Asparagus is a perennial plant native of European countries like Britain, Germany, Spain and Ireland.
It is a vegetable plant which is now produced by various other countries too. China is currently the world’s largest producer. (7 million tons per year)
Note: A perennial plant is one which lives for about two years.
Asparagus is a soft vegetable stem and it grows well in saline soil. It is green in colour and is made to grow in white colour by covering the young stem with the same soil while growing. Purple color asparagus is also available. It is eaten raw or cooked and by adding to various recipes. This vegetable is tender and has a unique taste, which is a favorite for many.
Asparagus is low in calories and sodium but rich in vitamins and minerals. In about just 100 gm of asparagus we get 85 cal of energy, 3.88 gm of sugar, 2.1 gm of dietary fiber and 2.2 gm of protein. But, with only 0.12 gm. of fat. Asparagus provides vitamins K, B6, E and C, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, beta-carotene and lutein zexanthin.
In addition it contains minerals potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium and zinc.
Health benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is scientifically proved to contain many health benefits in allopathic system of medicines. It has been used in siddha, Ayurveda and unani medicine preparations fr many decades now.
Prevents birth defects
The folic acid content in asparagus acts against neural tube defects and miscarriage in pregnant women. According to studies, deficiency in folate in men can also cause defective child birth. Hence it is beneficial for both men and women.
Asparagus contains high quantities of potassium. Just one cup of asparagus provides as much as 70% of vitamin K need per day. Hence bone health is improved by better absorption of calcium besides reducing excretion of calcium through urine. The good levels of vitamin K also helps in controlling the damage to the neuro system of the brain.
The natural folate in asparagus has properties that can prevent cancer. Compared to folic acid supplements, the natural folate is more beneficial in preventing cancer.
The vitamin B content in asparagus plays a vital role in the metabolism of starch and sugar. As a result, it maintains blood sugar levels within the prescribed range. Amino acids and enzymes required in the treatment of leukemia are available in asparagus. It can hence be used to naturally treat leukemia.
The lipid soluble vitamin E in asparagus is highly beneficial in protecting the skin’s health. It keeps skin supple and prevents aging.
Asparagus contains vitamin A which helps the retina in absorbing the light well. The vitamin A also provides healthy vision.
Asparagus contains 10.9% of our daily requirement of dietary fiber which activates the digestive system. Since the fiber content helps to keep the fuller feeling of the stomach for a long time the craving to eat is reduced. In addition, the potassium content in asparagus reduces fat in the belly.
Improves haemoglobin levels
The iron content in asparagus is equivalent to 15.9% of recommended daily amount of iron. As a result, it helps in improving the haemoglobin levels in the blood. Iron carries oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to lungs. This process is essential to maintain the haemoglobin level.
High level of amino acids in asparagus increases urination. It also removes excess salt in the body by releasing accumulated fluids in the body. This is called edema in medical terms. Such removal of excess fluids and salts reduces the high blood pressure and prevents diseases relating to the heart.
How to consume asparagus for optimum benefit?
Asparagus is a seasonal plant. But it is available during non-seasons also. You will obtain the full benefits of asparagus when you eat it fresh from farms. Always select only tender, soft, smooth and uniformly sized asparagus for better curing. Unlike fresh asparagus, older ones lose their sweet taste. This is because, the sugar content gets converted to starch as days progress.
Wash asparagus stems in water and then consume them raw or cooked. Although you can refrigerate asparagus, ice cold asparagus is unpleasant. The skin of older asparagus becomes thick and you have to peel it off before use. Peel gently as otherwise you will remove too much of core asparagus. Also ensure you remove the root bottom.
Please note that the potassium content in asparagus plays a significant role in blood clotting. Those who are taking blood thinner medicines should avoid asparagus.
An unpleasant odor is present in the urine if you consume lots of asparagus. However the benefits of using asparagus are so vast that you can ignore the odor.