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Asparagus: Stalks of Health

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Asparagus is an important and popular low-calorie vegetable that has a very low-fat content. Read this article to know all about this nutritious veggie.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Samarth Mishra

Published At November 17, 2022
Reviewed AtAugust 1, 2023

Introduction:

Asparagus spears or asparagus vegetable is a perfect combination of deliciousness and nutrition among vegan diets. The scientific name for asparagus veggie is Asparagus Officinalis. Asparagus Racemosus, on the other hand, is also known as the Shatavari herb, which is native to the Himalayan region in India and in Australia. Shatavari, also a member of the asparagus family, is equally beneficial as the original form of Asparagus but is used as a root and is an adaptogenic herb. Often the Asparagus vegetable is confused with Shatavari; the latter is the root of Asparagus racemosus and is used as an herb in traditional ayurvedic medicines in a powdered form. Asparagus Officinalis has a plethora of health benefits and is hailed as an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It contains several nutrients, including large amounts of vitamin K and folate, that are essential for systemic health. Researchers have linked the consumption of Asparagus with multiple health benefits like pain relief, as a diuretic, cancer prevention, boosting immunity, and in pregnancy, as a rich source of folic acid, etc.

What Are the Nutritional Contents of Asparagus?

Approximately a few stems or even half a cup of cooked asparagus (90g) can provide up to 20 calories and almost 2.2 grams of protein. Asparagus is a great source of vitamins K, A, and zinc. The USDA provides the following nutritional information on asparagus (134 grams or one cup):

  • Energy: 26.8 calories.

  • Protein: 3 g.

  • Vitamin K: 45.5 mcg

  • Calcium: 32.2 mg.

  • Fat: 0.2 g

  • Sodium: 13mg

  • Carbohydrates: 5.2 g (including sugar).

  • Fiber: 2.8g.

  • Sugars: 2.5 g.

  • Iron: 2.9 g.

  • Magnesium: 18.8 mg.

  • Phosphorus: 69.7 mg.

  • Potassium: 271 mg.

  • Zinc: 0.7 mg.

  • Manganese: 0.2 mg.

  • Choline: 21.4 mg.

  • Selenium: 3.0 mcg.

  • Vitamin C: 7.5 mg.

  • Folate: 69.7 mcg.

  • Vitamin E: 1.5 mg.

  • Vitamin K: 5.7 mcg.

  • Vitamin A: 50.9 mcg.

Asparagus is commonly recommended by nutritionists in most low-carb or ketogenic diets. This is because only a small portion of the carbohydrate is derived from simple carbs, so asparagus has very little impact on blood sugar. With a low glycemic index (GI) of less than 15 and only trace amounts of polyunsaturated fats, asparagus benefits overall systemic health. These essential fatty acids are responsible for brain functions and cell maintenance, and growth. Popular asparagus preparations, like butter-braised asparagus or Hollandaise sauce, may contain both fats and calories. Hence it is better to consume asparagus as a direct vegetable. If used by sauces or toppings, one can drizzle a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over the asparagus to add flavor and incorporate healthy fats. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, vitamin content breakdown from a single serving of asparagus is as enlisted below:

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2): up to 11 % of the RDI (reference daily intake).

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): up to 13 % of the RDI.

  • Vitamin K: present up to 51 % of the RDI.

  • Folate (vitamin B9): up to 34 % of the RDI.

What Are the Systemic Health Benefits of Asparagus?

The systemic benefits of asparagus are as follows:

Excellent Source of Vitamins A and C: These vitamins are abundantly present in asparagus and are powerful antioxidants that can eliminate free radicals circulating within the blood, enhancing the immune system.

Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease And Blood Pressure: Research indicates that asparagus reduces harm to the circulatory system by reducing the risk of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is currently one of the leading causes of developing cardiovascular diseases.

Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins present in purple asparagus contain potent antioxidants that add richness to their vibrant color and have known cardioprotective properties.

Diuretic: Asparagus is known to exert diuretic properties to lower blood pressure. This is possible by promoting the excretion of excess fluids from the body.

Pregnancy: Most obstetricians and gynecologists recommend that pregnant women should consume at least 600 micrograms of folate daily. Folic acid is an essential prenatal vitamin given in the dynamic phase of pregnancy in order to promote healthy fetal growth and also reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida. Asparagus is a rich source of folate.

Digestion: Asparagus is a key source of inulin. It contains a type of fiber that promotes healthy gut bacteria. The insulin release inhibits bacterial endotoxins called polysaccharides. Hence it is an extremely good prophylactic food against polysaccharide-related diseases like Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and Helicobacter pylori infections.

What Are the Possible Allergies With Asparagus?

Individuals who are averse to trithiane-5-carboxylic acids may suffer from potential allergy with asparagus consumption. These components are found in higher concentrations, especially in the stalks. People who pick or eat the slender, early-season stalks would be prone to contact dermatitis.

What Are the Types, Usage, And Storage Methods of Asparagus?

White and green asparagus are two common varieties available, out of which the white variety tends to be thicker than the tender green variety. White asparagus has a nutty flavor and is less stringy in consistency than the green variety. However, both forms are equally nutrient-dense. Thicker, late-season stalks should be peeled, and the woody stem ends snapped from the asparagus before cooking, washing, or consuming. It is better to seal or put the asparagus bundle in a rubber band to extend its shelf life. The stalks should not be washed until the time it is to be cooked. When selecting fresh asparagus, a stalk with tightly closed buds, which are firm and rich colored, should be chosen. The matured stalks are plump and usually straight. It is better to avoid asparagus available in the market in mushy, blemished, dull-colored, or limp states as they can possibly be contaminated or spoilt.

Asparagus can also be purchased either in frozen or canned forms. Frozen vegetables retain the same nutrients as fresh varieties. If canned asparagus is purchased, then it is always better to rinse the canned stalks to wash off the excess sodium that is commonly used as a preservative. Asparagus can be steamed, boiled or stir-fried, or grilled for meals. It needs to be thinly sliced when it is to be eaten raw in salad preparations.

Conclusion:

The name 'Asparagus' is derived from the Greek word 'asparagos' which means 'to spring up'. Asparagus officinalis is a vegetable that belongs to the lily family and is a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins, folate, and a regular intake of this vegetable can be aid in boosting the immune system. It has numerous benefits like having many nutrients, are a good source of antioxidants, can improve the digestive health, and is beneficial for pregnant women since it is loaded with folate. It also helps to lower the blood pressure.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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