This humble vegetable coming into season now is truly a superfood. It has so many health benefits that you can forgive it the slight funky smell it causes to your wee…
Better Mood, Sleep and Digestion
Asparagus is rich in fibre and also contains a noteworthy amount of protein and high Tryptophan levels – an amino acid that is the raw material for our happy hormone (Serotonin) and sleeping hormone (melatonin). Both fibre and protein help to stabilize our digestion and keep food moving through us at the desirable rate.
Better Nutrient Absorption
It has rich concentrations of inulin, a unique type of carbohydrate called a polyfructan. Unlike most other carbohydrates, inulin doesn’t get broken down in the first segments of our digestive tract. It passes undigested all the way to our large intestine. Once it arrives at our large intestine, it becomes an ideal food source for certain types of bacteria (like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli) that are associated with better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy, and lower risk of colon cancer.
Contains Anti-inflammatory Nutrients
Asparagus is being heralded as an anti-inflammatory food because it provides a truly unique combination of anti-inflammatory nutrients, called saponins. One of these saponins (sarsasapogenin) has been of special interest in relationship to chronic, neurodegenerative diseases.
Alongside these anti-inflammatory Phytonutrients, asparagus provides a wide variety of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc, manganese, selenium, and a small amount of vitamin E.
Eliminates Excess Water
Asparagus also contains a valuable amount of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) – one of the body’s best-studied antioxidants and detoxifier. With its diuretic asparagine content it has the capacity to eliminate excess water from tissues, helping water retention and kidney problems.
May Reduce Risks of Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
While we have yet to see large-scale dietary studies that examine chronic diseases in humans and asparagus intake, we would expect asparagus intake to show reduced chronic disease risk in two particular areas, namely, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Very Good Source of B Vitamins
As an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, it also contains the B vitamins choline, biotin, and pantothenic acid. Because B vitamins play a key role in the metabolism of sugars and starches, they are critical for healthy blood sugar management. And because they play a key role in regulation of homocysteine, they are critical in heart health as well.(Homocysteine is a natural metabolic by-product, and when it reaches excessive levels in our blood, it is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.) In addition, asparagus helps to clear the arteries of cholesterol.
May Reduce Risk for Certain Cancers
As a result of its very strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrient composition, I would definitely expect to see a food like asparagus showing up as a risk reducer for certain cancers. Chronic, excessive inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are risk factors for a variety of cancer types, and both unwanted phenomena are related to deficient dietary intake of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients-exactly the kind of nutrients that are especially plentiful in asparagus
In animal studies and cell studies are clear – asparagus and asparagus extracts can change the metabolic activity of cancer cell types, and these changes are protective in nature and related to better regulation of inflammation and oxidative stress. Cancer cells from the liver are best-studied in this regard. Human clinical trials however are lacking.
Buy in Season – from your local organic farmer
I am blessed here in Limerick to have fantastic organic producers around me, like Stephen Powel of Meelick Bay Farm, selling his produce every Saturday on the Milk Market.