All About Asparagus
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a member of the lily family to which onion and garlic belong. Its name is derived from the Greek word “aspharagos” or “asparagus,” which means “sprout” or “shoot”. It is an herbaceous perennial vegetable native to most of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Today, asparagus is widely cultivated to meet the growing demand for this highly nutritious vegetable.
As a food, asparagus is served as an appetizer and vegetable side dish. It can be stir-fried, grilled, boiled, steamed, or pickled. It can also be used as an ingredient for a variety of soups and stews. Delicious asparagus recipes are available in cook books and websites.
Asparagus Nutrition Facts
Asparagus is a nutritious vegetable as it contains folic acid, dietary fibers, antioxidants, potassium, minerals, and vitamins. Let’s examine the health benefits of these components of asparagus.
Folic Acid From Asparagus
Asparagus is a good source of folic acid or vitamin B9. Six spears of asparagus contain 135 micrograms of folic acid, which is almost half of the adult recommended daily intake. Eating asparagus helps prevent diseases and disorders caused by folic acid deficiency such as birth defects, anemia, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Our body needs folic acid to synthesize DNA and RNA, and repair damaged DNA, methylate DNA, and metabolize homocysteine. Moreover, folic acid also serves as a cofactor in various biological reactions in the body.
Fetal development requires a lot of folic acid to sustain rapid cell division and organ development. Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy is one of the major causes of spina bifida (malformation of spine), anencephaly (malformation of skull and brain), congenital heart defect, cleft lips, urinary tract anomalies, and limb defects.
Red blood cell production requires folic acid to power DNA synthesis in erythrocytes. Folic acid deficiency causes anemia, a condition in which there are too few red blood cells circulating in the bloodstream.
Folic acid is needed in the metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid produced in the breakdown of methionine. Elevation of homocysteine in the blood due to folic acid deficiency is linked to heart disease and stroke.
Folic acid helps in cancer prevention by repairing damaged DNA.
Dietary Fiber From Asparagus
The dietary fiber found in asparagus has many health benefits. It may reduce appetite by adding bulk to your diet, making you feel full faster. It facilitates regularity of the bowel movement by speeding the passage of food through the digestive system. It may reduce the risk of colon cancer by balancing intestinal pH and improve health by stimulating intestinal fermentation to properly extract essential nutrients from food. Studies show that a diet high in dietary fiber is associated with lower blood levels of glucose and bad cholesterol. Thus, asparagus is good for people with diabetes and heart disease.
Asparagus as a Source of Potassium
A hundred grams of asparagus contains 202 mg of potassium, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Potassium is one of the most important elements in the human body as it is needed for the contraction of skeletal and heart muscles, maintenance of osmotic balance between cells and interstitial fluid, regulation of blood pressure, and neurological functions.
Asparagus as a Source of Antioxidants
Nutritionists say that vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants, and asparagus is one of them. Among the antioxidants found in asparagus are ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), glutathione, and the flavonoid rutin. These antioxidants function as detoxifiers of the body. They get rid of toxins and free radicals that damage cells, causing cancer, premature aging, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and metabolic disorders. There are no doubts about the health benefits of antioxidants; there are many studies substantiating their therapeutic properties.
Asparagus as Diuretic
Asparagus has also diuretic properties, or the ability to elevate the rate of urination. As a diuretic, asparagus may help in the treatment of heart failure, hypertension, cirrhosis, and kidney disease.
Other Nutrients Found in Asparagus
According to the USDA Nutrient database, asparagus also contains zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, and protein.
We just learned that asparagus contains essential nutrients that could protect our body against many diseases. Indeed, eating asparagus is a delicious way of getting healthy.
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