Is Asparagus Good For You? The Health Benefits Of Asparagus Explained
We all know vegetables are good for you, but some are just so incredible we want to scream it from the rooftops and let the world know – and asparagus is definitely one of those lucky vegetables. But because I live in a 30-storey apartment building and it would be difficult and dangerous to get to the roof, I’m going to tell you about it here, instead. Plus, you’ll probably hear me better this way.
What Is Asparagus? Where Does Asparagus Come From?
Next time you’re eating asparagus, know that you’re eating a meal fit for a king – literally. In the sixteenth century, this delicious veggie was the delight of the royal family and court. It was only a couple of centuries later that asparagus became a readily available food.
Asparagus has history well before the sixteenth century, though. There are records of it dating back to at least 2000 years ago, and it’s thought to have originated in the Mediterranean.
You probably think of it as being a green vegetable, but it’s also available in white (which is the preferred variety in many European countries), and in purple. Asparagus is part of the Lily (Liliaceae) family, so it’s cousins with onions, garlic and leeks (but more like second cousins once-removed; onions, garlic and leeks are part of the Amaryllidaceae family).
How To Grow Your Own Asparagus
When I searched “how to grow”, the first option that Google offered was “how to grow asparagus”, and I have to say that I can understand why; it’s delicious! If you want to grow your own asparagus, you should start ASAP – because you won’t be able to reap the fruits (well, veggies) of your labour for at least two, but more likely three, years.
Yes, that is a long time to wait without any edible results – but seeing as an asparagus plant will keep reproducing each year for up to 20 years, it’s a fair trade-off.
- Before you start planting, make sure to remove all weeds and grasses from the designated planting site. This is vital because if there are any weeds or grasses, you can pretty much say goodbye to your asparagus.
- Prepare the site for planting. Dig a 12” deep by 1-foot wide trench, and place shovels full of rock phosphate, compost and all-purpose organic fertiliser every 18” in the trench (this is where you will plant the crowns of asparagus).
- Mix the fertiliser-compost mixture with a bit of soil and place the crowns on top of each mound (every 18”), with the roots draping over the sides. Then, cover the roots and crowns with around 2 inches of soil and water your patch thoroughly.
- Keep adding soil as your stems keep growing until the bed is completely filled (level with the ground or top of your raised garden bed).
- Once filled, add a four to eight-inch layer of mulch and make sure to water your asparagus religiously.
- In the first year, your plants are still maturing and aren’t yet ready to be harvested.
- In the spring, trim the old fern growth.
- From the second year onwards, you can start harvesting, but be selective; take care to only harvest the thicker spears (thicker than a pencil) that are between 5” and 7” in height and whose tips haven’t started to loosen. The harvest season lasts around 2-3 weeks, or even up till six weeks after your plant has been around for a few years. Once the harvesting is over, allow the ferns to grow.
Nutritional Content Of Asparagus Explained
There’s a reason you want to be planting your own asparagus and having plenty of it in your diet. This vegetable packs a powerful nutritional punch, with tons of vitamins – A, C, E, K, and B Vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, as well as choline, a vitamin-related nutrient.
It’s also a source of fibre, protein, and folate, and contains a wealth of minerals – calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Pretty impressive for a veggie of its size!
Asparagus For Urinary Tract Help Explained
Let’s hope you don’t know how not-fun a urinary tract infection can be. If you are more familiar with UTI than you’d like to be, you probably want to know what you can do to avoid getting another one. Enter: the asparagus.
Firstly, I should start by saying that if you have symptoms of a UTI, see your doctor. You may likely need antibiotics, and waiting around only makes symptoms worse and more dangerous. However, there is evidence to suggest that eating asparagus or asparagus capsules can have a soothing effect for a UTI.
- Anti-inflammatory – fights against free radicals that are causing inflammation because of antioxidants like Glutathione
- Fights bacteria – it’s full of antioxidants and bacteria fighting nutrients, which is important since UTI is generally caused by bacteria like E. coli, which travels from the gut to the urinary tract
- Soothing for the urinary tract, and is a diuretic – asparagus has a calming effect on your urinary tract and contains an amino acid known as asparagine, which supports your kidneys in flushing E. coli bacteria out of your system
- Boosts immune system – asparagus contains inulin, which promotes the health of good bacteria in the large intestine, and other immune-boosting nutrients like Vitamin C.
