Asparagus is a delicious springtime vegetable, known for its slim, spear-like shape. The name comes from the Greek word “asparagos,” which means “to spring up.” It’s one of the first green vegetables to arrive after winter ends, and plenty of people consider it a true delicacy.
Asparagus was first found in the Mediterranean thousands of years ago, and it has been popular ever since. Its delicate flavor and versatility have made it a staple around the world. It helps that the health benefits of asparagus are pretty impressive, too.
The vitamins, minerals, and fiber in asparagus can provide serious health benefits.
Vitamin A, for example, is important for keeping your eyes healthy. It feeds your corneas and retinas and it helps your eyes lubricate themselves properly. Vitamin A also helps prevent eye disease like cataracts or macular degeneration.
Other health benefits of asparagus include:
Vitamin K helps blood clot properly, and a vitamin K deficiency can lead to problems like uncontrolled bleeding after an injury. Consuming enough vitamin K through vegetables like asparagus can help make sure your blood clots like it’s supposed to.
That being said, if you’re taking blood thinning medications like warfarin, you’ll want to watch your Vitamin K intake. Check with your doctor to make sure Vitamin-K-rich foods like asparagus are safe for you.
Asparagus is also a good source of antioxidants like Vitamin A and Vitamin E. These antioxidants help the body fight off “free radicals,” or oxygen particles that cells produce as waste. Free radicals can damage the DNA of nearby cells, leading to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. The antioxidants in asparagus help remove these free radicals from your system.
The dietary fiber in asparagus helps your stomach and intestines continue to work normally. Dietary fiber fuels good bacteria, which help your body digest food and absorb important nutrients. Eating enough fiber also helps prevent problems like hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or other painful digestive problems.
Another benefit of eating enough fiber is that it helps regulate cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in your diet can cause and heart disease. The insoluble fiber in asparagus binds to any cholesterol in your digestive system and helps carry it out before you absorb it. Plus, the potassium in asparagus can help lower cholesterol and regulate your heartbeat.
A single serving of asparagus provides a third of the folic acid the average person needs daily. This vitamin is so important for pregnancy that folate supplements are a recommended part of prenatal care. Folic acid helps prevent anemia, tingling hands and feet, and even birth defects.
Nutrients per Serving
One half-cup serving of asparagus (about 4 spears) contains:
- Calories: 13
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 1 gram
Asparagus is a good source of dietary fiber, which plays an important role in digestion. Insoluble dietary fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding important gut bacteria, while soluble dietary fiber helps wash “bad” cholesterol out of your system.
Asparagus is also a good source of:
Asparagus is rich in folate, which is important to red blood cell formation. Folate, also known as folic acid, helps cells divide properly and grow to the right size. As a result, folate is critical during the early months of pregnancy. It helps the baby’s organs form correctly and prevents problems like brain and spine birth defects.
How to Prepare Asparagus
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable, so you can prepare it in a variety of ways. It’s in season in early spring, from March to May.
Asparagus is best eaten cooked, because the heat helps soften it up. Boiling, steaming, frying, and grilling are all common cooking methods. It’s common to serve cooked asparagus with hollandaise sauce, but it can be served many other ways as well.
Here are some ways you can add asparagus to your diet:
- Grill it with spices as a side.
- Cook it then chill it to add to salad.
- Chop into small pieces and add it to a stir-fry.
- Sprinkle it with cheese then bake it as a snack.
- Add to pasta for a fresh twist.
- Roll in egg whites, then in bread crumbs, then bake into “fries.”
- Add asparagus spears to an omelet for a nutritional boost.