King of the vegetables
Nothing speaks spring like the vibrant green stalks of the asparagus plant! This incredible vegetable is considered one of the top most nutritious veggies out there! Its culinary uses can be Traced backed to Greece over 2500 years ago but it is now grown all over the world and thrives in cooler maritime climates. Asparagus is one of the first harvest of spring, and, although it takes 2-3 years to establish itself, it will dig in to its environment and produce it’s feathery stalks year in and year out without much fuss.
The best part is that asparagus boasts a power house of nutrition and can add a variety of health promoting benefits for your body. Let’s have a closer look!
High in fiber
Asparagus is high in fiber and considered a pre-biotic food. This means that the fiber content helps support the good bacteria in your gut that is essential for good digestion. Proper digestion also supports heart health, regulates blood lipids, the immune system, reduces inflammation, improves symptoms of IBS, regulates blood glucose release, reduces risks of certain cancers and supports mental health.
*Note: Did you know that the majority of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in your gut? The link between gut health and mental health is closely related.
High in vitamins and minerals:
Asparagus is rich in both fat and water soluble vitamins and minerals such as:
- Fat soluble Vitamins A, E and K
- Vitamin C and the B complex
- Especially rich in folate which is critical in fetal development
- Minerals of copper, manganese, selenium and potassium
High in anti-oxidants:
Asparagus contains several compounds that are highly regarded for their protective qualities and have a range of health benefits including:
- Glutathione shows strong evidence in protecting the body from cancer causing free radicals and detoxification.
- The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are both good for eye health and may help protect from cataract and eye disease such as Macular Degeneration along with other protective mechanisms in the body.
- The bioflavonoid, quercetin, is immune supportive and can reduce inflammation and counteract histamine release.
- Ancithim, found in foods that are purple in colour, like blueberries, shows strong protective properties against cell damage, oxidative stress and aging and can help with everything from healthy skin and eyes, to heart health, liver function and the immune system.
These anti-oxidants all help to protect the cells in our bodies from oxidative stress and play a role in preventing disease. This is no means an exhaustive list and just brushes the surface of the abundant plant properties of asparagus and their roles in the body!
High in plant based sulphur:
Sulphur is the 3rd most abundant mineral in our bodies and must be consumed in our food. Asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which is responsible for the notorious smell that is produced and excreted in our urine. Only 50% of the population actually carry the genetic disposition to break down this sulphur to release the strong odour commonly associated with eating asparagus. It is intriguing but completely harmless. Benefits to a diet rich in plant sulphur include:
- Can support cardio-vascular health
- Reduces muscle and joint inflammation (think MSM supplements)
- May reduce risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
- May reduce risk of certain cancers
- May protect against other chronic diseases
Other vegetables high in sulphur include the alliums, like leeks, onions and garlic along with cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and kale.
Over all, asparagus is a super hero in the veggie world. Low in calories, contains protein, zero fat, high fiber and full of vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals. You can’t go wrong adding this gem into your diet, especially when fresh and in season!
How to use asparagus:
There are several colours of asparagus, all with slightly different textures and taste. Green is the most common but you might see white, pink and purple varieties. When shopping for asparagus look for vibrant green stalks with tips that are still tight and haven’t gone mushy. You may find thinner, younger and more tender stalks or thicker stalks but both are good. Thicker stalks are often more fibrous and woody and need more trimming at their base.
Store your asparagus upright in a container with an inch or more of water for best freshness. Alternatively, wet and wrap a paper towel around the base of your bundle and store in a bag. Be sure to use it within a few days. Avoid washing your asparagus before storing as moisture will rot out the tips faster.
When you are ready to prepare your asparagus, rinse gently and snap the bottom of the stalk off from the base. If you place pressure near the bottom of the stalk it will snap off at the point of least resistance and you can discard the woody end.
Asparagus can be eaten raw or cooked. Cautious not to over cook, it becomes chewy and stringy. Most people like to prepare asparagus until just tender but still firm. Cooking asparagus slightly increases its nutrient access-ability, making it easier for the body to absorb its goodness.
- Baked: Preheat oven to 375F and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Grilled: 6-10 minutes.
- Steamed: 5 minutes.
- Air fry: Preheat to 375F and cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness.
- Roasted: Preheat oven to 425F and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- Sautéed: 5-10 minutes on medium to medium high.
- Freeze: Bring a pot of water to a boil and dip asparagus in for 2 minutes then plunge into cold water. Shake off excess water, lay spears on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place in freezer until frozen. Place in freezer friendly container.
- Pickle: Find a simple refrigerator pickle recipe and preserve a couple of jars to enjoy when asparagus isn’t fresh.
- Fermenting: I tried this once. I failed. It can be done though!
Fun fact… Asparagus extract has shown benefits in reducing a hangover. So has water!
Want to try some asparagus recipes?
My personal favourite and most easy way to do up asparagus is to simply sauté it. Follow this Simple Sauteed Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar for the win everytime!
Or try this Creamy Ham and Asparagus Chowder-Dairy Free for a rainy spring night.
need a brunch idea for your next Sunday family gathering? You won’t go wrong with this Spring Asparagus and Spinach Frittata with Basil and Cheese dish!