This bright green veggie has been deemed a spring superfood with good reason. It is packed with goodness - vitamins A, C, E, K, B6 and folate, as well as essential minerals like iron, copper, calcium, protein and fiber. In addition, there are many ways this nutritious vegetable can be enjoyed (be sure to take a look at our recipe tips and easy-to-prepare recipe video below).
Here are 10 reasons why you should include more asparagus in your diet this season:
1. They may help you lose weight
Asparagus is low in fat and calories (one cup is a mere 32 calories). It is also packed with lots of soluble and insoluble fiber, making it a good choice if you are trying to lose weight, primarily because your body digests fiber slowly, helping you feel satiated in between meals. In addition, asparagus can also relieve constipation and studies have shown that it may help lower cholesterol.
Recipe tip: Grill a couple of asparagus spears, lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with a perfectly poached egg.
2. They may prevent urinary tract infections
Asparagus contains the amino acid, asparagine, making it a natural diuretic. A diet rich in asparagus could therefore prevent urinary infections from developing as it helps flush excess fluid and salt from the body.
Recipe tip: Sauté a bunch of fresh asparagus and 3 cloves of garlic with 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
3. They are packed with antioxidants
Purple asparagus is packed with anthocyanins (an antioxidant that gives this type of asparagus its purple hue) which could help your body fight damaging free radicals.
Recipe tip: Cook this veggie on low heat, but do not let it boil or sauté for too long. Doing so may negate some of its nutritional benefits, causing its vitamins to be lost into the water.
4. They are a great source of vitamin E
This important antioxidant helps strengthen your immune system. Vitamin E also protects the cells from the harmful effects of free radicals.
Recipe tip: To better absorb the benefits of vitamin E, pair this nutritious veg alongside some fat, by cooking it with olive oil.
5. They are a great aphrodisiac
Asparagus is a great source of the vitamins B6 and folate, both of which have been found to help boost feelings of arousal. In addition, vitamin E has also been shown to stimulate sex hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
Recipe tip: In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 crushed garlic and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Brush the mix over the asparagus and grill for about 4 minutes on each side.
6. They can ease a hangover
Research has shown that a side of asparagus may be a better remedy for curing a hangover than a greasy breakfast. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science found that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus extract may help ease a hangover and protect liver cells from the toxins in alcohol.
Recipe tip: Drizzle the asparagus with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper, placing them in a pre-heated oven until tender. Top the asparagus with soft and custardy scrambled eggs.
7. They beat bloating
Asparagus is an anti-bloating superfood. It promotes overall digestive health (due to its soluble and insoluble fiber benefits) and is packed with prebiotics (non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics - providing a healthy balance of good bacteria in your digestive tract.) Asparagus can reduce gas, and as a natural diuretic, it can help flush excess liquid reducing a belly bulge.
Recipe tip: Infuse some olive oil with orange zest and red pepper flakes and drizzle atop a handful of asparagus spears and green beans.
8. They are a great source of folic acid
Folic acid is essential for women who are trying for a baby, because it can help protect against neural tube defects. According to a study published in 2009, PLoS Medicine found that folic acid can help reduce the effects of premature birth by 50% when taken for at least a year before conception. Just four asparagus spears contain 22% of your recommended daily allowance.
Recipe tip: Asparagus is best served alongside some fat. Combine a tablespoon of butter with some chopped fresh mint and drizzle over a handful of steamed asparagus.
9. They are packed with vitamin K
Asparagus is a good source of vitamin K - a crucial nutrient for coagulation (it helps the body stop bleeding after a cut) and it also contributes to bone health. While calcium is essential for healthy bones, vitamin K can actually help your body absorb calcium.
Recipe tip: Combine some mayonnaise, olive oil, white wine vinegar and dijon mustard over a bunch of steamed asparagus.
10. They boost your mood
Folate - a B vitamin found in asparagus - has been shown to lift your spirits and help keep irritability at bay. Studies have shown that low levels of folate and B12 occured among people who suffer from depression. In addition, asparagus contains high levels of tryptophan - an amino acid that has also been linked to better mood.
Recipe tip: Bacon is a good source of vitamin B12 and pairs exceptionally well with a handful of asparagus.
Bonus: A delicious way to enjoy asparagus!
Here's How: Simply roll out a rectangular sheet of puff pastry and make a border (as shown). With a fork, poke holes at the bottom, allowing the pastry to cook through. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes then brush a honey dijon mix atop, followed by some balsamic vinegar. Top the pastry with a good amount of grated Swiss and Parmesan cheese (or as much as desired) then layer the asparagus over the cheese, brushing each spear with some olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and some pepper and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Drizzle some Hollandaise sauce over the pastry and serve!