8 Health Benefits of Asparagus
It is asparagus season and that means it is spring!
“Keep bees and grow asparagus, watch the tides and listen to the wind instead of the politicians …if you want to live the good life.” – Miriam Waddington, Driving Home, “Advice to the Young”
1. Feeds friendly bacteria: Asparagus is one of the few vegetables containing a carbohydrate called inulin. Inulin promotes the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria in the intestines making it difficult for unfriendly bacteria to grow.
2. Anti-carcinogen: Asparagus is the food highest in glutathione, an important anti-carcinogen according to the National Cancer Institute.
3. The root is used to treat urinary issues as well as kidney and bladder stones.
4. Help with a hangover: Researchers say amino acids and minerals in asparagus extract may ease hangovers and protect liver cells against the toxins in alcohol. “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells,” said lead researcher B.Y. Kim, Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in South Korea.
5. Is used as a tonic in Ayurvedic medicine.
6. Excellent source of folacin which has been shown to help in the prevention of neural tube defects that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.
7. Has many medicinal properties, according to the ancient Romans.
Next: Interesting Trivia & Nutritional Facts
Trivia: Interesting Facts
- Asparagus historically was considered an aphrodisiac, probably because of its phallic shape.
- White asparagus is regular asparagus, just covered from the sun so green chlorophyll doesn’t develop.
- Helmut Zipner peeled one full ton of asparagus in 16 hours.
- Asparagus can grow up to 10 inches in a 24-hour period.
- Did you know that asparagus is a member of the lily family?
- Besides being yummy, the asparagus plant is very long lived, lasting up to 15 years.
- The “Asparagus Capital of the World” in Schwetzingen, Germany holds its annual asparagus festival in the first week of May. The person who grows the heaviest stalk is named Spargel King or Queen. Also asparagus chefs compete to create the best recipes.
- All commercially grown asparagus must still be harvested by hand.
- It is a balanced vegetable packed with nutrients, making it a powerfood.
- Very good source of vitamin K, the B vitamin folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
- Filled with B vitamins (B1, B2, B3 and B6).
- Excellent source of folacin.
- Full of the minerals manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.
- Good source of fiber (3 grams per 5.3 oz. serving).
- Even has some protein (3 grams per 5.3 oz. serving).
- It contains no cholesterol or fat.
- Very low in sodium.
- Less than 4 calories per spear.
Next: History, Cautions & Buying Tips
Asparagus was first cultivated 2,500 years ago by the Greeks.
Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans liked asparagus as much as we do and ate it when in season.
Some people have strong-smelling urine after eating asparagus – a sulfur-like odor resulting from the digestion of certain amino acids. And some people are genetically unable to detect the smell.
- Best to buy fresh at the farmerís market.
- Choose firm, bright green spears with closed and dry tips. Asparagus can have thick or thin spears. It is best to choose one or the other when cooking so spears will cook at the same rate.
- Avoid shriveled or smelly asparagus.
- If the woody bottom ends of the stalks exceed 15 percent of the total length of the spears, it is likely to be tough.
- It is fragile, damages easily and dries out quickly. It’s best to eat as soon as possible.
- Gently squeeze the bunch of asparagus ó if it squeaks, itís fresh.
- You may think the thin stalks are more tender but that is not the case. Most often, jumbo stalks are more tender and succulent than their pencil-thin counterparts.
How to Store:
- Cut off the bottom inch of the stalks.
- Wrap the freshly cut stems in a wet paper towel.
- Place the asparagus in a plastic bag.
- It will last in the refrigerator up to three days.
- For a longer life, stand asparagus upright (cut end down) in water, and cover it with a plastic bag to retain moisture.
Next: Tips For Eating & Tasty Recipes
Tips for eating or cooking:
- The easiest way to get asparagus into your diet is to eat it raw; simply cut it up and add to your salad.
- Another simple thing to do is to just steam it for a few minutes and it is done. Careful not to overcook it.
Here are two recipes: