut into disks you can dip into yogurt or simply sprinkle with garlic powder.” —Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY Show and Founder of NourishSnacks
MORE: The 5 Best Summer Foods to Detox and Lose Weight
“Veggies just about sum it up. For the most part, non-starchy veggies (i.e, not potatoes/squash/corn/peas). They’re low-calorie, high-fiber, and high in water content—which means that you can eat more of them for a relatively low calorie impact. Just thinking about making most of your meal veggie-based (soups, salads, sauté with garlic and a little olive oil) helps to keep total calorie content at bay while still being vitamin/mineral rich and not leaving you feeling hungry.” —Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., senior clinical dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital
“When I notice something is a little on the tight side, I take a few days and clean up my eating. I have eggs for breakfast definitely for a great protein punch, and I normally add avocado for some extra fat to keep me full and provide me with potassium to help reduce bloat. I also try to eat asparagus a lot, too, during those ‘slim down’ days to help get rid of extra water weight!” —Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., founder of B Nutritious
“I don’t believe in dieting and never really do this. If anything, though, I’ll have lots of vegetables (greens specifically) if I feel like I need to clean up my diet a bit. And lots and lots of water!” —Katie Cavuto, M.S., R.D., the dietician for the Phillies and the Flyers
“Water is extremely important for weight management. Our bodies will often feel hungry when we are actually just thirsty. I make my own fruit-infused water with citrus peels and cut fruit. I also have lots of non-starchy veggies. Fiber keeps us full and keeps our gut bacteria healthy, which research shows may play an important role in metabolism and weight management.” —Michelle Davenport, Ph.D., R.D., a Silicon Valley nutritionist
MORE: 5 Ways to Make Water Taste Better (So You’ll Drink More of It)
“Honestly, I never really want to lose a few pounds. But for my patients, I would suggest almonds (so you’re never caught without a healthy snack option), oatmeal (since the best way to start the day is with a filling breakfast), and veggies. You need lots of veggies on-hand so you can build your meal up and not your calories.” —Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet
“When I’m trying to lose a few pounds, I try to eat less. I don’t really have foods that I load up on, but I do love to have lean protein options like canned tuna and nitrate-free jerky to satisfy me. And lots of fresh fruit like strawberries, watermelon, and kiwi.” —Mitzi Dulan, R.D., author of The Pinterest Diet
“Having a six-month-old, I’m extra-careful about what I eat. I’m happy to say I’m now at my pre-pregnancy weight. My go-tos were: pumpkin seeds (they taste great and are incredibly filling), wraps made with Mission Carb Balance Tortillas (these high-fiber wraps keep me feeling full), and Greek yogurt (it’s higher in protein than regular yogurt).” —Shelly Marie Redmond, R.D.
MORE: How Long Does it REALLY Take to Lose Baby Weight?
Robin Hilmantel Digital Director Robin Hilmantel is the digital director at Women’s Health, where she oversees the editorial strategy for WomensHealthMag.com and its social platforms.
Everything you need to know about asparagus
The nutrients in asparagus can provide a range of health benefits.
Supporting fetal development
Share on PinterestAsparagus is a vegetable that is rich in nutrients and easy to prepare.
Asparagus is rich in folate, also known as vitamin B-9. This nutrient plays an essential role in cell development.
Folate is an essential nutrient, and it is especially important at times of rapid growth, such as during gestation, infancy, and adolescence.
Taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy appears to help prevent pregnancy loss and protect the growing fetus from neural tube abnormalities.
Also, people who do not get enough folate from their diets may experience weakness and tiredness due to folate deficiency anemia.
One cup of asparagus weighing 134 grams (g) can provide around 17% of an adult’s daily requirement of folate.
Which foods should you eat or avoid during pregnancy? Find out here.
Lower risk of depression
Folate may also reduce the risk of depression, according to a scientific article published in 2008.
It may do so by preventing too much homocysteine from forming in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid that can block blood and nutrients from reaching the brain.
If too much homocysteine is present, it may also interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
Can diet affect how a person with depression feels? Find out here.
Using folate to manage homocysteine levels may reduce the risk of stroke, according to research reviewed by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
The evidence comes from studies in which people took folate supplements. However, dietary sources of folate may also be beneficial.
Asparagus contains fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, all of which may promote heart health.
Authors of a 2017 review found that people who consume a high fiber diet appear to have lower blood pressure and less low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol in their blood.
A cup of asparagus can provide around 10% of an adult’s daily fiber needs.
