The Health Benefits of Asparagus: Why Everyone Should Eat More of This Mighty Green
The green (or sometimes white or purple) spears are well worth incorporating into your diet. A nutritionist explains why.
While you can buy asparagus pretty much year round and enjoy it blanched, sautéed, raw, grilled, or roasted, this Mediterranean transplant is meant to be enjoyed at the height of spring, when it's bursting with flavor. Not only does it taste good, but asparagus is also packed with a spectacular array of nutrients. What makes it such a powerhouse veggie? It's low in calories and high in fiber, but that's just the start of what this mighty green has to offer. The health benefits of asparagus range from strengthening your immune system to being a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, asparagus contains a powerful antioxidant known as glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. You can find this same antioxidant in foods like avocado, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Fresh asparagus also contains fair amounts of antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E, all of which aid in strengthening your body's ability to fight infectious disease while warding off free radicals, which can cause painful inflammation.
If you suffer from edema or water retention, asparagus may bring some relief. It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic. By increasing the frequency in urination, you not only release fluid but also help your body get rid of excess salts. This can play a positive role in helping to manage high blood pressure as well as other heart-related diseases and conditions. One more thing: Asparagus in your urine contains sulfurous compounds that are associated with a condition known as specific anosmia. This is why some people—but not all—say their urine smells after eating asparagus. Studies show that some of us have a genetic inability to smell certain odors.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that's part of the Asparagaceae family, which also includes onions and garlic. If you're wondering how this green spear also pops up white at your local farmers' market or grocery store, there's a simple explanation. Plants need sunlight (which allows photosynthesis to take place) in order to turn green. White spears are simply denied sunlight when grown, as they get covered in a thick layer of mulch and dark plastic so that no sunlight is able to reach them. There really is no difference between the two from a nutritional or taste perspective. You may also find purple asparagus. These are smaller and fruitier in flavor.