From our May 23, 2011 newsletter:
From early times, asparagus has been used as a vegetable because of its delicate flavor, and medicinally for its diuretic properties. Only young shoots are commonly eaten. As the buds open the shoots quickly turn woody and have a very strong flavor. Asparagus is low in calories and sodium, but also a good source in vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It is however a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Folate (vitamin B9) and Iron. Asparagus also contains Chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Asparagus also contains other trace minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium. One of the things you should be aware of however is that a large portion of the calories comes from the asparagus sugars. Approximately, 68% of the calories are from carbohydrates, 5% are from fat and the other 27% are from protein.
Asparagus can be prepared many different ways, although here in the United States, it is typically served as a side dish. In Asian-style cooking, asparagus is often stir-fried with chicken, shrimp or beef. It can also be wrapped in bacon and grilled over charcoal or hardwood embers. It can be used in soups and stews. In the French style (and my favorite!), it is steamed and served with sauce. You can use a hollandaise sauce, melted butter or olive oil, and top with parmesan cheese.
Galen, a second century physician described asparagus as “cleansing and healing”. Nutritionally, asparagus is a low-calorie source of folate and potassium. Six spears contain approximately 135 micrograms of folate, almost half the recommended daily intake. Research suggests that folate is a key nutrient in taming homocysteine, a substance implicated in heart disease. Folate is also critical for pregnant women, as it protects against neural tube defects in babies. Six spears of Asparagus also 20 milligrams of potassium. Studies indicate that potassium may help reduce the loss of calcium in the body.
Asparagus stalks are high in antioxidants. Green asparagus is a good source of vitamin C, which helps the body produce and maintain collagen, a major protein in the body’s connective tissues. Asparagus is a natural diuretic; containing substances that neutralize ammonia which can make us tired. It can also protect small blood vessels from rupturing. Its high fiber content makes it a natural laxative.