The American Heart Association (AHA) urge people to reduce their consumption of added salt, or sodium, while increasing their intake of potassium, as this can help manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The body naturally produces toxic molecules known as free radicals, and if too many build up, they can cause damage. Cardiovascular disease may be one result of this.
The antioxidants in asparagus — including beta carotene, tocopherol, and selenium — may contribute to cardiovascular health because antioxidants may combat free radicals.
Find more information on antioxidant-rich foods here.
Asparagus contains phosphorus, iron, vitamin K, and some calcium, all of which contribute to bone health.
A cup of asparagus can provide almost half of an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin K, and a 2018 review, for example, concludes that vitamin K supports bone health in various ways and may help prevent osteoporosis.
Meanwhile, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium are among the minerals that support bone health, and asparagus contains all of these.
One cup of asparagus provides almost 10% of a person’s daily requirement of phosphorus and between one-sixth and one-third of their requirement of iron.
Learn more about how to maintain bone strength naturally.
High levels of free radicals in the body can lead to cell damage that may result in cancer. Asparagus provides a range of antioxidants that may help the body eliminate these unwanted substances.
According the ODS, scientists have found links between low folate levels and various forms of cancer. However, they note that more research is necessary to identify what role dietary folate may play.
Fiber may help prevent colorectal cancer, according to results of a population-based screening trial published in 2015. The investigators found that people with high fiber diets were significantly less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who ate low amounts of fiber.
between a person’s diet and their risk of cancer?
Asparagus is rich in fiber and water. Both help prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Learn more about high fiber foods.
When we talk about superfoods, a few obvious contenders—walnuts, chia seeds, green tea, quinoa, kale—immediately come to mind. But it may be time to add one often-overlooked food to that list: asparagus.
Maybe it was plopped on your plate as a kid at dinnertime (and if your parents didn’t do a good job of preparing it, forgive them!), or perhaps you started cooking it as an adult when you decided it was time to start eating more vegetables. In any case, this mighty green vegetable with its bristly, textured tops and woody stems deserves a lot more attention—because it’s actually really good for you.
“Asparagus is a non-starchy vegetable that has a nice array of nutrients and fiber,” says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition. And that’s just the beginning of its benefits. Need proof? Here are some excellent benefits of asparagus that will send you out to the grocery store for an asparagus run ASAP.
Check out the 7 benefits of asparagus that make it the best spring vegetable.
1. Asparagus is loaded with Vitamin K
Vitamin K isn’t a vitamin that gets a lot of attention, but the fat-soluble vitamin has some amazing health benefits. “Vitamin K is involved in preventing blood clotting and improving bone health and heart health,” says Feller. Just a cup of raw asparagus comes with 56 micrograms of vitamin K, per the USDA—over half of your recommended daily intake (90 mcg) in one fell swoop. What better way to get it than through asparagus?
2. Asparagus is a prebiotic
By now, you probably know how good probiotics are for you—they’re helpful for everything from moving your digestion along to improving your mood. But prebiotics (the non-digestible carbs that feed your gut’s bacteria) are super important, too. “Asparagus is a prebiotic,” says Feller. “ help with the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.” In other words, you can’t have probiotics without prebiotics—and asparagus will get the prebiotic job done.
3. Asparagus is a great source of folate
You may have heard that folate is a super-important B-vitamin for pregnant women, but everyone needs this essential nutrient. “Folate is important for DNA synthesis,” explains Feller, adding that the body needs folate for the cells to divide. It’s also a key player in heart health and even hair growth. Adults should be getting about 400 micrograms of folate a day (during pregnancy, that goes up to 600 micrograms); one cup of raw asparagus gets you to about 18 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
4. Asparagus can help you de-bloat
“Asparagus increases urine production, bringing water and waste out of the body,” says Lisa Hayim, RD, nutritionist and founder of The Well Necessities. Basically, the natural diuretic can help cut back on uncomfortable bloating.
5. Asparagus helps detox your body
More antioxidants are always a good idea—antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, which helps with heart health and fights against diseases like cancer. Luckily, asparagus is rich in them—particularly glutathione. “Glutathione is an important antioxidant that plays a pivotal role in the detox process,” says Hayim. It’s also linked with healthier skin and better liver function.
6. Asparagus helps with regular bowel movements
Struggling with constipation? It happens to the best of us. In addition to loading up on magnesium citrate, sipping on coffee and staying hydrated, try sautéing some asparagus and see if it get the job done. “Asparagus is rich in fiber,” says Hayim (about 3 grams per cup), “which makes it great for digestion and regular bowel movements,” says Hayim. Hey, whatever works!
