Asparagus is a spring vegetable cultivated for its edible shoots, which are delicious and easy to cook. Asparagus can be green, white, or purple—the most common variety is green. This versatile veggie contains plenty of vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as folate, iron, copper, calcium, protein, and fiber.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is packed with essential nutrients, and for this reason, it is considered an immune system booster. So, what are the health benefits of asparagus?
Folate-Rich Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory
Asparagus is a powerful ally of the immune system. It has anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, which help to reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The results of several studies revealed that a good intake of folate, which asparagus has quite a bit of, may help protect against colon, stomach, pancreatic, breast, and cervical cancers. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients can also reduce persistent inflammation and chronic oxidative stress, which are risk factors for many types of cancer.
Asparagus can help ease the symptoms of serious health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis. This vegetable can reduce the inflammation and joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, and it is helpful in treating lung-related diseases such as tuberculosis and bronchitis. The folate found in asparagus can reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Fiber-Full Digestive Aid
Asparagus contains high levels of the nutrient inulin, which passes undigested to the large intestines, where it becomes a food source for good bacteria responsible for nutrient absorption, a lower risk of allergies, and colon cancer protection. The fiber in asparagus helps to improve digestion by releasing organic acids that cleanse the digestive tract, help the liver to function, and eliminate toxins, bad cholesterol, and extra sugar. High intakes of dietary fiber can help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. The high levels of fiber and water found in asparagus also help to prevent constipation.
Urinary Tract Helper
The chemical properties of asparagus promote the production of urine by increasing the ejection of water from the body and eliminating excessive salt and fluid. Asparagus consumption can be especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema, which is the accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues. Studies conducted on rats demonstrated that asparagus can be used to treat infections of the urinary tract, such as urolithiasis, the third most common condition of the urinary tract after urinary tract infection and pathologic condition of prostate.
Iron and Vitamin-K Packed Bone Builder
Asparagus is high in vitamin K, which can improve bone health. Research showed that vitamin K can increase bone mineral density in osteoporotic people, and it can help reduce fracture rates. Vitamin K also plays a crucial role in supporting heart health by helping to prevent hardening of the arteries, keeping calcium out of artery linings and other body tissues, where it can cause harm. A good intake of vitamin K can improve bone health by promoting calcium absorption and reducing the amount of calcium ejected in urine. The iron in asparagus also keeps bones and joints strong and elastic.
Asparagus contains folate, which makes it an essential food for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Folate can minimize the incidence of congenital anomalies. Asparagus is a natural supplier of folate—four stalks contain 89 micrograms of folate, about 22% of the daily recommended intake. Experts recommend that women take 4 milligrams (4000 micrograms) of folate or folic acid (a synthetic form of vitamin B9 added to supplements) daily beginning one month before they start trying to get pregnant and continuing through the first three months of pregnancy. Folate works together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to help the body break down, use and create new proteins, form red blood cells and produce DNA. For all these reasons, good folate intake is crucial during pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence.
Vitamin B Energy Machine
Thiamine, a vitamin of the B complex, plays a key role in the way the body uses energy from food and is vital for cellular function because it helps the body convert carbohydrates to energy. This process is essential for metabolism, focus, and strength. B vitamins help to manage the metabolism of sugars and starches, which affect blood sugar levels and help to regulate homocysteine, an amino acid that can lead to heart disease if it reaches elevated levels. Vitamin B is known as the “energy vitamin” because it can improve energy levels and overcome fatigue by supporting thyroid function and cellular methylation, a mechanism used by cells to control gene expression.
Other Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus contains niacin, a compound which has the ability to eliminate the most severe cases of acne and reduce the irritation and redness caused by acne scars. The antioxidants found in asparagus can also fight harmful radicals that cause skin cells to age quickly.
Women can enjoy the benefits of asparagus before menstruation thanks to the high levels of vitamin K and calcium, which can alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome such as cramps and mood swings. Vitamin K fights cramps by reducing excessive clotting of blood, while calcium reduces bloat, headaches and sudden change of mood.
Folate may reduce the risk of depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body. High levels of homocysteine can block blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain and interfere with the production of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
Cooking with Asparagus
It is easy to incorporate asparagus into your diet because it is versatile, easy to prepare, and delicious. When you are shopping for asparagus, look for bright spears with tightly closed tips. If the roots look dry, it means that the asparagus is out of date. Remember to always trim the ends of asparagus because they have a tough texture, even when they are cooked. Asparagus pairs well with proteins such as salmon, which is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Try this recipe!
Garlicky Salmon with Potatoes and Asparagus
Ready In: 45 Minutes
- 4 to 6 ounces of fresh salmon
- 4 to 5 gold potatoes
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 4 cloves garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Cut the potatoes into small cubes.
- Trim the end of the asparagus and cut them in small pieces.
- Add the potatoes, asparagus, salt, and pepper to the skillet. Cover with a lid to make sure the vegetables cook evenly. Stir often.
- Mince the four cloves of garlic.
- In a bowl, mix olive oil, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and minced garlic.
- Pour the mix on the salmon and rub in evenly.
- Place the salmon on a large baking tray.
- Cook the salmon in the oven for 30 minutes.
- When the salmon is ready, remove the potatoes and asparagus from the skillet.
- Salmon: high in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cardiovascular health and brain function. It is also an excellent source of protein, which plays a vital role in biological processes.
- Potatoes: rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients fight harmful free radicals and improve digestion.
- Asparagus: has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions.
- Garlic: contains compounds which fight diseases, from common colds and infections to diabetes and cancer.
- Extra virgin olive oil: lowers high blood pressure and supports brain health.
- Black pepper: helps digestion and reduces high blood pressure.
- Paprika: is rich in antioxidants, and may help in the treatment of autoimmune conditions.