Healing Power of Asparagus
Protection in Spears
Okay, so you don’t like asparagus that much because every time you go to the toilet, your urine seems to have an unpleasant odour about it. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that before after eating even a small amount of Asparagus. But it’s nothing to be alarmed about and there’s also no need to go rushing off to the emergency room either. There are several reasons why you should add asparagus to your dinner plate, because this tasty vegetable will help keep your immune system strong, help lower your cholesterol, prevent diabetes, cancer, heart disease and then some.
Asparagus is also an excellent source of folate and vitamin E and contains fructooligosaccharides, which helps promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. It is also a natural diuretic.
Did you know that during the 17th century France, asparagus was extremely popular among the royal household, and not just for its amazing fresh taste, but also because of the tender spears were thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac? For asparagus connoisseurs, there’s no better a welcome sign when those brilliant green tips start poking their heads above ground. It’s also a welcome sign for your health as well since asparagus contains compounds that can help in the fight against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects.
Asparagus is filled with folate, a B vitamin, that is essential for helping your cells to regenerate. Just five spears contain 110 micrograms of folate, which is about 28 percent of the daily value. We should all be taking in about 400 micrograms of folate a day for optimum health and if you’re a woman and are pregnant, you might want to take in as much as 600 micrograms. Not only is folate excellent for women in their childbearing years, it also helps in the fight against heart disease in men and women.
Folate you see acts as a floodgate that controls the amount of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the bloodstream. When folate levels drop, homocysteine levels rise, causing damage to the tender arteries that supply blood to your heart as well as your brain. Getting enough folate may be just as important for preventing heart disease as it is for controlling cholesterol.
If only we would increase our intake of folate to at least 400 micrograms a day, we would see the number of deaths caused by heart disease drop considerably. Would you believe it if I said that only about 12 percent of people in the western world are getting that amount? Now you don’t have to get all your folate from asparagus, other foods richly endowed with folate include broccoli, spinach, Bok Choy and cauliflower to name but just a few.
Healing Power of Asparagus – Protection against Cancer
Not only is asparagus good for your heart, this succulent green vegetable offers powerful protection against cancer too. And the reason for this is because asparagus contains several compounds that can help stop cancer-causing substances before they do you harm. The first of these substances is folate, which I’ve already covered in this article. But just for the record, if you have plenty of folate in your blood, your chances of developing colon cancer will be significantly less likely.
The second most protective substance in asparagus is something called glutathione, a protein that acts as a powerful detoxifying compound that helps remove poisonous free radicals – high-energy particles, that when left unchecked, has the effect of ricocheting wildly through your body, scarring and punching holes in your cells and doing the type of damage that can easily lead to serious cancer. Asparagus is one of those vegetables that is ranked at the top of the list for its glutathione content.
Adding to the list of benefits, asparagus is able to ward off many common health related problems with its anti-inflammatory properties, including problems such as certain cancers, heart disease and all types of diabetes. Not only does asparagus contain substances such as glutathione and folate, but it’s also packed with a lot of other important goodies like vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, vitamin K, selenium, manganese, calcium, zinc, and iron.
Asparagus for your Heart
Another reason to add asparagus to your plate is that this veggie contains vitamin E which is great for your heart. Getting just 10 international units of vitamin E a day can substantially reduce your risk of heart disease. Five spears of asparagus have around 0.4 international units of vitamin E, which is about one percent of the daily value.
While it may be difficult for you to eat a tonne of asparagus to get all the vitamin E alone, you also get vitamin E in dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, swiss chard, and kale, as well as in nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecan nuts. Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame are also excellent sources of vitamin E, as are avocados, squash, pumpkin, broccoli and fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, mangoes, peaches, apricots, and guavas.
And vitamin E does a lot more than protect you from heart disease, it may also even help prevent Type II or non-insulin dependent diabetes. It does this by protecting your pancreas (the organ that produces insulin) and also by influencing how your body burns sugar. People with low levels of vitamin E also run the risk of developing diabetes by nearly four times to that of people who get plenty of this vitamin on a regular basis.
Getting the most out of your Asparagus
Because folate is destroyed by exposure to air, heat, or light, you need to take special care when storing asparagus. The best way to store asparagus is to make sure it’s not over-exposed to light and should be placed in the back of your refrigerator or in a produce drawer. When it comes to cooking asparagus, vigorous boiling isn’t necessary. You also have to remember that this vegetable is extremely tender, so in order not to destroy too many of the nutrients, you may want to microwave your asparagus instead. Even steaming asparagus can eliminate some of the nutrients.
Since most of the nutrients in asparagus are in the tips, it’s far better to simply slow cook them upright in a tall container rather than piling them at the bottom of a baking dish. Just add a few inches of water to the pot, cover with a lid, and bring to a simmer. The reason you should keep the tips of the asparagus out of the water is that this way you’ll not only preserve the nutrients, but it also helps the stalks cook more evenly as well as much more quickly.
Asparagus in your Kitchen
Asparagus you might not believe is among the easiest vegetables to prepare and cook. What’s more, its natural freshness means that you don’t necessarily need to add butter or a sauce to bring out its delicate flavour. To enjoy its great taste effortlessly here’s what you should do… When purchasing asparagus, always take a close look at the tips. Fresh asparagus tips should be compact and tightly furled. If the tips look loose and frayed, chances are the asparagus is getting old and you should consider giving them a complete miss.
Although you can eat asparagus from top to bottom, the last bit of the stalk can be rather woody and tough and is usually discarded. And the easiest way to do this is simply to bend the stalk which should naturally snap off where the tough end stops and the tender part starts. However, if the spears are thick, the snap method could waste the perfectly good flesh. To preserve more of the stalk, use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom area of each spear. Using a sharp knife, you can easily prod the point where the flesh turns woody. Then simply cut the bottom off there.