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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Astonishing Asparagus

Spring is here; and along with it comes the warm weather, beautiful flowers and sunny afternoon walks.  But more importantly, the fresh produce starts coming in soon.  Finally, after a long winter of frozen vegetables people can start buying fresh from the farmers market and enjoy the true flavor of “fresh.”  One of the vegetables native to March is asparagus.  These tasty stalks are from the lily family, which also arrive in April. 


In addition to bursting with flavor and texture, asparagus is packed full of nutrients and stripped clean of calories.  Four asparagus shoots are only 13 calories with 12% of the Daily Value of vitamin A, 38% vitamin K and 22% folate.  This wealth in folate is important because many scientists believe folate deficiency to be one of the most common deficiencies in the USA [1].  Folate deficiency increase ones risk for heart disease and causes megaloblastic anemia which could result in depression, irritability, forgetfulness and disturbed sleep [1].  Additionally, the fetuses of pregnant women who do not consume enough folate are at risk for neural tube defects [1].  Getting enough folate before pregnancy can prevent such mishaps.  Fotunately, asparagus is high in folate and other vitamins while it is low in calories and easy to prepare.

The good stuff does not stop there; asparagus is also called a prebiotic food.  Everyone has heard of probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt that promotes digestive health, but what about prebiotics.  Prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.  Prebiotics not only nourish the good bacteria which reduce pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and clostridia while beneficial microbiota also decrease carcinogen activity in the gut [2].  So on top of being packed with healthy goodies, asparagus also promotes good digestive health.

With all these benefits, eating asparagus is a no brainer but preparing it properly may be tricky.  Asparagus, like many other vegetables lose a significant amount of vitamins during preparation because they dissolve in the cooking water.  In order to preserve the greatest amount of vitamins steam, bake or grill your veggies.  My favorite way to prepare asparagus is to cut off the woody bottoms, rinse them with water thoroughly, then place them in a baking pan.  Drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bon Appetite!

References:

1.            Insel, P., E. Turner, and D. Ross, Nutrition. 2 ed. 2004, Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

2.            Mahan, K. and S. Escott-Stump, Krause's Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy. 11 ed. 2004, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Saubers.

 

2 comments:

  1. Thanks so much Sarene for this informative entry! I can't wait to bake my asparagus tonight as a side to my homemade shrimp fettucine Alfredo! :)

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