Asparagus, scientific name Asparagus officinalis, is a perennial plant that’s part of the Asparagaceae family, which also includes garlic and onion.
Other names: sparrow grass, sperage, sparagus, asparagos or aspharagos, asparag, asper grass or aspar grass, asparago aspargo, sparrow’s guts, asperge, shatavari, spárrago spargel, spárga, ashadhi, sipariberuballi or majjigegadde, mang tây and mai farang.
While the most frequent form of asparagus is the green one, it is fine if you find the white or purple one as well.
Grown for medicinal and food purposes over 2000 years ago, this spring vegetable native to Africa, Europe and Asia was brought to North America around 1850 by early settlers. Romans and Greeks used it for its medicinal and healing properties.
There are more than 300 varieties of this medicinal plant, but less than 20 are edible.
Nowadays, it is acknowledged as an exceptional healthy vegetable thanks to the range of nutrients, minerals and vitamins it contains.
Asparagus nutrition facts
This vegetable is a reservoir of vitamins and essential nutrients. Besides being low in calories and high in fiber, it has an array of health benefits ranging from boosting your immune system to being a rich source of antioxidants and minerals.
Content: fiber, folic acid, vitamins A, B1 (the sulfur-containing vitamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B9, C, E and K, minerals which include magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, potassium and selenium, as well as chromium, a mineral that is directly involved in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, boosting the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into our cells.
Moreover, it contains inulin, a natural storage carbohydrate, which remains undigested until it reaches the large bowel, where it helps to absorb nutrients better, and cut the risk of colon cancer. In addition, this wonder vegetable has high amounts of asparagine, which assists the body in getting rid of excess salts and fluids, which is particularly helpful for people with high blood pressure, edema and other heart-related diseases.
High respiration rate
High respiration rate means asparagus „dies” faster than other harvested vegetables. The respiration rate of a vegetable is the rate at which a plant takes in oxygen, breaks down starches and releases CO2 (carbon dioxide). After a vegetable is cut, it doesn’t initially die, but continues this metabolic process. For a frame of reference, the respiration rate of this vegetable is 5 times greater than the rate for potatoes and onions; 3 times greater than the rate for tomato and lettuce; and twice as fast as the rate for avocado and cauliflower. Due to this quick respiration rate, it is important to wrap the ends of the stalks with a damp towel and refrigerate or freeze the vegetable.
Health benefits of asparagus
Without getting overly scientific, two important bacteria are needed to maintain a healthy intestinal tract – Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. While the word „bacteria” (comes from Greek bakterion, meaning „staff used for support”) may make you think of something unhealthy, these two bacteria are extremely important because they are the good type of bacteria that prevent the harmful kind from wreaking havoc on the intestinal tract. Think of them as the police against invaders that want to weaken this part of your body. Well, this vegetable contains a crucial carbohydrate called inulin that promotes the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. This actually means that your digestive system is kept in good health.
It is a terrific food for fighting inflammation. Its active ingredients are called saponins. One of these saponins (class of chemical compounds), one in particular, sarsasapegenin, has caught the attention of scientists. They consider that the death of certain nerve cells in the body is due to excessive inflammation. This signifies, possibly, that excessive inflammation is playing a role in ALS diseases, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the neurons (nerve cells) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the legs, arms and face).
It may have beneficial effects in type 2 diabetes, similar to some diabetic medications. Researchers observed that when extract of asparagus was given to diabetic rats for 28 days, the rats had notably improved insulin secretion and beta cell function. Insulin is a peptide hormone produced from the beta cells of the pancreas which regulates the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates by promoting the absorption of glucose.
Source of antioxidants
A surprising nutrition fact about asparagus is that it’s rich in glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens. Glutathione does more than simply fight free radicals on its own. This antioxidant also has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. After these antioxidants neutralize free radicals, they become unstable radicals themselves. Glutathione helps recycle these unstable molecules, returning them to active duty. Scientists consider that glutathione is so essential to our health that the levels in our cells are becoming a predictor of how long we will live.
Helps in hangover
Extracts from this vegetable contain indispensable amino acids (amino acids that are the building blocks of protein that our body can’t produce by itself), that may prove effective in curing hangovers. A hangover refers to the unpleasant physiological effect caused due to substantial consumption of alcoholic drinks. Its symptoms include stomach disorders like nausea, anxiety, vomiting, fatigue and dehydration. A study in 2009 demonstrated that shoots and leaves of this vegetable contain a good amount of inorganic minerals, which also aid in the protection of the liver cells from the toxic effects of alcohol.
Protects the heart
It can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Its range of B vitamins comes into play once again here; they regulate homocysteine, an amino acid that can be a contributing factor in heart disease if high levels of it are in your blood. Also, it provides 3g of dietary fiber per cup, from which 1 gram is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion and has been found to reduce the occurrence of heart disease.
It contains purines, specific chemical substances found in some foods, such as beef, bacon, pork, lamb, sardines, herring or beer. If you believe you have been diagnosed with a purine sensitivity check with your doctor before eating too many asparagus spears.
It contains sulfurous compounds that are associated with a condition known as specific anosmia. This is why some people say their urine smells after eating Asparagus officinalis. A study from 1980 showed that some of us have a genetic inability to smell certain odors.
Patients on anti-coagulants should consult with their doctor before including it in their daily diets due to the high levels of potassium, folic acid and vitamin K.
Asparagus juice recipe
According to FDA and American Pregnancy Association it is very important that you wash this vegetable thoroughly before eating, as it may contain harmful bacteria and parasites, that can cause food borne diseases like toxoplasmosis and listeriosis. Be sure to select firm and fresh vegetables. Look for asparagus stalk that is very green. The greener the stalk the higher the concentration of nutrients.
- 4 spears of fresh asparagus, washed thoroughly
- 3 small carrots, topped, tailed and washed thoroughly
- 2 celery ribs, washed thoroughly
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 lemon
Simply process the vegetables in the juicer to get the extract. When juicing the asparagus, make sure to juice the head first. Taste it and if you prefer the juice a little sweeter, you may add an apple or two or use a drizzle of maple syrup.
Featured image source – juicyretreats.com