Sometimes you come across foods that are packed with secret benefits – often overlooked.
Today I bring to you one of those treats.
Asparagus! It’s small, green, and looks a little tree-like. But do you know why this little vegetable is so important?
What are the Benefits of Asparagus?
- Powerful Source of Vitamin K
- A Natural Diuretic.
- Helps with Digestion
- High in Fiber
- High in Vitamin B1
- Helps Fight Cancer
- Contains Antioxidants
Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B-6, B-12, thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin, niacin (vitamin B-3), and folate.
It also contains the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and fluoride.
Vitamins in Asparagus
- Vitamin E helps boost our immune systems to keep bacteria and illnesses away. This is especially true for the elderly, according to a Tufts University study.
- A deficiency in vitamin E is also linked with greater risk of miscarriages, seen in a study released by Johns Hopkins.
- Vitamin E is essential for fertility and proper organ function. You will find vitamin E in other foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, and avocados (3).
- Vitamin D aids fetal development in expectant mothers, and may help prevent autism, according to articles published by Science Daily.
- Research from the University of Surrey and University of Bristol showed that pregnant women with low vitamin D had children who were more susceptible to mental and physical impairments by the age of two-and-a-half. You can find vitamin D in foods such as salmon, tuna, raw milk, and eggs (4).
- Vitamin K helps support heart and bone health and is essential for blood clotting (5). Another somewhat recent discovery has linked it to cognitive health as well.
- New research shows memory loss, as people age – is much slower for those who eat foods containing this specific vitamin. Get your intake of vitamin K through those green leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits and vegetables (6).
What Minerals are in Asparagus?
- Magnesium, as stated by Mercola, helps our muscles and nerves to become activated, aids our digestion, and gives us more of the energy we need.
- Iron is one of the most basic yet vital minerals that our bodies need because it transports oxygen through our blood.
This is necessary for the many other functions our bodies need to perform daily. Dr. Axe explains, using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and NIH, both the damaging effects of not having enough iron (almost 10% of women are iron deficient) and the positive results that come from having appropriate levels.
Iron is found in foods like lentils, spinach, and beans, but our bodies absorb it better from animal products such as meat, poultry, and fish.
- Zinc, according to the CDC, has many benefits for our bodies, which include “proper growth and development of the nervous system” (7).
- Having enough zinc in your diet is essential for a healthy immune system that will help your body resist infection. Many people globally (17.3% – 30% depending on what region they are in) are deficient in their zinc intake.
- Make sure you get enough through supplements or foods like oysters, beef, fortified breakfast cereals, and cashews (8).
How Many Carbs are in Asparagus?
- Asparagus is a great option when eyeing carb intake with about 5 spears containing 4 grams.
What is Asparagus Good For?
Let’s look at vitamin B. This is one of the vitamins asparagus is known for and “[R]esearchers have found a connection between low levels of folate and vitamin B-12 in people who are suffering from depression…” (9).
The Mayo Clinic describes the relationship between B vitamins and the production of brain chemicals as being important to balanced moods.
While it is not fully clear how big of a role vitamin B plays in depression, checking these vitamin levels and getting them where they should be could play a significant role in how you feel, resulting in significant changes in how you live.
Also, because asparagus is rich in fiber (helping us to feel fuller longer), low-carb and low-calorie, and aids in digestion (an antidote to getting bloated), it has the added benefit of being a great weight-loss food as well.
So, as you and I consider those healthier food options, let’s remember the greater purpose behind eating well: the potential for overall transformation in how we feel and live.
Asparagus is high in antioxidants, which research shows could help prevent diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Now, we have to understand that there is no cure-all for diseases like this, especially as research is on-going.
But the NIH describes how part of our normal cell function to create “free radicals” can become damaging when it is done in excess because they can begin to attack the good molecules our bodies need.
Antioxidants are what combats the excessive production of free radicals and some argue this is beneficial in fighting diseases. To read more about this process, click here.
What is the Nutritional Value of Asparagus?
According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, asparagus “…ranks as a good, very good, or excellent source of 22 of the 29 nutrients…” that are ranked by WHFoods.
They go on to say “This ratio – 22 out of 29 – is the same as 76%, meaning that asparagus can provide you with a concentrated amount of all but seven nutrients that we analyze on our website” (10).
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
With all this talk about asparagus, it would be good to know the various ways it could be cooked, and what can be tastier than adding bacon to something?
Here is one of the simplest recipes for bacon wrapped asparagus:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place an oven safe wire rack onto a cookie sheet.
- Trim the ends of the asparagus and then drizzle with olive oil, adding garlic salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cut the bacon slices lengthwise into narrow strips, and wrap one strip tightly around each asparagus stalk, slightly overlapping the bacon.
- Place on the wire rack and bake for 10 minutes then turn the stalks over; bake another 10-15 minutes until bacon is almost crispy. Set the oven to broil and then place the asparagus in the broiler for 1-2 minutes.
Below is one of the quickest ways to prepare asparagus. The simplicity of the recipe gives you the added benefit of changing it to fit your own personal taste.
- 3 tablespoons of butter, margarine, or the oil of your choice. Melt in a large skillet over medium heat.
- 3 cloves of chopped garlic (optional).
- 1 bunch of fresh asparagus – trim ends.
- Add garlic and asparagus to pan, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes. For well-done asparagus, lower heat and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
How Long to Steam Asparagus?
Generally, it takes about 5 – 10 minutes to steam asparagus once the water has been brought to a boil. The time depends on the thickness of the asparagus as that can vary.
For extra flavor, think about adding a teaspoon of butter and a quarter teaspoon of salt to the water. Then bring the water to a boil and place asparagus (with the ends trimmed) in the steamer (11).
How Long to Boil Asparagus?
- Thinner asparagus will take up to 5 minutes to boil.
- But very thick asparagus may take up to 12 minutes.
- Trim asparagus and lay in a large skillet covered by 1 inch of water. Lightly salt the water to add in some flavor. Cook covered for 3-5 minutes, or longer for thicker asparagus (12).
How to Freeze Asparagus?
Some vegetables require an extra step before just throwing them in the freezer – asparagus being one of those vegetables.
So first, you are going to want to partially cook it. This is a process known as blanching. It will ensure the taste and texture remain normal after you freeze the asparagus and attempt to cook it later.
- When picking out your asparagus to freeze, it’s better to go for the thicker pieces.
To blanch, you need a pot of boiling water and a big pot or bowl of cold water (both large enough to hold the asparagus).
Once the water is boiling, add up to a pound of asparagus and keep it boiling for 2 – 5 minutes. When finished, immediately drain the asparagus and put it in the pot or bowl of cold water for the same amount of time you boiled it.
To freeze, you can just place it in a freezer bag or container altogether. If you want the option of only cooking a portion of the spears at a time, you can also flash freeze them.
To do this, you would lay the asparagus out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for 1 – 2 hours. After, they can be stored together in a container and they won’t end up stuck to each other (13).
Asparagus Pee Smell?
Some people have wondered why the smell of our pee changes so drastically after eating asparagus.
But there’s a good explanation for it. Asparagus contains the chemical asparagusic acid, found only in this specific vegetable.
When our bodies break this down, it turns the chemical into a whole group of compounds that all contain – sulfur. And sulfur isn’t a nice smell. It’s known for its strong and unpleasant odor.
It may come as a surprise that not all asparagus eaters have this issue.