Asparagus: Health Benefits

Asparagus: Health Benefits
Ellen Snyder, First Spear of Spring


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Yep, asparagus is good for you, so even if you don’t grow it yourself, grab a big bunch from a nearby farmer’s’ market when it’s in season locally.

Using a pickaxe to break up the dense iron-oxide hardpan beneath the thin topsoil of my hillside vegetable garden, then filling the trench with a thick layer of good topsoil mixed with compost, I planted my first asparagus roots 35 years ago.

They’ve been sending up delectable green shoots ever since. From mid-May until the Fourth of July (when we allow the shoots to grow up into tall ferns that produce the food stored for next year’s crop), we pick and eat tender asparagus almost every day.

Why Asparagus Is Good for You

Those delectable asparagus stalks are healthier than you may have imagined.

  • Asparagus is only 40 calories per cup, and low on the glycemic scale.
  • It delivers a dense assortment of conventional nutrients, especially folate and other B vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium and other minerals, and vitamins K, C, E, and A.
  • Because it emerges from the ground and grows to harvestable size so quickly, asparagus doesn’t carry much of a pesticide load, if any. Wash it well, though, especially if you plan to eat it raw. Like all fresh produce, it may have become contaminated with bacteria during storage and transit.  
  • It’s among the foods highest in “prebiotic fiber,” indigestible carbohydrates that ferment in the large intestine and provide food for bacteria beneficial to health.
  • Asparagus is high in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antitumor phytocompounds researchers suggest may benefit human health.  A close relative, Asparagus racemosus, has been used in South-Asian Ayurvedic medicine for milennia. A quick search of the scientific literature shows labs around the world have begun examining its active constituents and its potential for use in modern clinical applications.

Eating and Storing Asparagus

Eat garden-fresh asparagus quickly. Asparagus not only grows and matures more rapidly than other vegetables, it also continues to metabolize after harvest, depleting its sugars and turning more fibrous—making it the most perishable vegetable.

If you’re not planning to eat your just-harvested or purchased asparagus immediately, however, then wrap the ends of the spears in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, refrigerate and serve it within a couple of days.

Although people enjoy asparagus grilled, roasted, baked, braised, pureed into soup, pesto’d and guacamoled, I prefer steaming it al dente, and serving it hot (with butter or garlic oil), or tucked into a garden salad. I also like eating it raw, in a salad or with a dip.

Does Asparagus Make You Smell?

No, you aren’t imagining that eating a lot of asparagus causes your urine (and maybe your sweat) to reek. That’s due to sulphurous gaseous compounds released as the body digests asparagus, chemically similar to the gases that may be added to the odorless propane and natural gas to notify your nose if there’s a gas leak.

Don’t worry; it’s normal. Most people produce it, but some lucky fraction of the population can’t smell it on themselves or others.

Interested in growing you own asparagus? Learn more on our Asparagus Plant Page!

~ By  Margaret Boyles

About This Blog

Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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