Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts of Asparagus

Fresh asparagus (Image from Wikimedia Commons)Once called as the “vegetable of the kings”, asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is one of the most nutritious vegetables known to man. This vegetable belongs to the lily family in which its allium cousins (e.g. onions and garlic) belong. It is native to most of European countries, northern Africa, and western Asia, but widely cultivated worldwide as an important vegetable crop.

The name of the vegetable was derived from the Persian word “asparag” which means “sprout” or “shoot”. From the Persian word, the Greek named the vegetable “aspharagos” or “asparagos”. The vegetable is called “asperge” by the Dutch and French, “asparago” by Italians and Portuguese, “spargel” by Germans, “sparga” by Hungarians, and “esparrago” by the Spanish.

Some countries cannot cultivate asparagus due to climatic limitations. As a result, they import asparagus from counties where it is abundant. However, the vegetable becomes very expensive when sold in the markets of the importing countries. Sadly, in these countries only the rich can afford to buy asparagus, giving the vegetable a modern name, “vegetable of the rich.”

There are different ways to cook asparagus. It can be grilled, boiled, steamed, and stir-fried. Many use it as ingredient to stews and soups. It is important not to overcook asparagus in order to prevent the nutrients from leaching out.

Asparagus has many health benefits, which are briefly discussed below.

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Asparagus Nutrition Facts

According the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 grams of asparagus contains 1.88 g sugars, 2.1 g dietary fiber, 0.12 g fat. 2.20 g protein, 0.143 mg Vitamin B1, 0.141 mg Vitamin B2, 0.978 mg Niacin, 0.274 mg Vitamin B5, 0.091 Vitamin B6, 52 micrograms folic acid, 5.6 mg Vitamin C, 2 mg calcium, 2.1 mg iron, 14 mg magnesium, 52 mg phosphorus, 202 mg potassium, and 0.158 mg zinc. All these vitamins and minerals promote good health. Let us discuss the functions of some of these constituents of asparagus.

You may have heard the benefits of dietary fibers in your digestive system and to your overall health. Fibers promote regularity of bowel movement by speeding up the passage of food through the intestinal tract. By acting as roughage, it cleans the lining of the intestines, removing the toxins away. Fibers can prevent the risk of colorectal cancer by balancing intestinal pH (alkalinity or acidity). Fiber intake can also reduce your appetite by adding bulk to your diet (helpful when you are trying to lose weight). Good news to people with diabetes or heart disease: diet high in fiber has been found in scientific studies to be associated to lower levels of glucose and cholesterol in the blood.

Asparagus is one of the best sources of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, glutathione, and flavonoids. What are the functions of these antioxidants in the body? They simply act as detoxifiers, removing away toxins that damage our cells and tissues. Free radicals are among the toxins that antioxidants destroy. These are unstable reactive atoms or molecules with unpaired electron. Our body constantly produces free radicals as a result of biological reactions. The lack of antioxidants in our body results to the elevation of free radicals. Be informed that there are many diseases linked to free radicals including cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and metabolic diseases. Eating asparagus can help us fight these fatal diseases.

Asparagus is also a good source of folic acid, a B vitamin. Folic acid is needed in the synthesis of DNA and RNA and the repair of damaged DNA. It is also required in the metabolism of homocysteine and in various biological reactions where it is required as cofactor.

Folic acid is greatly needed during fetal development and red blood cell production to synthesize genetic materials (DNA and RNA) by rapidly dividing cells. Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can cause birth defects such as malformation of spine (spina bifida), malformation of bones and skull (anencephaly), limb defects, cleft lips, and urinary tract abnormalities. Deficiency with folic acid causes anemia, a condition in which there are too few functional red blood cells in the body.

Asparagus can be the counterpart of banana in the vegetable group as it is rich in potassium, which is the element that facilitates skeletal and heart muscle contraction, maintains osmotic balance, and regulates blood pressure.  Potassium deficiency can cause various physiological disorders involving the nervous system and the circulatory system.

In conclusion, eating asparagus is a simple way of protecting our body from diseases.[ad#afterpost]