Asparagus is a spear-like vegetable that comes in a variety of colours including green, white and purple. It is nutrient-rich and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and potent antioxidants. Asparagus has vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, folate and potassium. It is low in calories and has trace amounts of micronutrients including iron, zinc and riboflavin.
The benefits of asparagus
Great source of antioxidants
Antioxidants protect cells from damage by free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is linked to ageing, chronic inflammation and cancer. Asparagus is highly rich in antioxidants shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease including heart attacks.
Supports gut health
Asparagus has dietary fibre which acts as a prebiotic feeding the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system helping them thrive and increase in number. Fibre bulks up stool, supporting regular bowel movements and can be helpful in the event someone has constipation. It also prevents digestive problems like haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and other painful digestive problems.
Can aid in weight loss
Asparagus is low in fat and low in calories. It also has lots of soluble and non-soluble fibre which has the effect of making food digest slowly and giving you the filling of fullness longer. It is also about 94% water with research showing that consuming water-rich foods is associated with weight loss.
Lower diabetes risk
Lower blood pressure
Potassium helps lower blood pressure in two ways. It relaxes the walls of the blood vessels and excretes excess salt through urine. The fibre in it has the added benefit of helping regulate cholesterol which can clog the vessels, increasing blood pressure and causing heart disease. The insoluble fibre in asparagus binds to any cholesterol in your digestive system and carries it out before your body absorbs it.
Helps prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Asparagus has high levels of the amino acid asparagine making it a natural diuretic. That means eating it helps flush excess fluid and salt from your body which may help prevent urinary tract infections. When women are not urinating enough it increases their likelihood of developing urinary tract infection. A diet-rich in asparagus which is a diuretic means you go to the bathroom more which helps move bad bacteria out of the urinary tract decreasing the chances of developing an infection.
Helps support a healthy pregnancy
Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, also known as vitamin B9. Folate is essential in the formation of red blood cells. It helps produce DNA for healthy growth and development and is especially important in the early stages of pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby. Folate also helps protect against neural tube defects including spina bifida.
Asparagus is high in purines which is a compound that increases the body’s production of uric acid and may have a negative effect on conditions like kidney stones and gout. If you have been advised to reduce levels of purines in your diet, asparagus may not be good for you.
Because of its high fibre content, if you are not accustomed to eating a lot of fibre, eating it may result in bloating and wind.
Some people also complain about having smelly urine after eating asparagus.
Easy to add to your diet
Asparagus can be cooked in a variety of ways including boiling, grilling, steaming, roasting and sautéing. There are canned, pre-cooked options available in some stores as well. It can be used in a number of dishes including salads, stir-fries, frittatas, omelettes and pasta. It also makes an excellent side dish. When shopping for fresh asparagus, look for firm stems and tight, closed tips.