The Health Benefits of Asparagus

Reputed to be an aphrodisiac, this ancient vegetable is remarkably nutritious – especially in our spring salad recipe!

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on April 24, 2009

The name for asparagus -- a member of the lily family -- comes from the Greek word meaning “shoot” or “sprout.” Now widely cultivated throughout the world, this regal vegetable is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its unique texture and alleged medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities.

Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period. The most common types are green, but you might see two others in supermarkets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.

This giant veggie is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables -- high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin, and vitamins A, B6, and C. A 5-ounce serving provides 60% of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories. You can enjoy this veggie raw or with minimal preparation, which the Romans seemed to appreciate. They had a saying, “As quick as cooking asparagus,” for something done rapidly.

Want more sources of vitamin B6? Boost your intake of avocados, bananas, oatmeal, and salmon.

Makes 4 1-cup servings


3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1½ lb)

1½ cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

5 thinly sliced radishes

½ cup (2 oz) crumbled feta or goat cheese

1 medium shallot, peeled and minced

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint


2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper


  1. Steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  2. Rinse asparagus with cold water and drain.
  3. Gently combine asparagus, beans, radishes, feta, shallot, and fresh mint in a serving bowl.
  4. Make dressing by combining lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine.
  5. Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and toss gently to coat.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Per serving: 210 calories, 12 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 17 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 364 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 60%.

Show Sources


Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board: “Facts About Asparagus”

Nutrition Data: “Asparagus”

Centers for Disease Control: “Fruit of the Month: Asparagus”

Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Nutrition: “Nutrition Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6”

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