Asparagus: Health Benefits


What Are the Health Benefits of Asparagus?

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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 farmers' market when it's in season locally. Here's how asparagus benefits you—and the answer to our most common question about asparagus's smell!

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.

What Are The Health Benefits of Asparagus?

Those delectable asparagus stalks are healthier than you may have imagined. Here are just six of the many reasons to add asparagus to your garden or shopping cart.

  1. Asparagus is only 40 calories per cup, and low on the glycemic scale.
  2. It's not empty calories whatsoever! Asparagus delivers a dense assortment of nutrients, especially folate and other B vitamins, selenium, copper, potassium and other minerals, and vitamins K, C, E, and A.
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Not only is asparagus low in calories and fact, but it's soluable and unsoluable fiber makes it a good choice if you're trying to lose weight. You body digests fiber slowly, so eating asparagus will help you feel full.

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!

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

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