Thirteen Amazing Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is a green, pointed vegetable with a bud-like head, and it is part of the lily family (along with onions, leeks and garlic). Although asparagus is available all year round, it is at its best quality in the spring months. It tastes delicious when buttered and grilled, when served as a side with meat, or when included in pasta dishes. Asparagus is often advertised as being a very healthy food, but the reasons why it is thought to be so good for you are often left rather mysterious. Read on to find out how eating more asparagus might be able to dramatically improve your quality of life in some surprising and important ways.
It is very good for cardiovascular health
One cup of asparagus contains more than 65% of your recommended daily intake of folate, and folate is vital for heart health for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, it helps to regulate a particular amino acid that makes you substantially more likely to develop heart disease. In addition, asparagus gives you 114% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, and this vitamin helps to prevent the calcium build-ups that can lead to strokes and heart disease. Finally, several studies have shown that regular consumption of asparagus can help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
It provides pregnant women with multiple benefits
If you are pregnant, eating plenty of asparagus is an excellent idea. As mentioned above, asparagus contains a large quantity of folate, and it has repeatedly been established that folic acid substantially reduces the risk of birth defects (such as spina bifida) in your unborn child. The calcium and other minerals in asparagus also make it less likely that your baby will be born at a dangerously low birth weight. Further, the eating asparagus has been to shown to help relieve some of the ankle swelling and other bloating experienced by pregnant women.
It boosts cognitive function
The folate in asparagus can combine with vitamin B12 in your body in order to prevent or slow the cognitive impairment that is characteristic of aging. One study performed by scientists at Tufts University showed that people in old age who had healthy levels of both B12 and folate were consistently able to perform better on tests that measured their response speed and mental acuity.
It is a natural diuretic
One very interesting property of asparagus is that it contains an amino acid called asparagine. Asparagine is very effective at increasing urinary output and at making sure that you excrete excess salts. While this may not sound like a good thing at first, it actually makes asparagus a great food to eat for those who suffer from moderate kidney problems or unwanted fluid retention. If your kidneys do not work properly, the diuretic influence of asparagus will help them to flush out metabolic waste more quickly and easily, and if you are retaining water for any reason then eating asparagus will help your body to remove these excessive fluids. The diuretic properties of asparagus are most powerful when you consume it in juice form.
It can relieve some of the symptoms of premenstrual tension
Asparagus is linked to a reduction in PMT symptoms for a number of reasons. Firstly, its aforementioned diuretic properties mean that it can help to reduce the uncomfortable abdominal bloating that often strikes women in the week leading up to their monthly period. Secondly, asparagus contains magnesium, and several studies support the claim that consuming higher levels of magnesium can help to reduce levels of tiredness, depression and irritability.
It can help to prevent certain forms of cancer
Since it is widely believed that long-term inflammation and oxidation of cells can end up leading to the development of cancerous tumors, the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of asparagus may make it a fantastic food to eat if you want to lower your risk of cancer. In particular, asparagus is a very rich source of a compound called glutathione, which helps to break down carcinogenic compounds that make their way into your body.
It may help to prevent kidney stones
It is thought that the diuretic properties of asparagus combine with its alkaline properties to make it the case that eating asparagus can also help to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. In addition, it can help to break up kidney stones if you already suffer from them. These benefits come from the ability of asparagus to break up the oxalic acid crystals that lead to kidney stones.
It is an ideal snack for people suffering from diabetes
Asparagus contains certain minerals that can help control your blood sugar level, so it is a perfect addition to your diet if you happen to be a diabetic.
It has anti-inflammatory properties
Asparagus contains racemofuran, which is a phytochemical that works in much the same way as anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin. By inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (or COX), racemofuran interferes with the chemical reactions that end up causing pain when your body's inflammatory response is prompted. Asparagus also contains saponins, quercetin, rutin and laempferol, all of which are considered to have anti-inflammatory properties. This makes asparagus an ideal food for those who are plagued by inflammatory disorders like arthritis or asthma. One important benefit of using asparagus to help with inflammation is that, unlike anti-inflammatory medications, asparagus is not correlated with dangerous and inconvenient side effects such as high blood pressure and stomach pains.
It keeps your digestive system healthy
Asparagus has a mild laxative effect, and it also contains 11% of your recommended daily intake of fibre. These properties will help to keep your bowels healthy and regular.
It may be able to help you lose weight
Since a serving of asparagus contains plenty of fibre and protein, eating asparagus can help to discourage you from overeating or reaching for unhealthy snacks (by helping you to feel fuller for longer). In addition, many people love the taste of grilled asparagus, but one cup contains just 43 calories.
It may be able to help with certain fertility problems
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, certain forms of asparagus are used to boost a woman's fertility and to help with irregular menstrual bleeding. Some scientists think that the main type of asparagus that we use for cooking may share these properties, but this claim is currently contentious and in need of substantial further research.
It can help to sustain eye health
The fact that asparagus is a great source of antioxidants and glutathione means that it can help to prevent the development and progression of certain eye problems (most notably macular degeneration, which is the primary cause of sight loss in older people).
As is obvious from the above health benefits, asparagus is a great choice if you want to increase your daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. When you are picking out asparagus, try to choose stalks that are straight, firm to the touch, and tight at the tip. When cooking asparagus, always steam, grill or sauté it, as boiling asparagus will neutralize a great many of the benefits. Finally, it is worth noting that asparagus causes a strange and strong urinary odor in most people. This is nothing to be alarmed about! It happens when a specific compound in asparagus metabolizes, and there is nothing harmful about this reaction.
Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2012. Published with permission. Dr. E. C. Gordon is a freelance writer and is not directly affiliated with avivahealth.com.