History of Asparagus
Despite its appearance of green on a stick that panda bears would eat rather than humans – kids tend to unfairly shove it in the same category of ‘yucky stuff never to ingest’ along with broccoli, the benefits of asparagus make it invaluable to a healthy diet.
Asparagus, popularly known as ‘sparrow-grass’ due to its green slender design, used to belong to the lily family together with such vegetables as garlic, onions, and leek.
One feature they shared in common was the distinct strong flavor and sharp smell.
Later on, asparagus was moved into a family of its own, the Asparagaceae family, which contains hundreds of varieties of the juicy tender plant, though only some are edible.
Nowadays, the plant is consumed worldwide and massive all-year-round imports stripped it of its ‘delicacy’ status.
However, asparagus still commands a certain awe and its own season on the ‘foodie calendar’.
In spring, the young stalks hit the market in three varieties – green, greenish purple, and white.
In the UK, for example, the opening date is traditionally set on the 23rd of April.
Only the young buds are commonly eaten, so keep in mind to buy straight, lean, firm asparagus before the shoots lose their flavor.
Asparagus plant is one of the most widely cultivated crops in the world, but also one of the most expensive. It is harvested by hand and can reach heights of 39 to 59 inches.
The Nutritional Profile of Asparagus
Water makes up for 93% of the plant’s composition. Asparagus is filled with protein but very low in calories and carbohydrates – just 20 to 27 per 100 grams of calories.
A good amount of iron, and not a negligible quantity of potassium, manganese, calcium, and phosphorus are stored in the plant’s deposits.
Another good thing when it comes to the benefits of asparagus is that it has low sodium and a high vitamins level, some of which are vitamins A, C and K. Especially vitamin B6 can be found in abundance.
Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties tip the balance completely in its favor.
Even if a diet in asparagus, due to the breaking of sulfurous amino acids into smelly chemical components, can cause a powerful odor in urine and occasional bursts of abdominal gas.
However, considering the many plus sides of this seasoned plant, we’ve listed the top health benefits of asparagus.
The Top 10 Health Benefits of Asparagus
1. Helps Digestion
Asparagus is a source rich in both fiber and water content which are easy to be digested. 100 grams of asparagus can give you 2.1 grams of fiber.
This translates in laxative properties.
The high fiber content is a key factor in keeping constipation at bay.
It can help treat irritable bowel syndrome, lower bad cholesterol and balance blood sugar levels.
Plus, the green buds contain inulin, a prebiotic that is not broken down until it reaches the large intestine where it feeds the good bacteria in your digestive tract.
And a healthy digestive tract is imperative to the general physical and mental well-being.
However, as mentioned before, it’s advisable you eat asparagus in moderation as it may cause stomach gas.
2. Decreases the Birth Risks and the Chances of Birth Defects
If you are pregnant, get yourself into a craving for asparagus.
The fresh variety contains enough folic acid to make a difference in the growth of the fetus, protecting it from miscarriage and reducing the neural tube defects by 79 percent.
100 grams of asparagus can offer you 14% of RDA of folic acid. It was discovered recently that folates are essential for DNA synthesis in the cell.
A deficiency in the folate levels in expecting mother may cause autistic disorders and birth defects in the infants.
3. Keeps Bones Healthy
You can feel the benefits of eating asparagus in your bones. Literally.
Being high in vitamin K, the plant plays a central role in preventing osteoporosis by strengthening the bones.
Due to its high iron content, it can even repairs joints damaged by wear and tear and further maintain the elasticity of bones.
A cup of asparagus will provide you about 70% of daily requirements of this vitamin and improve your bones’ capability of absorbing calcium.
Calcium, as one of the principal minerals in bone metabolism, reduces the risk of fractures.
Plus, asparagus possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve joint pain.
If you’re suffering from arthritis, you might want to combat that spring stormy weather with the spring’s champion plant.
4. Cures Infections
Some of the most vital benefits of asparagus are to be found in its stalks. These come packed with antioxidants like carotenes, zeaxanthin, manganese, and lutein.
All these team up to eradicate free radicals from the body. They protect you from viral infections and deadly diseases.
Consume asparagus stalks in your daily diet to boost your body’s resistance power.
5. Protects the Heart
The excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of asparagus help keep several mild heart ailments under check.
Research shows folate is strong in taming homocysteine, a substance implicated in many cardiovascular-related problems.
High levels of it indicate an increase in the risk of coronary artery disease and blood clots in the arteries and veins. To lower the homocysteine levels, folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 help a lot.
Plus, the asparagus calls in vitamin K as reinforcement. This vitamin prevents hardening or the arteries.
Also a natural diuretic, asparagus is highly beneficial for those suffering from high blood pressure.
6. Keeps Your Urinary Tract Top-notch
Some of the benefits of asparagus you should make a mental note of are its detoxifying properties. Asparagus is the best herb on the market for urinary tract health.
The asparagine, an essential amino acid in the plant, stimulates urination and dissolves kidney stones.
Apart from the downside of frequent toilet visits, increased urination will help you get rid of excess salt in your body.
Moreover, urinary tract inflammations are known to be extremely painful and troubling.
A proper urination flow will only help in getting rid of irritants, bacteria that infect this sensitive area.
Up this with the antibiotic effects of the asparagus, and you have a proper medical recipe on your hands.
Don’t let yourself be discouraged by the strong smells of your urine. It’s only the asparagus working its wonders.
7. Boosts your Party Mood
The folate is called to the rescue again. Remember that troublesome homocysteine in your body responsible for a troubled heart?
Apparently, the substance works against you both on a physical, and an emotional level.
