One of the first greens to appear in our vegetable gardens each spring, asparagus is packed full of vitamins and minerals that are able to revitalize us after a long dull winter. They can be grilled, baked or steamed, and pair extremely well with salty, rich foods such as eggs, meat and dairy. As we’ll learn this isn’t by accident, because fats help unlock some of the most important benefits of asparagus by making them more bioavailable.
1. A Healthy Urinary Tract
Well known for the way it makes everyone’s urine stink, did you know asparagus can also help prevent urinary issues? Asparagus contains an amino acid called asparagine, which is a natural diuretic, helping to remove excess salt and toxins from your body. By removing unwanted toxins from your body, and continuing to flush the urinary system through increased urination, this can help reduce the risk of urinary tract infection. Asparagine facilitates the metabolism of toxic ammonia in the body.
2. Contains Tons of Folate Acid
One of the most important vitamins and minerals you can take during pregnancy, you can find 22% of your recommended intake of folate acid in only four spears of asparagus. Folate acid is so important because it facilitates healthy neural development of the fetus. It also seems to help women who are trying to get pregnant. According to one study of women who took daily folate supplements for a year before becoming pregnant, they were able to reduce the chance of a premature birth by 50% when compared to women who did not take it. This is a staggering figure! Interestingly, the folate and vitamin B6 found in asparagus can also help stimulate arousal.
3. Antioxidant Rich
While all asparagus contains something called anthocyanins, the deeper green and deep purple varieties have even higher content. This substance is a flavonoid with antioxidant characteristics. A diet rich in antioxidants helps reduce the proliferation of free radicals within the body. These free radicals are the leading cause for illness, disease and a rise in health issues as we age. While free radicals are technically a natural process, they are triggered by oxidative stress and environmental exposures including to the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Therefore, through consumption of antioxidant rich foods, such as asparagus, we can tame the free radicals and reduce their effect on our health.
4. A Delicious Addition to Any Diet Plan
Asparagus is rich in insoluble and soluble fibers. This means it helps you feel full for longer, because your digestive system takes quite a bit longer to break down fibrous foods. Why do you need both sorts of fiber in your diet? They both play extremely important roles in digestion. Insoluble fiber is most commonly found in lettuces and other leafy greens, and because it isn’t water soluble, can often take quite a while to break down within your gastrointestinal tract. This is a valuable trait, because it keeps you regular and prevents constipation. Soluble fiber on the other hand, breaks down easily, and turns into a gel like substances that aids in the digestion of other foods. It sticks to cholesterol and sugars, and slows down or even eliminates their absorption into the bloodstream. By doing so, soluble fibers actually are a key player in regulating blood sugar levels.
5. Vitamin E Rich
Vitamin E plays important roles in fighting free radicals as well, because it is also an antioxidant. One cup of cooked asparagus contains 18% of your required vitamin E, something that is difficult to find in many other fruits and vegetables. These days vitamin E is often sold as an anti-wrinkle cream, because of an ability to slow the aging process by reducing the number of free radicals floating around in our system. It has also been found to be beneficial for skin elasticity through a strengthening of the capillary walls. While eating asparagus isn’t a miracle anti-aging cream, in its small part it can help slow down the aging process. When consumed with animal fats, like eggs, the vitamin E within asparagus is much more bioavailable.
6. Packed with Vitamin K
Eat one cup of cooked asparagus and forget about needing anymore Vitamin K for the rest of the day, as it contains over 100% of your required daily intake. It is another fat-soluble vitamin, which is why you should consume asparagus with animal fatty foods to insure you get the most vitamins and minerals out of it. Why is vitamin K so important? Its essential to building strong bones, and for maintaining heart health. Deficiency in vitamin K may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other serious illnesses.
7. Asparagus is a Brain Food
The folates found within asparagus benefit brain health and cognitive function. Again, if you have been wondering why asparagus goes so well with fatty foods (meats, dairy and eggs), it’s no coincidence, because vitamin B12 comes from these sources and works in conjunction with the folate found within asparagus to support proper brain function. One study found that older adults with healthy levels of each of these substances had better test results in both mental speed and cognitive ability when compared with a group who was deficient.