Spring is coming, and so is asparagus. Once a harbinger of spring, asparagus is now widely available year round, but it is best when you can find it locally grown (or from your own garden if you’re lucky enough to have one). I was reminded of asparagus as a spring vegetable when I came across the on line announcement of a giant frittata made with 1,000 eggs and 66 pounds of wild asparagus in a 6.5 foot wide pan to kick off the annual Asparagus Festival in Croatia. Now that’s an amazing way to celebrate the coming of spring!
Besides being delicious, asparagus is packed with nutrients. It is a great source of vitamin B6, calcium, zinc and magnesium and gives you plenty of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, iron, phosphorus, copper, potassium, selenium and manganese. A 3.5 ounce serving gives you 2.1 grams of fiber. And if you like to keep track of calories, the number you would get from eating five spears of asparagus is 20 (yes! 20).
If you do an online search for asparagus, you’re likely to see lots of claims that it cures cancer. I’m not so sure about that, but like avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts, asparagus gives you lots of glutathione, an antioxidant compound that may protect against cancer by fighting free radicals that can undermine your health. And according to an article from NYU Langone Medical Center glutathione can transform toxins such as pesticides, lead, and dry cleaning solvents so that your body can excrete them more easily. Here are some of the other health benefits of asparagus:
- May reduce the risk of diabetes: A study in diabetic rats compared treatment with an extract of asparagus with the anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide for 28 days and found that the asparagus extract suppressed blood sugar and increased insulin production. Their study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
- May prevent kidney stones: A scientific review titled “Chemical constituents of Asparagus” and published in the journal Pharmacognosy Review in 2010 indicates that eating asparagus helps flush out the kidneys and helps prevent formation of kidney stones.
How to Choose and Cook Asparagus
Choosing asparagus is easy. Just look for firm, fresh, spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter, so that all spears will cook in the same amount of time. According to the folks at the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board larger diameter spears are more tender (they should know).
Cooking asparagus is even easier than choosing it. Just drop the spears into boiling salted water, and after about a minute, test it with a small sharp knife. When the knife penetrates a spear easily, the asparagus will be crisp tender.
Look for my recipes for Creamy Asparagus Soup and Warm Spinach Asparagus Salad with Quinoa on my website and in my “Healing ADD Through Food Cookbook”.
A Final Word: About that Smell
After eating asparagus you may notice that your urine has an ammonia smell. This comes from the breakdown of sulfur compounds in the asparagus. You can’t smell the sulfur compounds in raw or cooked asparagus, but after the body metabolizes them(usually within half an hour), you may notice an ammonia-like smell to your urine. It’s harmless and goes away quickly.
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