Asparagus officinalis belongs to a large genus of plants grown for ornamental purposes, though it’s one of the few members of this family that’s cultivated for food. Since its domestication, asparagus has become a favorite for its sweet flavor and tender quality, which allows it to be prepared in various ways. You can steam, poach, roast, or add a handful of its stalks to soups and frittatas for added texture.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to come up each spring. The part we eat of this perennial plant is the shoot it sends up that will eventually go to seed. If you keep breaking off the shoots, the plant keeps trying to go to seed and sends up more shoots. Aside from its delectable taste, asparagus offers numerous vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, K, and C. It also contains trace amounts of niacin and vitamin E. Because of these nutrients, adding asparagus to your diet may offer the following benefits:
- Improved cardiovascular health—In a 2017 study from Nutrients, it was stated that numerous vegetables (including asparagus) may protect and support heart health. This may be due to the high amounts of dietary fiber and vitamins in these vegetables.
- Healthier fetal development—As one of the best plant-based sources of folate, asparagus may help lower the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects in unborn children.
- Lower osteoporosis risk—Asparagus contains considerable amounts of both vitamin K and calcium, nutrients essential in maintaining bone health. Adequate levels of vitamin K in the body ensures effective absorption of calcium, lowering the risk for bone fractures.
|Total Fat||0.22 g|
|Saturated Fat||0.048 g|
|Total Carbohydrates||4.11 g|
|Dietary Fiber||2 g|
|Vitamin A50 µg||Vitamin C||7.7 mg|
|Calcium23 mg||Iron||0.91 mg|
Studies Done on Asparagus
The active components of asparagus have been the subject of numerous scientific studies, mainly focusing on steroidal saponin content. In a 1997 study from Planta Medica, researchers isolated two oligofurostanosides from asparagus seeds, which were found to have cytotoxic effects on human leukemia cells. This coincides with a 2010 study published in Phytochemistry Reviews, where triterpene and steroid saponins triggered apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells and cytoskeleton disintegration.
Asparagus officinalis extracts may also protect against oxidative stress and liver and kidney damage as reported in a 2018 animal study from Toxicology Reports. Wistar rats were co-administered bisphenol A (BPA) and asparagus officinalis extract (AOE), with BPA inducing oxidative stress in both the liver and kidneys. AOE provided the rats with liver and kidney tissue protection, significantly lowering the effects of BPA.
Asparagus stem extracts were found to have dermatological benefits as well. A 2018 study from Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine shows that asparagus extracts may help prevent photo aging by inducing the expression of HSP70 during UV-B irradiation.
Asparagus and Avocado Salad
|4 to 5 thick asparagus spears||1 avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled||16 fresh mint leaves, chopped||1/2 lime|
|2 tablespoons coconut oil||Himalayan salt, to taste|
- Cut away about 2 inches of the base of each asparagus spear.
- Shave the entire asparagus into thin strips from bottom to top with a vegetable peeler, reversing your grip and rotating as necessary to shave as much as possible.
- Divide the asparagus strips among four salad plates.
- Cut each avocado half into four sections. Place two wedges on each salad.
- Sprinkle the mint leaves. Squeeze lime juice over the salad, drizzle evenly with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)
Asparagus Fun Facts
Asparagus is considered one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, with the earliest documentation dating back to 200 B.C., with Cato the Elder discussing its culture and cultivation. Pliny the Elder also noted that asparagus needed “the most delicate attention” when it came to its farming. It was first introduced in North America in the 1700s by European settlers, and is now cultivated across the country in gardens.
The wealth of nutrients offered by asparagus is truly remarkable, especially since it is so nutritionally balanced. Ongoing studies are revealing that this vegetable may have more benefits for the human body than we’re currently aware of. Luckily, it’s a tasty vegetable with a long list of ways to prepare it, making it an in-season favorite.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is the founder of Mercola.com. An osteopathic physician, best-selling author, and recipient of multiple awards in the field of natural health, his primary vision is to change the modern health paradigm by providing people with a valuable resource to help them take control of their health. This article was originally published on Mercola.com.
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