Excess homocysteine production in the body causes depressive tendencies by blocking the blood and other nutrient supplies from going to the brain.
This negatively affects your sleep, appetite, and overall lifestyle.
Folic acid can boost the feel good hormones and mood-regulators like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine and counteract the attack of homocysteine. It’s a battle this powerful culinary weapon is ready to win.
8. Regulates the Blood Sugar Levels
A very good source of vitamin B, asparagus keeps your blood sugar levels under control. It effectively manages Type 2 diabetes.
If not so far, the health benefits of consuming this veggie will definitely become clear when you check your insulin levels. Asparagus boosts up the production of insulin, the hormone that aids absorption of glucose.
Asparagus also contains chromium, a mineral that increases insulin’s ability to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells.
9. Increases the Sex Drive and the Sperm Count
Apart from being considered a psycho-physiological aphrodisiac due to its distinctive phallic shape, asparagus can really improve the appeal of sex if you consider its nutritional profile.
Histamines’ deficiency, caused by a lack of folate, is one responsible party for the inability to reach orgasm in men and women.
As mentioned many times before, asparagus is a source rich in folates, vitamin B6, and E content. These are known libido sparkers.
Folic acid and vitamin B6 can benefit the orgasm while vitamin E helps stimulate sex hormones.
By strengthening the reproductive organs and increasing the sperm count, asparagus is also proven to improve fertility.
This is linked to the production of milk in nursing mothers and pre-menstrual syndrome.
Asparagus is also rich in magnesium, a mineral useful to curing PMS symptoms like mood swings and accumulated tension.
10. Boosts Your Vision
The vitamin reputedly linked to healthy vision is vitamin A. Of this, asparagus has plenty. The vitamin A in it helps your retinas absorb light to process images.
However, the passing of time does not spare the eyesight.
Considering the retina weakens over time, a deficiency of vitamin A is the last thing you need. Asparagus can tip the scales in your favor.
It also contains zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that contributes to maintaining a healthy vision by protecting the eyes from excessive exposure ultraviolet rays.
There are several other health benefits of asparagus to boost its popularity. You can apply asparagus directly to your skin to combat acne and cleanse the face.
Its high content in vitamin C improves the complexion and nourishes the skin while stopping blemishes, dryness, and age-related wrinkles in their track.
If you suffer from hair loss, calcium can aid in strengthening the roots of the hair. Asparagus also promotes the growth by moisturizing the dry scalp.
If all the health benefits of asparagus mentioned above don’t turn this veggie into a mouth-watering dinner option for tonight, maybe this image will.
Still, we have an inkling the many benefits and nutritional values of the asparagus had already set this spring veggie on the top of your grocery shopping list.
How to prepare asparagus
Spring has sprung when bundles of fresh asparagus turn up! Here’s how to prepare asparagus.
To remove the woody ends, gently bend the end of each asparagus spear until it snaps naturally.
To cook, add the asparagus to a pan of boiling water. A frying pan is best as the spears will fit easily.
Cook for 2 minutes or until bright green. For a salad, run the spears quickly under cold water to refresh.
Ribboned asparagus salad with avocado dressing
This salad is a true celebration of spring. Fresh asparagus in season tastes even better raw than cooked. It’s full of flavour, colour and juice. Shave the stalks as thin as you can and mix a few simple salad ingredients and a creamy dressing.
- 800g asparagus
- 1 cucumber
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 100g flat-leaf parsley
- 20g parmesan, freshly grated
For the dressing
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- ½ ripe avocado, stone removed
- Salt and black pepper
1 Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Using a vegetable peeler and starting from the bottom end of the asparagus, shave upwards to create thin ribbons. Place all the ribbons in a large serving bowl.
2 Slice the cucumber lengthways and cut into bite-size pieces. Cut the tomatoes in half and coarsely chop the parsley. Add these to the bowl.
3 Place the dressing ingredients in a blender and blitz until creamy. Add a dash of oil or water if necessary. Dress and toss the salad so it’s evenly coated.
4 Top with parmesan shavings, then serve.
Spring onion-tied prawn and asparagus
Ganghwe is a general Korean term that refers to a dish of small rolls that have been made by tying ingredients with a thin spring onion.
They are prepared in bite‑size pieces and served with a dipping sauce. Nakji (octopus) and ojingeo (squid) ganghwe are common variations. These saewu ganghwe use prawn and asparagus.
- 16 medium prawns, peeled, tail on, and de-veined
- 8 thin asparagus spears
- 16 thin spring onions
For the sauce
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (or vinegar)
- 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean red chilli pepper paste)
- ½ tbsp sugar
- ¼ tsp minced garlic (optional)
1 Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside.
2 Bring a medium pan of water to the boil. Add the prawns and cook for about a minute. Quickly drain and leave in cold water to stop them cooking. Drain and cut small slits on the inner curve of the curled-up prawns to make it easier to wrap.
3 Remove the tough ends from the asparagus and cut into 5cm lengths. Blanch the pieces in salted boiling water until they have softened, which takes about a minute. Remove with a strainer, shock in cold water and drain.
4 Use tongs to dip the white parts of the spring onions in the same pot of boiling water and hold for about 30 seconds before completely submerging the whole bunch for another 20 seconds. Drain and shock in cold water. Pat the spring onions dry with kitchen paper, gently pressing to remove excess water.
5 To assemble, hold a prawn and an asparagus piece together along with the white end of a spring onion. Tie them by wrapping the other end of the spring onion around the prawn and asparagus several times.
6 Use a toothpick to tuck the end of the spring onion into the roll. Mix the sauce ingredients thoroughly and serve alongside the ganghwe.