Asparagus

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When bunches of bright green asparagus spears arrive in the farmers’ market, you know spring has officially sprung. In Germany, the veg is such a hopeful sign of warmer weather to come that entire festivals are dedicated to it.

There is a good reason to celebrate asparagus. Asparagus brings high levels of folate, an essential vitamin for DNA health, and antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals. The green spears hold a wealth of nutrients such as vitamins A and C that also fight cell-damaging free radicals. Asparagus even has an abundance of vitamin K to keep our bones strong.

Asparagus contains quercetin, a phytonutrient that has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. Current research involving animals is exploring the potential anticancer properties of quercetin. Another phytonutrient within asparagus are saponins, which is currently being studied for its anti-inflammatory properties in mice.

It is important to note that the effects on cancer cells have been shown only in animal studies and at this time cannot be applied to humans. More research is needed before these results can inform dietary recommendations. However, it is exciting to note the emerging research being done on the potential anti-cancer properties of plants, as it reminds us of the importance of including a variety of phytonutrient-rich plant foods in our diet to provide the best protection against cancer and other chronic illnesses.

If you’ve ever noticed that your urine smells peculiar after you’ve eaten asparagus, you’re not alone, In fact, it’s believed that everyone produces an odor after eating the veg, but only about one in five of us has olfactory receptors sensitive enough to notice it.  In any case, it’s normal and there is nothing to worry about.

Chef Tips

Asparagus comes in white, green, and purple variations, and is available year-round. Green is the most commonly found variety, and the fresher it is, the better it tastes. Its spears can be as slender as pencils, or as thick as your finger. White asparagus – a great delicacy in northern Europe — is usually larger and more expensive.

You don’t need any special cookware to cook asparagus. The most important thing to remember when preparing asparagus is not to overcook it.  It should keep its bright green color and not get too limp. If it turns a dull olive green, it’s overcooked.

Fresh asparagus spears are great, either served with a sharp Mustard Vinaigrette, or added to salads and pasta.  If you want a simple side, try our Baked Asparagus Fries.  Other delicious, easy ways to feature asparagus in a meal are our Asparagus Risotto, or our Asparagus Soup with Spring Herbs.

Registered Dietitian Approved

There are many misconceptions about nutrition and cancer in widespread media. By using current scientific literature and recommendations from the Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, 2nd Ed., published by the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, a professional interest group of the  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society, our Registered Dietitian, Kate Ueland, MS, RD, CSO and our team of editors work to help our readers discern truth from myth. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Always consult your physician or registered dietitian for specific medical advice.

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