7. Asparagus can protect you from getting sick
You’ve probably heard that Vitamin C is great for giving the immune system a boost. But you don’t have to peel oranges all day long just to get your Vitamin C fix. Asparagus is great for the immune system as well. “Asparagus is a great source of Vitamin C, which helps fight of colds and builds up the immune system,” Hayim notes. (One cup has 8 mg of vitamin C, about 10 percent of your recommended daily allowance.)
Is there such a thing as too much asparagus?
You know what they say: Everything moderation. So, can you overdo it on the asparagus? Feller says it’s possible—but it’s hard. “I suppose if asparagus is all someone at for every meal it might be too much,” she says. “But I think if a person enjoys the taste it can be incorporated into their routine and balanced meal plan, and hopefully in a little more moderation.”
What’s the best way to eat asparagus?
Now that you know just how good asparagus is for you, let’s talk about how to prepare it. After all, we’ve all had flavorless asparagus at one point or another—and it’s not exactly appetizing. But when cooked in the right way, asparagus can be flat-out delicious. “I love a good grilled asparagus topped with a balsamic vinegar or fig balsamic,” says Feller. ”I also like to make sautéed asparagus with shallots and dill to go over fish.”
As for Hayim, she’s all about blanching her asparagus. “This preserves the nutrients yet keeps it crunchy,” she says. Basically, put some washed and trimmed asparagus in a pot of boiling water for about a minute, then remove them and transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking.
You’re probably craving asparagus by now, right? Good, because you’re about to reap a ton of health benefits. And if you prepare it in the ways suggested by Hayim and Feller (can someone pass the balsamic vinegar, please?), it’ll taste great, too. Happy sautéing!
Looking for other ways to eat asparagus? Try this debloating soup recipe. Or this fresh asparagus and mint salad.
Nutritious Asparagus Can Put a Spring in Your Step
The quintessential vegetable of spring, asparagus has been credited in folklore with curing everything from toothaches to infertility. In more recent Internet lore, asparagus has been touted as a remedy for hangovers and a cure for cancer.
The quintessential vegetable of spring, asparagus has been credited in folklore with curing everything from toothaches to infertility. In more recent Internet lore, asparagus has been touted as a remedy for hangovers and a cure for cancer.
It is an unusually nutritious vegetable, packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and proteinall in fat-free spears containing only about three calories apiece. One cup of cooked asparagus (about eight medium spears) provides two-thirds the Daily Value (DV) of folate, a B vitamin that promotes cell division. Researchers have investigated whether, by reducing blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, folate might reduce the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis and dementia.
A cup of asparagus also provides 114% of the DV for vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone formation and blood clotting. Tufts researchers have found that vitamin K may reduce the risk of insulin resistance, thereby helping to protect against diabetes, and that it may protect against inflammation associated with chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Asparagus is high in potassium 400 milligrams per cooked cup, nearly 12% of the DVwhile low in sodium (25 milligrams). Those tasty spears are a good source of vitamins C and A, thiamin, riboflavin, manganese, vitamin B6, copper, niacin and phosphorus. One cup provides more than 4 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber.
Besides these familiar nutrients, asparagus stands out as one of the best food sources for lesser-known compounds such as rutin, which strengthens capillary walls. The 7.4 grams of carbohydrates in a cup of asparagus include inulin, a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides (several simple sugars linked together) that humans cant digestbut the friendly bacteria in your large intestine can. (Inulin can also promote intestinal gas, so dont go on an asparagus binge.)
What about those cancer claims? While numerous studies have found that people who eat more vegetables tend to have lower cancer rates, asparagus is not a cure for cancer.
The Internet may have it right about hangovers, though. Researchers in South Korea found that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus extract alleviate the cellular toxicities associated with drinking too much alcohol. Without further research, however, you should probably be skeptical about any food-specific hangover cures; its better instead not to overdo alcohol.
Another cautionary note concerns the sauces that often accompany asparagus. Eating asparagus thats slathered with butter, Hollandaise, sour cream, cheese or other toppings high in saturated fat and sodium will detract from the healthy nutritional benefits of the unadorned vegetable.
