Fight cancer, boost brain health and lose weight with Asparagus, one of the healthiest items that can be on your menu. They say that asparagus is being cultivated since thousands of years, and for good reason. Asparagus is shaped like slim, green branches with a dark green color. This spring vegetable is nutrition-packed and not difficult to incorporate into your daily diet. Read on to find out the types, benefits and meal ideas of asparagus.
The scientific name of Asparagus is Asparagus Officinalis (Greek for sprout or shoot) and it belongs to the lily family. This wonderful vegetable is said to have originated from the Mediterranean region. Asparagus can grow up to 10 inches within a day and comes in different types. Did you know a Roman Emperor had a special fleet created to pick this vegetable? Overlooked in European countries before the middle ages, the vegetable become a delicacy for Italy, England and France by the 1600s. Today, asparagus is consumed all over the world, with some countries like England, the US, Spain, and Germany hosting food festivals with the vegetable as the guest of honor.
Types of Asparagus
Green asparagus is the most common type, one you will find at farmers markets and grocery stores. Green asparagus is called the American of British variety. Other varieties (Spanish and Dutch) that are white in color are a little rare to find in everyday stores taste more delicate. White asparagus grows underground so chlorophyll never gets to color the stalks green.
Purple Asparagus (French Variety) is smaller than all other types and tastes fruitier. Apart from the green variety, other asparagus varieties are a little hard to harvest. Asparagus loves to grow in subtropical climates in less acidic soils. China, Thailand, Mexico and Peru are one of the largest growing countries of asparagus.
Easily one of the most nutritious vegetables, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) included asparagus in the ‘My Plate’ guideline. It is fat, sodium and cholesterol free and contains:
- Folate which the body uses to produce DNA
- Vitamin K, that keeps bone healthy and helps in clotting blood
- Potassium which enables nerve health and muscle function
- Vitamin C, an antioxidant used by our body to build skin, bones and connective tissue
- Vitamin A, a key ingredient of bone growth, vision, reproductive functions and immune system
Common serving of asparagus is ½ cup and offers you 13 calories. You get 1.5 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 2.6 g carbohydrates, 1.4 g fiber, 135 mg magnesium and potassium, 3.8 mg vit C, 35 microgram folate 507 IU vit A and 27.9 mcg vit K. These nutrient values defined by USDA are for ½ cup but you can also eat more as you like.
Also, asparagus is a distant cousin of leeks, garlic and onion, which makes it mimic cucumber in terms of water content (it’s as high as 93%). This means people wanting to lose weight can integrate it into their fat loss arsenal as it contains chromium and is low in calories. It’s also an excellent source of iron, dietary fibre, folate, calcium, and protein. The vegetable also boasts antioxidants, amino acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Folk wisdom suggests that asparagus is a vegetable that will save you even from a toothache. Modern-day sources haven’t figured out the toothache part but there is no denying the fact that asparagus is an all-round health booster.
Great for reproductive health
Experts suggest that women who are trying to get pregnant should add asparagus to their diet. Combined with commercial folic acid, chomp on asparagus that contains folate. You will need to eat at least 6 cups of asparagus alone to meet the need of folate. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests eating 400mcg of folic acid per day to avoid birth defects like spina bifida anencephaly. With asparagus in your diet, you can get some of your folate requirements fulfilled. Getting enough folate from green leafy vegetables and fruit can also keep you safe from neural tube defects.
It Helps Fight Cancer
Asparagus is a rich source of glutathione, a detox compound. Glutathione breaks down carcinogens and other harmful components from your body. It can be particularly beneficial for people who have bone marrow, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancer. Make sure that you discuss the intake with your doctor to avoid any reaction.
Good for Losing Weight
The soluble fiber in asparagus called inulin helps you lose weight. Fiber is one of the most essential elements in any weight loss journey, so asparagus is a god-gifted source. Being a low-calorie veggie, asparagus helps you feel fuller and get the most nutrients in one go. It also helps you maintain your weight without compromising on quality food choices.
Fights Against Inflammation
Asparagus contains a high quantity of antioxidants, which makes it an excellent vegetable to fight inflammation. It also carries properties that protect against the type of inflammation that might result in a cardiac disease. Some reports also state that asparagus can help relieve other issues like gout, backaches, headaches, and rheumatism. Plus, it has a good ratio of Vitamin K, which helps prevent blood clotting.
Aids Urinary Tract Health
The health of your bladder, kidneys and urethra can be protected with asparagus. It is antibacterial and fights any bacteria in your urinary tracts, acting as a natural diuretic. As a diuretic, it also flushes your kidneys of unnecessary weight and prevent the buildup of kidney stones.
Boosts Brain Health
Vitamin E and C in asparagus reduce the risk of memory-related illness called Alzheimer’s. It not only reduces the risk of cognitive illnesses but also prevents cognitive impairment in elderly people. Thanks to the folate, asparagus also improves the condition of people with seizures or epilepsy.
Build your Immunity
Your immune system is a defense shield of your body against any harmful elements. Prebiotics in asparagus build immunity against common illnesses like flu and colds. The Vitamin B in asparagus improves energy levels and uplifts your mood, in a way that your McDonald’s burger can never do. The fiber in asparagus also stabilizes your blood sugar levels.
Healthy meal ideas with asparagus
Contrary to popular thought, asparagus tastes delicious when cooked in the right way. Not every green veggie has to taste boring. Here is how you can add asparagus to your diet:
- Asparagus omelette: whip up a cook breakfast by sautéing half-sliced asparagus, chilli and adding it to the base of your omelet.
- Spring Minestrone Soup: asparagus, peas, spinach, beans, fennel, chicken stock combine to make a delicious spring-time soup that you can enjoy with cheesy bread.
- Baked Asparagus with Trout: Asparagus tastes the finest when baked. Add trout and new potatoes to the tray, season with lemon juice + salt and enjoy this light but filling lunch.
Asparagus is a powerful food that can boost your overall health. And the best part is that a mature asparagus is simple to grow, and a small patch can provide cover to the family’s dinner plate during the summer months. If you don’t want to grow it yourself, the local farmers’ market is the ideal place to purchase it (as the farmers pick just hours earlier).