Welcome to Veggies A- Z: Asparagus

From artichokes to zucchini (err- ok, that’s technically a fruit!) there are endless varieties of veggies for us to enjoy to make up the majority of the carbohydrate component of any healthy, balanced eating approach. Regardless of whether one follows a vegan regime, a Paleo inspired diet or even (gasp) adheres to the recommendations of the USDA, there’s no argument that incorporating veggies into one’s daily diet has tons of health benefits and, other than perhaps requiring a little time set aside to shop and prep, no downside. So why not start with something local and in season? Asparagus! During the off season, we can procure asparagus which comes from places far away, but doing so means we’re adding a big Carbon footprint, not to mention ending up with a not so fresh, not so tasty specimen. It’s worth the wait! In California, asparagus grows nearly year round[1] and is available in several varieties from white to green to purple and wild! Its health benefits include[2]:

  1. It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium.
  2. It can help fight cancer: Rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
  3. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants: It’s one of the top ranked fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process.
  4. Asparagus is a brain booster: Another anti-aging property of this delicious spring veggie is that it may help our brains fight cognitive decline. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12—found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy—to help prevent cognitive impairment
  5. It’s a natural diuretic: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but also helps rid the body of excess salts.

Now what about that topic that’s just verging on the border of too much info… the odor that some people experience coming from their urine after eating this health-boosting veggie? Studies have shown[3] that not everyone produces urine with that distinctive asparagus urine odor and that not all those that do produce urine with this smell can smell it. The smell comes from the metabolism of a sulphorous compound found in asparagus called Mercaptan, the very same compound that is found in rotten eggs, onions, garlic and skunks’ scent! Lastly, how about the myth that eating asparagus can prevent a hangover? Scientists from the Institute of Food Technologists in Chicago[4] say amino acids and minerals in the green vegetable spears can relieve the toxic effect that excess alcohol has on the liver. The issue is that these helpful compounds are much more prevalent in the asparagus plant’s leaves (which nobody eats) than in the spears. (Best bet- keep yourself in check when you’re drinking and don’t put yourself at risk for a hangover in the first place!). Blanche them, grill them, sauté them or eat them raw… or check out my recipe for Oven Roasted Asparagus with Duck Fat! Enjoy!       [1] “What’s In Season.” What’s In Season. Southland Farms, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016 [2] 5 Powerful Health Benefits of Asparagus You Probably Didn’t Know.” – EatingWell. Eating Well, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. [3] “Asparagus Facts – Different Colours, Types and Other Interesting Facts.” Asparagus Facts – Different Colours, Types and Other Interesting Facts. Asparagus Lover, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016 [4] Lallanilla, By Marc. “How Asparagus Can Prevent a Hangover.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2016