Aside from the threat of intestinal gas, eating asparagus appears to have only two possible downsides both scientifically controversial. Asparagus is among the vegetables highest in purine, a compound that increases the bodys uric acid, leading in turn to gout and kidney stones. Some experts advise limiting dietary purine if youre at risk for these conditions. But a large 2004 study found no increased risk of gout associated with moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables. High consumption of meat, especially organ meats, and certain seafoods appears to be a more important factor in dietary purine. Then theres the rather delicate matter of the smell of a persons urine after eating asparagusa problem apparently not experienced by all asparagus eaters or all noses. In an exhaustive analysis published in 2001, molecular toxicologist Steve C. Mitchell of Imperial College School of Medicine in London concluded that sulfur compounds in asparaguslikely asparagusic acid, unique to asparagus are to blame. The asparagus is a member of the lily family, and we all know what other sulfur compounds do in its cousins the onion and garlic plants.
Mitchell cites studies on both sides of the question of whether all individuals excrete the distinctive asparagus odor, or whether its a genetic trait. The ability to smell the odor does appear to be genetic, with large majorities in some populations such as the Chinese immune to the smell. Lucky them, able to enjoy asparagus and its nutritional bounty without the aftereffects!
Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips. Thick or thin spears is a matter of taste and how you plan to cook them. Contrary to popular belief, thin spears are not the tender shoots of younger plants; actually, they come from plants that are older or planted closer together. Large spears grow on younger, more vigorous plants.
Store asparagus in a dark part of the refrigerator, wrapped in a moist paper towel, and use as soon as possible. If tips become slightly wilted, freshen with a brief soak in cold water.
Trim the woody stemsor simply snap them offbefore eating. Trimmings can be cooked and puréed for soups and sauces.
Cook asparagus quickly and just to tender- crisp to preserve its nutrients. Steaming and microwaving are better than boiling, which leaches nutrients into the cooking water. Asparagus can also be stir-fried, and thicker spears can be roasted, broiled or even grilled.
Dont defrost frozen asparagus before cooking. Nutritionally, frozen asparagus is similar to fresh: slightly lower in some nutrients such as folate, but higher in others, such as vitamin C, that deteriorate with storage.
White asparagus comes from the same plant as green, but is grown out of the sun so it doesnt develop chlorophyll. Its lower in nutrients including protein, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin and calcium.
Purple asparagus contains 20% more sugars and has a sweeter taste. The color comes from antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins.
5 Powerful Health Benefits of Asparagus You Probably Didn’t Know
Asparagus is a spring vegetable that’s packed with nutrition. When you buy asparagus, either fresh from the farmers’ market or grocery store, it’s best to eat it right away. Asparagus pairs nicely with lots of other spring vegetables and flavors-think peas, garlic or new potatoes.
1 cup of cooked asparagus has 40 calories, 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and 404 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is good for blood pressure and asparagus also contains a compound called asparaptine, which helps improve blood flow and in turn helps lower blood pressure.
Recipes to Try: Healthy and Delicious Recipe for Fresh Asparagus
If you need more reasons to enjoy this yummy vegetable read on to see some surprising reasons asparagus good for you.
1. It’s Loaded with Nutrients and Nutrition Benefits
Pictured recipe: Coriander-&-Lemon-Crusted Salmon with Asparagus Salad & Poached Egg
Asparagus is a nutrient-packed vegetable. It is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. That’s good news if you’re watching your blood sugar.
In addition to all those vitamins, 1 cup of cooked asparagus has 40 calories, 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and 404 milligrams of potassium.
2. It Can Help Fight Cancer
Pictured recipe: Ricotta Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables
This herbaceous plant-along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts-is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
3. Asparagus Is Packed with Antioxidants
Pictured recipe: Asparagus Salad with Eggs & Jambon de Bayonne
It’s one of the top ranked fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This may help slow the aging process and reduce inflammation. Get more anti-aging foods here.
4. Asparagus Is a Brain Booster
Pictured recipe: Asparagus with Easy Hollandaise Sauce
Another anti-aging property of this delicious spring veggie is that it may help our brains fight cognitive decline. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12-found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy-to help prevent cognitive impairment. In a study from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility. (If you’re 50-plus, be sure you’re getting enough B12: your ability to absorb it decreases with age.) Learn more about anti-aging foods with our best foods to help keep your brain young.
5. It’s a Natural Diuretic
Pictured recipe: Grilled Asparagus
It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.
And finally, to answer a question I often get regarding why eating asparagus causes a strong urinary odor: asparagus contains a unique compound that, when metabolized, gives off a distinctive smell in the urine. Young asparagus contains higher concentrations of the compound so the odor is stronger after eating these vernal shoots. There are, however, no harmful effects, either from the sulfuric compounds or the odor! While it is believed that most people produce these odorous compounds after eating asparagus, few people have the ability to detect the smell.
