Asparagus is currently in season and found in stores and farmers markets. This vegetable is versatile and healthy. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is used fresh, frozen or canned. Asparagus is often seen in in salads, side dishes, entrées or as an appetizer. As far as preparation is concerned it can be boiled, steamed, microwaved, roasted or stir-fried.
Did you know five medium spears are only 20 calories, contain no saturated fat, sodium or cholesterol, is high in vitamins A, C, E, K and B6 as well as folate, iron, copper, calcium, protein and fiber.
Why add asparagus to your nutritional choices? There are several reasons.
If you are trying to lose weight, asparagus contains a lot of soluble and insoluble fiber. Because your body digests fiber slowly, it keeps you feeling full in between meals. Asparagus also contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, making it a natural diuretic. Eating this vegetable can help flush excess fluid and salt from your body. This may help prevent urinary tract infections in people prone to recurrent UTIs.
Additionally, the high b-vitamins content along with high levels of tryptophan serve to elevate your mood and chase the blues away. Asparagus is also credited with naturally increasing estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Some people notice a slight aphrodisiac effect with the increase. This aphrodisiac effect is due to vitamin B6 and folate, which can help boost feelings of arousal. Interestingly, 2009 research in the "Journal of Food Science" also cited asparagus as a good hang-over remedy. The minerals and amino acids in asparagus appear to ease hang-overs and possibly have a protectant effect on the liver.
If you are not sure about serving asparagus alone then start by adding it to other foods. Lightly steamed or sautéed asparagus can be added to scrambled eggs or an omelet. Likewise, it can be added to stir-fried dishes.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous then consider serving asparagus as a vegetable side dish. With grilling season at hand, don't hesitate to drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, add some garlic, onion and any other favored spices and placed foil wrapped on the grill (five to eight minutes cooking time). This same method of simple preparation can be done in the oven as well (450 degrees for about 10-15 minutes). Do you prefer your vegetables crispy? If so, then lightly coat fresh asparagus with extra virgin olive oil and toss with favorite seasonings and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until crispy.
As a nutrient rich food asparagus is a great addition to any diet. Factor in the various health benefits from those vitamins, minerals and amino acids and adding asparagus to your plate becomes a win-win choice!
Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. She has her doctorate degree in naturopathy, a master's degree in health and wellness, a bachelor's degree in public health education and is a certified wellness specialist. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.