9 Health Benefits of Asparagus
Last updated on February 25, 2011
Asparagus not only tastes delicious, but is also a wonderful source of nutrients for a healthy body and mind. Asparagus contains many anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as asparagus saponins and the flavonoids quercetin, rutin, laempferol and isorhamnetin, which all help to combat arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
Here are nine reasons to steam a cup of asparagus with your chicken.
Glutathione, found in asparagus, contains three amino acids (glumatic acid, glycine and cysteine) that combine into one molecule that serves as a powerful oxidation-reduction agent in our bodies.
Along with the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin A (beta-carotene), zinc, manganese and selenium, the glutathione in asparagus fights against free radicals that cause aging and “cellular rust.”
It is well-known that chronic inflammation and oxidation of the body’s cells can lead to a variety of different cancers. With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, asparagus is a robust fighter against bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, ovarian and other cancers.
Folate, a B complex vitamin, is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and is found in abundance in asparagus (one cup contains 66% of the RDA of folate). Firstly, it is involved in a biochemical event called the methylation cycle, which allows for the proper transcription of DNA, the transformation of norepinephrine to adrenalin and the transformation of serotonin to melatonin. Secondly, folate regulates the amino acid homocysteine, which in high levels can be a strong risk factor in heart disease. And finally, B vitamins such as choline, biotin, and pantothenic acid manage our blood sugar levels by effectively metabolizing sugars and starches.
Folate is also essential for proper cellular division. Healthy servings of asparagus can prevent a folate-deficiency, which has been linked to birth defects such as spina bifida (a congenital defect in which the spinal cord is exposed through a gap in the backbone).
The amino acid asparagine, found in asparagus, is an effective diuretic and has been historically used to treat swelling, arthritis, rheumatism, and PMS-related water retention.
Diet and Digestion
Inulin, a carbohydrate in asparagus, encourages the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, two bacteria that boost nutrient absorption, lower the risk of allergy and colon cancer, and help prevent unfriendly bacteria from taking hold in our intestinal tract. Furthermore, one cup of asparagus contains over 11% of the RDA of dietary fiber and almost 10% of the RDA of protein. The healthy fiber and protein content of asparagus stabilizes our digestion, curbs overeating, maintains a low blood sugar and prevents constipation. And finally, one cup of asparagus also contains only 43 calories.
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K (providing 114% of the RDA in one cup), which is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens the composition of our bones. Furthermore, vitamin K prevents calcium build-up in our tissue that can lead to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
As mentioned above, asparagus contains a healthy dose of the strong antioxidant vitamin C (over 30% of the RDA). Other health benefits associated with vitamin C are a lower blood pressure, healthy immune system, and resistance to age-related ocular diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.