The most common type of asparagus is green, but you might see two others in supermarkets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier in flavor. No matter the type you choose, asparagus is a tasty, versatile vegetable that can be cooked in myriad ways or enjoyed raw in salads.
Don’t Miss: Why Asparagus is One of 15 Foods You Don’t Need to Buy Organic
Keep in mind these cooking tips to preserve antioxidants and keep your preparation healthy:
• Roast, grill or stir-fry your asparagus. These quick-cooking, waterless methods will preserve the fabulous nutritional content and antioxidant power of asparagus. ()
Get Inspired: Simple Asparagus Side Dishes
10 Side Effects Of Asparagus You Should Be Aware Of Nithya Shrikant Hyderabd040-395603080 May 21, 2019
The bright green hued asparagus stems go beyond being just a treat for your eyes. Loaded with nutrients, it is almost zero in calories, making it an ideal snack for those on a weight loss track. An effective natural anti-ageing veggie, it comes packed with fiber, the detoxifying glutathione, asparagines – an essential amino acid, and not to mention its anti-cancerous properties. Nevertheless, it is also not sans of side effects. While most of the side effects are rare and could be neglected, there are certain ones that, at times, might need a medical attention.
10 Side Effects Of Asparagus
Read on to know about the various side effects of eating asparagus and the right way to use it to avoid the negative effects.
1. Might Experience A Dry Mouth
Asparagus stems are powerful natural diuretic veggies. This diuretic nature triggers frequent urination, leading to dehydration. The lesser the fluid levels are in your body, the more the dehydration levels will be. This, in turn, will leave you dry mouthed.
2. Bowel Mobility May Suffer A Setback
This springtime bright green veggie stalks are potential treasure troves of fiber. 100 grams of this veggies contain 2.1% of fiber, meeting up to 8% of the recommended daily value of the nutrient. Excessive intake of fiber is not advisable. The fiber eliminates the moisture, thus hardening the stools. Thus, in turn, affects the bowel movement in the small intestine negatively. The result – you might experience an obstruction in the intestine, accompanied by constipation, cramps, and pain.
3. Foul Smelling Stools
This is one of the most commonly reported side effects of eating asparagus. This green vegetable contains an antioxidant, which actually is rich in the mineral sulfur. And, sulfur is an element that renders its characteristic smell wherever it is used. A day or two – that is the maximum time required for this foul smell of your stool to vanish.
4. Not Safe For People Having Edema Conditions
If you have an edema due to some renal failure or cardiac disorders, then please use asparagus carefully. Studies suggest that this nutrient dense veggie might pose harm for people with such conditions. Hence it is advisable to take the opinion of your health care provider in such cases to avoid any complications.
5. Could Develop Allergies To Asparagus
Allergic reactions have been reported in many cases after consuming this vegetable. Some of the most common allergic reactions include:
- Inflammation of the eye – allergic conjunctivitis with itching, redness, and swelling of the eyes
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Irritating and itching throat
- Dry cough
- Hives on the skin with itches
- Inflammations on the skin with rashes, redness, and itching
- Difficulty in breathing/obstructed breathing
6. You Might Be Under Flatulence Attack
Foods rich in carbohydrates, especially dietary fiber, causes gas in the digestive tract. While studies suggest that people, on a daily average, pass gas 14 times. Asparagus is the trove of raffinose, the complex carbohydrate that contains 3 different sugar variants – glucose, fructose, and galactose. We do not possess the enzyme essential for breaking down this carbohydrate and hence, it gets fermented by bacteria, triggering the formation of gas in excess. Excessive gas puts you under the siege of burp as well as flatulence. Just make sure you do not overindulge in this healthy delight!
7. Not Safe For Those On Anti-Hypternsive Drugs
Asparagus is known to have a positive role in regulating the blood pressure level, thus alleviating the risks associated with hypertension. However, if you are hypertensive and you have been advised anti-hypertension medications, then please be a little extra cautious while indulging in asparagus. Asparagus could possibly react with the medications, forcing the blood pressure levels to fall down to a dangerous level.
8. Sudden Weight Loss
Weight loss is one of the undesirable side effects of consuming large quantity of asparagus. People, especially, those who are on a weight loss track do have this temptation of overindulging in this green stalk. When consumed in excess, your weight does go down on the scale due to the diuretic nature of this vegetable. However, excess loss of water from the body could leave you under the attack of dehydration. Moreover, this could be an unwanted weight loss also. So, always keep your portion under check to avoid such unwanted effects.
