Asparagus: Nutritional Balance
Considered a delicacy since ancient times, asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence. It leads nearly all produce items in the wide array of nutrients it supplies in significant amounts for a healthy diet. The spears of asparagus are both succulent and tender.
Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.
In addition, asparagus contains compounds that stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines, which aids food in moving through the colon.
With just 25 calories in eight medium-sized asparagus spears, you get 25 percent of your daily vitamin A and 15 percent of your vitamin C, plus essential folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance for folacin.
Asparagus is also low in sodium, contains no fat or cholesterol, is a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamin B6 (in addition to the folic acid).
The mineral profile of asparagus, combined with an active amino acid it contains called asparagine, gives asparagus a diuretic effect.
Asparagus Nutrition Information
- Asparagus is low in calories; only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.
- Asparagus contains no fat or cholesterol.
- Asparagus is very low in sodium.
- Asparagus is a good source of potassium.
- Asparagus is a good source of fiber (3 grams per 5.3 ounce serving).
- Asparagus is an excellent source of folacin.
- Asparagus is a significant source of thiamin.
- Asparagus is a significant source of vitamin B6.
- Asparagus is one of the richest sources of rutin, a drug which strengthens capillary walls.
- Asparagus contains glutathione (GSH).
Selecting and Storing Asparagus
Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips. The cut ends should not be too woody, although a little woodiness at the base prevents the stalk from drying out. Once trimmed and cooked, asparagus loses about half its total weight. Occasionally, white asparagus that has a milder flavor than green asparagus is available. Some markets also offer purple asparagus, which has a fruitier flavor than green or white asparagus.
Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel. Be sure to place the asparagus in the back of the refrigerator away from any light, since folate is destroyed by exposure to air, heat or light.
Speaking of folate, asparagus is richly endowed with it. Folate is a B vitamin that is essential in helping cells regenerate. Five asparagus spears contain 110mcg of folate, about 28 percent of the Daily Value. In addition to folate, another protective compound in asparagus is glutathione, a powerful antioxidant.
- For hors d'oeuvres, roast asparagus along with other vegetables such as Portobello mushrooms and beets.
- Steam asparagus and serve with light lemon vinaigrette for a refreshing salad.
- Toss freshly cooked pasta with asparagus, olive oil and your favorite pasta spices.
- Chopped asparagus makes a healthful, flavorful and colorful addition to omelets.
- Saute asparagus with garlic, shiitake mushrooms and tofu or chicken.
Note: Persons who experience a strong odor in their urine after eating asparagus are not in any danger from eating this vegetable. A variety of different chemicals - all breakdown products of asparagus - can be found in the urine in connection with the "asparagus smell".
Asparagus as an Aphrodisiac?
In spite of its humble and not-too-attrative appearance, asparagus is legendary for it's aphrodisiac status. (Really!) Asparagus is rich in vitamin B6 and folate, both of which can boost arousal and orgasm. And it also boasts vitamin E, which stimulates sex hormones in both men and women.
Quick Fresh Asparagus
Prepare 1 pound fresh asparagus quickly and easily using your microwave.
In a microwave safe dish large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, arrange the spears with the stem ends against the short edges of the dish and the tips facing the center. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid, and microwave on high for 6 1/2 to 9 1/2 minutes.
Halfway through the cooking process, remove the dish from the oven and rearrange the asparagus so that the ones along the long sides of the pan, which have been receiving the most intense heat, are in the middle, and the ones in the middle are along the sides. Re-wrap and continue to cook. When the asparagus are done, unwrap the pan carefully, keeping your face away from the steam.
Spring Asparagus and Biscuits Recipe
2 cups (8 oz.) cut, trimmed, fresh asparagus or
1 package (10 oz.) frozen, cut asparagus
1 cup plus 2-tablespoons packaged buttermilk biscuit mix
1/3 cup fat free milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups fat free milk
2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
1/3 cup fat free Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds, optional
Cook asparagus in small amount of water until crisp-tender; drain. Set aside. Using biscuit mix and 1/3-cup milk, prepare biscuits according to package directions. Cut biscuits with 2-1/2 inch cutter. Bake according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, mix together margarine, flour and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to bubble. Add milk and bouillon. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture boils. Cook and stir one minute longer. Add remaining ingredients except almonds. Cook about three minutes longer or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Serve over hot biscuits garnished with almonds.
Note: If using bakery biscuits, omit buttermilk biscuit mix and the 1/3-cup milk. Yield: 4 Servings
Nutrition information per 1-cup creamed asparagus, 1 biscuit: Calories: 420; Protein: 23g; Carbohdyrates: 38; Total Fat: 12g; Cholesterol: 23g; Sodium: 1,223
P.S. May is National Asparagus Month.
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