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Asparagus is a wonder vegetable which is loaded with nutrients. Asparagus has been used as a vegetable and medicine dating back to 3000 BC. It is an extremely rich source of vitamins A, K, E and C as well as loads of minerals like magnesium. It is also low in calories and rich in fiber, making it an excellent choice if you are on a weight loss programme. All these are reasons for so many health benefits of asparagus.
How to Cook Asparagus?
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable which can be enjoyed in various ways as described below:
Blanching: the most common way of preparing asparagus is by blanching them in hot water. This retains the colour and nutrient value in asparagus.
Griddling: another popular way of cooking asparagus involves scorching asparagus on a hot skillet. This method brings out the nutty flavour in asparagus while keeping the texture and vibrancy intact.
Peeling ribbons: It is possible to consume raw asparagus by peeling thin ribbons from asparagus. These ribbons can be consumed as it is or added to various salads.
13 Amazing Health Benefits of Asparagus
1. It is a diuretic
Asparagus has high levels of an amino acid called asparagine which is very useful in the synthesis of protein. Asparagine also acts as a carrier of residuary ammonia and other salts in the body making asparagus a natural diuretic. Since asparagus helps in flushing out excess salts from the body, it keeps urinary infections at bay.
2. It is an antioxidant
Asparagus is a wonderful source of antioxidants. It has a pigment called anthocyanin, which has excellent antioxidant effects in the body and protects the cells against oxidative stress. It is also rich in Vitamins C and E which have anti-oxidative properties. So a regular consumption of asparagus helps in slowing down the ageing process and reduces the accumulation of free radicals.
3. It is helpful during pregnancy
Asparagus is a rich source of folate. Folate is a distinct form of folic acid. Folic acid is extremely important during pregnancy as it helps prevent against various birth defects such as spinal bifida. The daily dietary need of folic acid during pregnancy is 400 mg. Therefore, a wholesome dish of smoked or grilled asparagus is a one of the best things a pregnant woman can snack on.
4. It helps in lowering blood pressure
One of the key minerals required for keeping blood pressure in check is potassium. Asparagus is a very rich source of potassium. One serving of asparagus provides you with 12 % of the daily recomended need of the potassium in your body. Potassium is very helpful in the relaxation of the blood vessels and excreting excess salt in the body through urine.
5. It helps in losing excess calories
Asparagus has a very high water content and only 20 calories! This makes asparagus an ideal companion on your weight loss journey. Asparagus is also very rich in fibre content. Fibrous foods fill you up for a longer time thereby keeping your hunger pangs in check. This is extremely beneficial when you are trying to lose those extra kilos.
6. It promotes better digestion
As described above, asparagus is very rich in its fibre content. Fibrous foods add to the bulk in the stools and help in a smooth bowel movement. So consumption of asparagus on a daily basis will make sure that your intestinal tracts are clear and you are passing healthy stools. Asparagus also has a healthy amount of soluble fibre which is important for the good bacteria residing in our gut.
7. It is loaded with Vitamin K
Asparagus is a rich source of Vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin which is very helpful in promoting healthy bones. Vitamin K is also responsible for four of the thirteen essential proteins required by the human body. Vitamin K together with Vitamins D is responsible for better absorption of calcium in the body. Asparagus has 57% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin K which makes asparagus a top choice.
8. It reduces the risk of depression
Depression is caused due to low levels of serotonin in the brain. Excess production of homocysteine in the body prevents the production of serotonin and other feel good endorphins such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Regular consumption of asparagus can cut down the production of homocysteine, thereby promoting good brain health and keeping depression at bay.
9. It is rich in Vitamin E
Asparagus is loaded with Vitamin E. Vitamin E is very essential for maintaining good skin health and hair. Vitamin E is helpful in decreasing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is also beneficial against various inflammatory diseases such as asthma and other respiratory issues due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin E helps women to overcome painful menstrual cramps and is known to improve fertility in men. One serving of asparagus provides you with 18% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E.
10. It is a mood enhancer
Asparagus is a rich source of Vitamin B12 and folic acid. These vitamins have mood enhancing abilities. Research has shown that low levels of vitamin B12 leads to depression. The daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 and folic acid is 10 mg and 400 mcg respectively. Therefore, a regular consumption of asparagus guarantees to uplift your mood and keep your spirits high.
11. It can nurse a hangover
According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2009 by the Institute of Food Technologist, asparagus has several essential amino acid and minerals which can play a key role in reducing the after effects of alcohol and protect the liver cells. So instead of opting for a fat laden breakfast after a night of binge drinking, opt for a bowl of steamed or grilled asparagus which will help you to overcome your hangover.
12. It is rich in iron
Asparagus is a rich source of iron. Iron is an important mineral required by the body for maintaining healthy red blood cells and keeping up the haemoglobin levels in the body. Iron is also beneficial for maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails. Men in the age group of 19 to 50 years require 8 mg of iron daily whereas women in the same age group require 18 mg of iron on a daily basis. 100 gm of asparagus has 2.1 mg of iron which is about 7% of the recommended daily intake.
13. It controls diabetes
Asparagus has proven to be a great resource to fight off diabetes. When consumed on a regular basis, it regulates the production of insulin in the body thereby keeping blood glucose levels in check. An article published in The British Medical Journal in 2006 recorded that consumption of asparagus triggered an 81% increase in glucose uptake by the muscles in the body.
Varieties of Asparagus
Asparagus is a herbaceous and perennial plant. There are primarily three types of asparagus available in the markets:
French asparagus : This variety is purple in colour. The fibre content in this asparagus is much lower compared to the other varieties. This variety also has 20 percent more sugar compared to the other varieties. The tips are purple in colour because the interior is white and creamy. This variety is tender, with a sweet and nutty flavour.
Spanish asparagus: This variety of white asparagus is grown by planting asparagus stalks under soil, which is piled on the plants as they grow. This process inhibits the penetration of sunlight which results in lower levels of chlorophyll. This variety is extremely fibrous. In comparison to french asparagus, Spanish asparagus has a slightly bitter flavour. This variety is hugely popular in all of Europe.
American asparagus: This variety of green asparagus is the most common variety grown in the world. It is considered the best of the lot and is available from May to June every year. The flavour profile of American asparagus is a bit grassy compared to the other two kinds. Mary Washington is one of the oldest and most common type of American asparagus grown in the US. This variant has very green and tasty spears. The top asparagus-producing states in the US are California, Washington and Michigan.
Asparagus is truly a miracle of the nature and one should try and consume as much asparagus as possible. However, excessive consumption of asparagus can result in a distinct smell in your pee on account of asparaguisic acid. This acid breaks down into several sulphur containing compounds which gives the pee a stinky smell. One may also suffer from an allergic reaction to asparagus in which case symptoms include runny nose, trouble in breathing hives, and swelling around the mouth and lips.