9. Affects Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
Asparagus is not safe to use in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In fact, asparagus extracts are used for birth control, as it plays a role in affecting the hormones. There is no solid scientific evidence to recommend this veggie during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is advisable to check with your doctor before going for it.
10. Interactions With Drugs
There are two cases, mainly, where asparagus has shown interacting with prescribed medications:
- With anti-hypertensive drugs: Asparagus possesses the potential to lower BP. So, together with anti-hypotension medications, it could result in a drastic dip of the blood pressure levels, leaving you in danger.
- With diuretic drugs: Diuretics are prescribed for people suffering from renal issues or edema conditions. These spears are natural diuretics, and could actually accentuate the results of diuretic medications.
It is advisable to take the advice of the consulting medical practitioner, if you are on any of the aforementioned drugs, to thwart of undesirable consequences.
Don’t panic after reading all the above potential side effects of asparagus. Akin to 2 sides of a coin, everything in this nature has a good and bad side. It is up to you to identify the goodness over the bad to reap the benefits. Using every fruit, veggie, herb, and spice within the permissible levels will definitely bestow you with gifts. So, use asparagus in a judicious way and thwart the side effects.
Have you ever noticed any of these symptoms while consuming asparagus in excess amounts? What did you do to overcome those effects of asparagus? Share your views and experiences with us below in the comments section.
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Asparagus: Health Benefits
Yep, asparagus is good for you, so even if you don’t grow it yourself, grab a big bunch from a nearby farmers’ market when it’s in season locally. Here’s how asparagus benefits you—and the answer to our most common question about asparagus’s smell!
Using a pickaxe to break up the dense iron-oxide hardpan beneath the thin topsoil of my hillside vegetable garden, then filling the trench with a thick layer of good topsoil mixed with compost, I planted my first asparagus roots 35 years ago.
They’ve been sending up delectable green shoots ever since. From mid-May until the Fourth of July (when we allow the shoots to grow up into tall ferns that produce the food stored for next year’s crop), we pick and eat tender asparagus almost every day.
What Are The Health Benefits of Asparagus?
Those delectable asparagus stalks are healthier than you may have imagined. Here are just six of the many reasons to add asparagus to your garden or shopping cart.
- Asparagus is only 40 calories per cup, and low on the glycemic scale.
- It’s not empty calories whatsoever! Asparagus delivers a dense assortment of nutrients, especially folate and other B vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium and other minerals, and vitamins K, C, E, and A.
- Because it emerges from the ground and grows to harvestable size so quickly, asparagus doesn’t carry much of a pesticide load, if any. Wash it well, though, especially if you plan to eat it raw. Like all fresh produce, it may have become contaminated with bacteria during storage and transit.
- It’s among the foods highest in “prebiotic fiber,” indigestible carbohydrates that ferment in the large intestine and provide food for bacteria beneficial to health.
- Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antitumor phytocompounds researchers suggest may benefit human health. A close relative, Asparagus racemosus, has been used in South-Asian Ayurvedic medicine for milennia. A quick search of the scientific literature shows labs around the world have begun examining its active constituents and its potential for use in modern clinical applications.
- Not only is asparagus low in calories and fact, but it’s soluable and unsoluable fiber makes it a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight. You body digests fiber slowly, so eating asparagus will help you feel full.
Eating and Storing Asparagus
Eat garden-fresh asparagus quickly. Asparagus not only grows and matures more rapidly than other vegetables, it also continues to metabolize after harvest, depleting its sugars and turning more fibrous—making it the most perishable vegetable.
If you’re not planning to eat your just-harvested or purchased asparagus immediately, however, then wrap the ends of the spears in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, refrigerate and serve it within a couple of days.
Although people enjoy asparagus grilled, roasted, baked, braised, pureed into soup, pesto’d and guacamoled, I prefer steaming it al dente, and serving it hot (with butter or garlic oil), or tucked into a garden salad. I also like eating it raw, in a salad or with a dip.
Does Asparagus Make You Smell?
No, you aren’t imagining that eating a lot of asparagus causes your urine (and maybe your sweat) to reek. That’s due to sulphurous gaseous compounds released as the body digests asparagus, chemically similar to the gases that may be added to the odorless propane and natural gas to notify your nose if there’s a gas leak.
Don’t worry; it’s normal. Most people produce it, but some lucky fraction of the population can’t smell it on themselves or others.
Interested in growing you own asparagus? Learn more on our Asparagus Plant Page!