Glenn Cardwell, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist with 30 years of experience in clinical and public health nutrition report has developed this nutrition profile for asparagus. Glenn presents on food, nutrition and healthy eating throughout Australia and internationally and was awarded Life Membership to Nutrition Australia for his work in nutrition education. You can find out more about Glenn’s work www.glenncardwell.com
Asparagus has abundant nutrition packed into every spear, including a range of B group vitamins, vitamin C and potassium. Add to that the emerging research that asparagus has bio-active compounds like antioxidants, that are helping protect the body against future disease and you have a pretty impressive vegetable.
B group vitamins help the body convert fuel from the diet, such as carbohydrate, into energy. With sufficient B vitamins it is easier for us to be active and get the best out of each day. Asparagus provides the complement of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin and vitamin B6, all helping enzymes do their job in the normal metabolism of the body.
One B vitamin that is of particular interest is folate because of its One B vitamin that is of particular interest is folate because of its powerful health benefits. For example, adequate folate during pregnancy helps Mum deliver a healthy baby (too little folate is linked to spinal deformities in babies). One serve of asparagus provides over 20% of the folate we need daily.
*One serve of asparagus provides a quarter of our daily needs of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and helps in the absorption of iron in the diet.
Potassium & Sodium
A diet high in potassium and low in sodium (salt), helps keep a steady heartbeat and healthy blood pressure. Asparagus has the balance right: plenty of potassium and virtually no sodium.
Iron is a very important mineral for healthy blood. Although asparagus provides only a modest amount of iron, being high in vitamin C, the body is better able to absorb the iron that asparagus, and other vegetables, provides.
Antioxidants & Bioactive Compounds in Asparagus
Asparagus provides some powerful antioxidants, such as rutin, carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene), flavonoids, vitamin C, saponins and glutathione, all helping to keep our bodies healthy now and long into the future.
* One serve of asparagus = 75 g or 3-4 spears.
Seven Very Good Reasons to Eat Asparagus
- Asparagus has a great flavour and is very affordable.
- Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre. That makes it a must for any diet, including a weight loss diet.
- Asparagus provides the essential B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin.
- Asparagus is a great source of folate, with a serve giving us over 20% of our daily needs. Folate is important for expectant mothers and for reducing heart disease risk.
- It’s not only fruit that gives us vitamin C. A serve of asparagus provides about a quarter of our daily needs of vitamin C.
- Asparagus has a brilliant range of bio-active compounds, such as antioxidants like rutin and beta-carotene. The research strongly suggests that the bio-active compounds in asparagus are keeping us healthy, well into old age.
- Asparagus has potassium to help keep our blood pressure healthy.
Asparagus Facts & Myths
Asparagus cures cancer. False.
You may see an email suggesting that asparagus cures cancer. It says it comes from an article written by Richard R Vensal, published in the Cancer News Journal. No one has been able to find a copy of the journal article or the whereabouts of Mr. Vensal. We have to assume this is one of the many internet hoaxes that turn up in your email. Vegetables, like asparagus, certainly reduce the risk of getting cancer, but sadly, there is no evidence of a single vegetable curing cancer.
Asparagus makes your pee smell funny. True (for some people).
To make the asparagus plant less attractive to parasites it produces a compound called asparagusic acid. This same compound, when eaten, is metabolised to other compounds that provide the characteristic bouquet of pee after we eat asparagus. Some people claim they notice the odour of their pee changes to one reminding them of cabbage, vegetable soup or, as you would expect, asparagus.
It is still not clear which of the 29 proposed compounds give urine its asparagus smell. Some people don’t produce enough of the odorous compounds to be smelled in urine. Some people don’t have the ability to smell the compounds in urine even when they are present in sufficient amount.
Although we all excrete the same compounds after eating asparagus, only around one in two people from a Caucasian background, and nine out of ten from a Chinese background can smell it. Whether our pee changes in odour after eating asparagus is all academic really because asparagusic acid and its metabolites are harmless.
Asparagus is a diuretic. False.
Although some early research 70 years ago suggested asparagus is a diuretic, more recent research does not confirm that asparagus can stimulate excess urine production, nor can it specifically lower high blood pressure. However, as fresh asparagus is high in potassium and low in sodium (salt), like all vegetables and fruit, it will help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Asparagus is a good source of folate. True.
A serve of fresh asparagus can provide over 20% of our needs for this valuable vitamin. Expectant Mums need adequate folate for healthy babies, while everybody’s heart and arteries seem to be thankful for plenty of folate in the diet.
Asparagus is a cause of gout. False.
Foods that are high in purines may cause a flare-up of a gout attack. Asparagus is not high in purines and, nowadays, very few physicians would recommend eliminating any vegetable from the diet of someone with gout.
After reviewing all the evidence about food and gout Dr Choi, Professor of Medicine, Boston, USA recommended the consumption of vegetables, including those with purine, because people who ate the most vegetables had a 27% reduction in their risk of gout compared to those eating the least amount of vegetables. A recent study also found no association between purine-rich vegetables and blood uric acid levels.
Gout tends to greatly improve with weight control, exercise and avoidance alcohol and, possibly, very high purine foods like offal and some seafood. Often medication is used to alleviate the painful symptoms of gout in joints. There is no reason to avoid or limit asparagus in our diet.
Click here to download the complete “Spearheading Health with Asparagus” report by Glenn Cardwell.