It’s no wonder bikini/figure competitors and bodybuilders live off of asparagus during the last few weeks before a competition: it’s a natural cleanse for the body! But asparagus has so many other health benefits, it should be added to anyone’s balanced diet.
The asparagus is a member of the lily family. It grows easily in the home garden right in the flower bed – it is a perennial and can yield a harvest for decades. Asparagus can be planted as seeds or roots any time of the year.
Here is a list of some of the health benefits of asparagus followed by a list further explaining those health benefits.
1 – can detoxify our system
2 – has anti-aging functions
3 – can protect against cancer
4 – reduces pain and inflammation
5 – can prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
6 – reduces the risk of heart disease
7 – can help prevent birth defects
While there is every kind of supplement on the market to address these health issues, too often Americans turn to pills as a main source of nutrition. Pills should only be used as a supplement and not in the place of whole foods. For example: folic acid is highly recommended in today’s diet especially for women who may become pregnant. However, folic acid is the supplemental form of folate. Folate is naturally found in asparagus. In the interest of good health, whole foods are always recommended before supplements.
The Reasons Asparagus Keeps Us Healthy:
1 – As a detox – asparagus has 288 milligrams of potassium per cup. Potassium is known for reducing belly fat (see belly fat link below). It also contains 3 grams of fiber which cleanses the digestive system and helps reduce water retention. It has virtually no natural sodium so no bloating during PMS, has no fat or cholesterol, and one cup has only 40 calories. According to a clinical dietician at UCLA Medical Center, asparagus in the ultimate in detox vegetables.
2 – For anti-aging purposes – asparagus is rich in potassium, vitamin A, and folate. It is also very high in glutathione – an amino acid compound with protent antioxidant properties; a must as an anti-aging deterrent. Glutathione (GSH) is an antioxidant that protects cells from toxins such as free radicals.
3 – Against cancer – asparagus in high in folate which is now known to be an important protection against cancer. Note: Folate is found naturally in leafy green vegetables, and citrus fruits. While folic acid is said to be the same as folate, folic acid is the supplemental form. It is always recommeded that you get health benefits from eating healthy whole foods.
5 – Reducing pain and inflammation – it is the folate that helps reduce inflammation.
6 – Preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis – asparagus has vitamin K which studies have shown can help prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Vitamin K aids in bone formation and repair. It is also necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is the protein in bone tissue on which calcium crystallizes. Asparagus has been listed as the number one source of vitamin K.
7 – Reducing the risk of heart disease – it is the folate that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
8 – Preventing birth defects – getting enough folate (doctors often recommend the folic acid supplement) is especially important for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Having a folate deficiency has been correlated with increased risk of Spina Bifida (a spinal cord birth defect) and also anencephaly (a neural tube defect). Folate helps to regulate embryonic and fetal nerve cell formation and may also help to prevent premature births.
Additionally, studies have shown that the nutritional benefits of asparagus can help prevent and treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Overall, asparagus is rich in potassium, vitamin A, folate, glutathione, and vitamin K. It is high in fiber, has no sodium, is low in calories and has no cholesterol or fat.
You may notice some asparagus spears are thick and some are thin. The thick ones are best for roasting or steaming. I find steaming the best and also very quick. The thin spears are ideal for the grill or if you are planning to sautee.
For optimum health benefits it is suggested that asparagus be eaten raw. Sounds like a tough one! So, if anything, I’d recommend erring on the crunchy side when you cook it.
Before eating, the woody stem should be removed from both the thick spears and the thin. Peel only the thick spears before cooking.