Asparagus For Antioxidants Explained
You’ve probably realised by now that asparagus is a superfood. It’s positively teeming with powerful antioxidants, not to mention other nutrients like Vitamin K, calcium and fibre, as well as minerals like zinc, iron and manganese, to name a few. Some of the antioxidants it contains are:
- Folate – helps strengthen your DNA
- Vitamin C – protects and encourages healthy growth of hair, bones, teeth, and nails; fights against free radical damage
- Vitamin A – vital for your immune system and your reproductive system
- Vitamin E – protects cells from free radical damage
- Asparagine – maintains balance in your nervous system
- Anthocyanins – anti-inflammatory (which prevents against many dangerous diseases)
- Rutin – strengthens blood vessels
- Glutathione – widely considered the “master” or “mother” of antioxidants, since it supports the function of other antioxidants like Vitamins C and E.
So yes, asparagus should definitely be on your menu plan for the week!
— Health (@Health_phoneba) October 14, 2017
Asparagus For Mental Health: Can Asparagus Boost Your Brain?
Asparagus can help fight against mental disorders like depression, as well as diseases like Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
It’s been noted that low levels of folate significantly increase your chance of suffering depression, so it’s a good idea to be eating foods that will ensure you are getting enough of this essential nutrient. Folate can also help with information processing and memory – and I don’t know about you, but I could do with a memory boost sometimes!
And folate comes to the rescue with senior folks, too. Folate helps to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that, in high levels, can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. And we can’t forget about the vitamins – Vitamin K is vital when it comes to holding off Alzheimer’s disease, and Vitamin A deficiency leads to slower thinking processes and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Glutathione, being an antioxidant, protects your brain from free radical damage, which is what causes cognitive decline. So all in all, asparagus is one brain-friendly food, both for now and for later on down the line.
Can Asparagus Help You Fight Cancer?
While it isn’t going to cure cancer; because of its abundance of anti-cancer nutrients, asparagus certainly has its place as part of a cancer patient’s diet.
It goes without saying that antioxidants can only be a positive when fighting cancer, and as we said, asparagus might just be the king of antioxidants. It’s loaded with Vitamin C and glutathione, which reduce damage caused by oxidative stress (hence the name “antioxidants”).
The body’s natural reaction to perceived harm is inflammation, but an over-reactive system can lead to too much inflammation, which can lead to diseases like cancer. Since asparagus has known anti-inflammatory compounds (saponins), it’s definitely a good food to be eating for a person who is at risk of developing cancer. It can also be beneficial to people who are already fighting cancer since saponins can slow the progression of cancer.
Having said all that, the research regarding asparagus is limited and divided between those who support it and those who don’t believe it. Cancer patients should be in touch with a medical professional, and not rely on asparagus as a cure. However, they can enjoy eating asparagus without worry – with all those anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories, it can only be doing good things for their body.
Can Asparagus Help You Lose Weight?
Oh, the struggle that is weight loss. For any of you who have ever tried to lose a pound or two (or three….), you’ll know how hard it is – and how many foods are suddenly big no-no’s. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious diet-friendly foods available, and while asparagus will never taste like chocolate, it does taste pretty good when prepared well and makes for a healthy snack, side dish, or salad addition.
Ten spears of asparagus are just 32 calories. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let’s do a comparison: ten salted pretzel sticks (and, who are we kidding, we ain’t stopping at ten) are around 228 calories, and a single doughnut stick (no toppings and unsugared) is around 217 calories. Now you appreciate what 32 calories for 10 spears means!
Besides being low in calories, asparagus is a wonderful source of fibre (especially inulin), meaning that if you choose asparagus as a between-meals snack, you’ll be full ‘til your next meal – and that means less snacking (especially on unhealthy foods) and hence, less weight gain.
If you know your next meal won’t be for a while and you’re not gonna last that long before snacking, try topping your asparagus with a fried egg. The mix of fibre and protein will keep you full for hours, give you energy, and let’s be real, it tastes a whole lot better that way.
The B Vitamins in asparagus work to regulate your blood sugar levels, so they don’t spike as they might when you choose a sugary snack. The Vitamin K content can help to reduce bloating, and the asparagine supports the cells that break down fat in your body. So all in all, asparagus is definitely a dieter’s friend – and one of the best-tasting ones, too.
There are so many ways to eat this delicious veggie: stir-fried, roasted, or boiled and served with hollandaise sauce…..mmmm. We all know that it’s important to keep your body healthy and make smart diet choices – but you might not know just how smart those choices are!
Your midday snack could literally be saving your life by fighting off diseases, boosting your mental health, and not to mention, helping you shed those extra pounds. So next time you pass the asparagus section in your supermarket, think of all they can do for your health and body – and make sure you don’t pass them up!