10 Health Promoting Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus, the perennial garden plant which belongs to the Liliaceae family, is more than just a staple on your dinner table. Asparagus is characterized by its spear-like appearance with its top having tiny yet compact buds. There are over 300 varieties of asparagus; although only 20 varieties are known to be edible. A cup of asparagus contains approximately 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
Green-colored asparagus is the most common variety found in most grocery stores, but there are two other colored varieties that are good for consumption. One comes in purple and has a fruitier taste compared to the green asparagus. The other is white-colored which is cultivated underground in order to prevent chlorophyll development. White asparagus is a lot more tender and delicate than green asparagus.
10 Health Benefits of Asparagus
1. Asparagus Promotes Healthy Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients
Asparagus is rich in protein and fiber, both of which are helpful in making sure that digestion occurs at a stable and manageable rate. (1) It also contains a prebiotic called inulin, a soluble dietary fiber that doesn’t break down until it settles in the large intestines. Once there, inulin works by way of improving the absorption of nutrients and decreases the risk of colon cancer and known allergies.
2. Asparagus Helps in Decreasing Risk of Developing Birth Defects
Pregnant women may greatly benefit from consuming asparagus on a daily basis due to its folate content, which prevents the development of neural-tube defects in infants, and miscarriages in pregnant women. (2) Just four spears of asparagus contain 89 mg of the 600 mg folic acid recommended for pregnant women.
3. Asparagus Has Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories help protect the body from certain ailments including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Asparagus is rich in selenium, manganese, zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C. (3) Asparagus also contains GSH or glutathione, a widely know antioxidant that protects the immune system and skin health. Nowadays, these antioxidants are essential, especially with how many people take their health for granted by overindulging and overeating.
4. Asparagus Protects Against Cardiovascular Diseases
One of the most common ailments plaguing our generation today is heart disease. An estimated 2200 people die each day as a result of cardiovascular diseases, in both men and women. With this in mind, turning to foods that can help prevent heart ailments is absolutely necessary.
Asparagus has a healthy amount of B-vitamins that regulate homocysteine, an amino acid that is dangerous when high levels are found in the blood and could cause heart disease. (4) Eating asparagus daily helps in getting your daily-recommended intake of vitamin B1, B2, and B6 as well as choline, niacin, and pantothenic acid.
5. Asparagus Helps in Regulating Blood Sugar Levels
Given asparagus contains loads of B vitamins, eating it daily also means that starches and sugars in your diet are metabolized well. B vitamins play an important role in breaking down sugars in order to lower the risk of diabetes. (5) Additionally, the presence of fiber in asparagus also aids in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes in children and adults by boosting the output of insulin.
6. Asparagus Will Brighten Up Your Mood
As previously mentioned, asparagus contains high levels of folate, an amino acid that plays a crucial role in pregnancy. What most people don’t know is, folic acid is also responsible in halting the excessive production of homocysteine, a risk factor in heart disease. Homocysteine doesn’t only suppress the flow of blood and other nutrients to the brain; it can also inhibit the feel-good hormones such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. By consuming asparagus daily, our levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are at a constant, thereby uplifting one’s mood. (6)
7. Asparagus Prevents Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to be brittle and fragile, as a result of insufficient Vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is better absorbed by the body when taken along with Vitamin K, and asparagus is regarded as an excellent source of Vitamin K. (7) The lack of Vitamin K has also been linked to an increased risk of bone fracture.
Adequate vitamin K intake prevents the body from excreting calcium in the urine. Furthermore, the iron content in asparagus, as previously mentioned, makes our bones strong and our joints more elastic. By taking a healthy amount of asparagus, osteoporosis is kept at bay, and injuries are prevented.
8. Asparagus May Prevent Cancer
Although further proof is yet to be presented, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties found in asparagus may keep cancer cells at bay, since most cancers are caused by oxidative stress and severe inflammation. In the conducted animal studies, asparagus extracts have shown the capability of altering the metabolic activity of cancer cells. (8) Furthermore, low levels of folic acid are also a risk factor in developing stomach, colon, breast, cervical, and pancreatic cancers. By ingesting folic acid derived from asparagus and other sources, you can lower our risk of developing cancer.
9. Asparagus is Good for the Skin and the Hair
Packed with antioxidants, and Vitamins A, C, and E, it is not surprising why asparagus has skin and hair benefits as well. Vitamins A and C, together with Calcium, stimulate the follicles of the hair and in addition to preserving the hair’s natural sebum. Vitamin E on the other hand is your skin’s best friend, and also assists in anti-aging. (9)
10. Asparagus is an Aphrodisiac
Vitamin B6 and the folate content of asparagus promotes sex drive. (10) These nutrients also boost orgasms and arousal which can result in improved intimacy with your partner. Add to that, Vitamin E also proves sex hormones. Keeping the body healthy with proper nutrient intake can result in better performance and mood in the bedroom.
The only thing that one should be mindful of when eating asparagus is if one is allergic to the Liliaceae family. An asparagus allergy can cause mild rash, irritation of the eyes or skin, or in some rare cases, an upset stomach. Other severe allergies include asthma, wheezing, swelling, congestion, diarrhea, and lightheadedness.
Individuals with hypersensitivity may also notice an odd smell in their urine after eating asparagus. Not all people are affected with this however.
Since asparagus is also used as an ingredient in some birth control supplements and pills, lactating and pregnant women should avoid asparagus intake in large amounts.
How to Pick and Store Asparagus
Green-colored asparagus can be bought in most grocery stores or vegetable markets. If you want to buy other varieties – the white and purple ones – look for them in cans, for these rare varieties that are fresh are only mostly found in the US. However, it wouldn’t hurt to check out your local gourmet shop.
When picking asparagus, avoid the ones that are twisted or flat. Healthy asparagus should be round, with thin, firm stalks. The tips could be purplish in color or the usual green. The weight of asparagus when cooked is noticeably lighter and is best used when consumed immediately after buying.
You can store asparagus in the refrigerator, but make sure to wrap the ends using a moist paper towel to prevent loss of nutrients while refrigerating.
Although some people do not enjoy the taste of asparagus, others consider it a luxury vegetable. It can be eaten by itself or incorporated into other dishes. Experiment with the different varieties to reap the benefits of this wonder vegetable. From regulating blood sugar levels to brightening up your mood, there’s no doubt that asparagus promotes overall health.