Nutrition / DietPregnancy / Obstetrics

Asparagus: Things you should know

In many parts of the world, asparagus is a common vegetable. People eat it raw or cooked, depending on the form of asparagus, and in dishes like soups, stews, salads, or on its own

Heart and bone health may be improved by the nutrients in asparagus, while the folate and iron it provides can be particularly beneficial during pregnancy.

Find out more here about the nutritional value of the vegetable, potential health benefits, and how to integrate it into the diet.

Advantages

A variety of health benefits can be offered by the nutrients in asparagus.

Supporting fetal development

Asparagus
Asparagus is a nutrient-rich and easy-to-prepare vegetable.

Asparagus is rich in folate, also known as vitamin B-9. In cell growth, this nutrient plays an important role.

Folate is an essential nutrient and is particularly important in periods of rapid growth, such as during gestation, infancy, and adolescence.

During pregnancy, taking folic acid supplements tends to help reduce pregnancy loss and protect the developing fetus from defects of the neural tube.

Also, because of folate deficiency anemia, individuals who do not get enough folate from their diets can experience weakness and fatigue.

One cup of 134 gram (g) asparagus can provide about 17 percent of the daily folate requirement of an adult.

Lower risk of depression

According to a research article published in 2008, Folate could also decrease the risk of depression.

By preventing too much homocysteine from forming in the body, it can do so. Homocysteine is an amino acid that can block the brain from reaching the blood and nutrients.

It can also interfere with the development of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine if too much homocysteine is present. Such hormones regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.

Stroke

According to research reviewed by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) , the use of folate to control homocysteine levels may minimize the risk of stroke.

The data comes from experiments in which folate supplements were taken by people. However, dietary sources of folate may also be helpful.

Cardiovascular health

Fiber, potassium, and antioxidants are found in asparagus, all of which can promote heart health.

Fiber

A 2017 study authors found that people who eat a high fiber diet tend to have lower blood pressure and less lipoprotein of low density, or “bad,” cholesterol in their blood.

A cup of asparagus can provide about 10 percent of the daily fiber needs of an adult.

Potassium

The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages individuals, while increasing their intake of potassium, to minimize their consumption of added salt or sodium, as this will help control blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants

The body naturally produces toxic molecules known as free radicals, and if too many build up, they can cause harm. One consequence of this could be cardiovascular disease.

Asparagus antioxidants may contribute to cardiovascular health, like beta carotene, tocopherol, and selenium, because antioxidants may battle free radicals.

Find more detail on foods that are high in antioxidants here.

Preventing osteoporosis

Phosphorus, iron, vitamin K, and some calcium are found in asparagus, all of which contribute to bone health.

A cup of asparagus can provide almost half of the daily vitamin K requirement of an adult, and a 2018 study, for instance, concludes that vitamin K improves bone health in different ways and can help prevent osteoporosis.

In the meantime, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium are among the minerals that maintain the health of the bone, and all of these are found in asparagus.

One cup of asparagus provides approximately 10 percent of a person’s daily phosphorus requirement and one-sixth to one-third of their iron requirement.

Cancer prevention

In the body, elevated levels of free radicals can lead to damage to cells that can lead to cancer. Asparagus contains a number of antioxidants that can help remove these unwanted substances from the body.

Scientists have found connections between low folate concentrations and different types of cancer, according to the ODS. They note, however, that more research is required to decide what role dietary folate can play.

According to the findings of a population-based screening trial published in 2015, fiber can help prevent colorectal cancer. The investigators found that people with high fiber diets were substantially less likely than those who consumed low levels of fiber to develop colorectal cancer.

Digestion

Asparagus is rich in fiber and water. Both help avoid constipation and keep the digestive tract healthy.

Nutrition

Asparagus may be frozen, raw, precooked, or preserved in different ways. The dietary content varies accordingly.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the table below shows the amount of each nutrient in 1 cup, or 134 grams (g), of raw asparagus (USDA).

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Recommendations for Americans, it also indicates how much of each nutrient an adult requires. However, requirements vary, based on sex and age.

NutrientAmount in 1 cupDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)26.81,600–3,000
Carbohydrate (g)5.2, including 2.5 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)2.822.4–33.6
Protein (g)3.046–56
Calcium (millgrams [mg])32.21,000–1,300
Iron (mg)2.98–18
Magnesium (mg)18.8310–420
Phosphorus (mg)69.7700–1,250
Potassium (mg)2714,700
Zinc (mg)0.78–11
Manganese (mg)0.21.6–2.3
Choline (mg)21.4400–550
Selenium (micrograms [mcg])3.055
Vitamin C (mg)7.565–90
Folate (mcg, DFE)69.7400
Betaine (mg)0.8No data
Beta carotene (mcg)602No data
Lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)951No data
Vitamin E (mg)1.515
Vitamin K (mcg)55.775–120
Vitamin A (mcg) RAE50.9700–900

Asparagus also contains B vitamins and a range of antioxidants.

Diet

Green, white, or purple may be asparagus. When the stalks are dry and tight, not soft, limp, or wilted, people should buy them. A person can eat it raw or cooked.

To keep the asparagus healthy, wrap the ends of the stem in a wet paper towel and store the asparagus in a fridge in a plastic bag.

A person can eat young asparagus whole. However, removing the bottoms of older, larger, thicker stems may be a good idea, as these can be tough and woody.

Tips for preparing and serving

Some tips for integrating asparagus into the diet are as follows:

  • Steam whole asparagus for 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Add a handful of fresh asparagus to an omelet or scramble.
  • Saute asparagus in a little olive oil and minced garlic. Season it with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Add chopped asparagus to a salad or wrap.
  • Place asparagus on a large piece of aluminum foil. Add lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, wrap the vegetables in the foil and bake them for 20 minutes at 400°F, or until the asparagus reaches desired tenderness.

Recipes

Most of the following tasty recipes were developed by registered dietitians:

Risks

Individuals with certain chronic diseases should not eat too much asparagus.

In blood clotting, vitamin K plays a part. Anyone taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin), should not increase or decrease their vitamin K intake unexpectedly. It is important to first discuss with a doctor any significant dietary changes.

There are also asparagus extract supplements available for purchase, but before trying these or any other supplements, talk to a doctor.

Supplements can interfere with or otherwise be unsuitable for some individuals with medication.

Conclusion

Like many vegetables, asparagus can make a tasty and healthful addition to the diet.

Asparagus is also among the 15 varieties of produce least likely to contain large quantities of pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group’s assessment for 2019.

When taking into account the observed health benefits of any food, it is important to remember that researchers tend to work with higher concentrations of nutrients than those available from food.

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is more important than boosting the consumption of any fruit or vegetable, for example.

Sources

  • Akbari, S., & Rasouli-Ghahroudi, A. A. (2018). Vitamin K and bone metabolism: A review of the latest evidence in preclinical studies.
    (LINK)
  • Anderson, J. W., et al.  (2009). Health benefits of dietary fiber [Abstract].
    (LINK)
  • Antioxidants and cancer prevention. (2017).
    (LINK)
  • A primer on potassium. (2018).
    (LINK)
  • Asparagus, raw. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Clean fifteen: EWG’s 2019 shopper’s guide to pesticide in produce. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Folate: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Folic acid. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Kunzmann, A. T., et al. (2015). Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. 
    (LINK)
  • Everything you need to know about asparagus (LINK)
  • Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2008). Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. 
    (LINK)
  • Leopold, J. A. (2015). Antioxidants and coronary artery disease: From pathophysiology to preventive therapy.
    (LINK)
  • McRae, M. P. (2017). Dietary fiber is beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: An umbrella review of meta-analyses.
    (LINK)
  • Minerals for bone health. (2016).
    (LINK)
  • Nutritional goals for age-sex groups based on dietary reference intakes and Dietary Guidelines recommendations. (n.d.).
    (LINK)

Back to top button