Asparagus: A Nutritious Choice for Spring Dishes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • It’s spring and my appetite turns to vegetables. And one of the first vegetables to come into season in spring is the asparagus. These tasty spears are actually really good for you!

    In researching this vegetable, I found a really cool website called NutritionData put together by Self. It turns out that a cup of asparagus that is boiled is 32 calories, but provides 12% of the daily recommendation for dietary fiber.  A cup also provides you with 29% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A as well as 73% of the recommendation for vitamin C.  While low in cholesterol and sodium, asparagus is also a good source of iron, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of protein, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), vitamin k, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.

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    The estimated glycemic load is 1, which works well since the typical glycemic target total daily is 100 or less. In addition, asparagus is moderately anti-inflammatory with a rate of 112, which can be compared to the typical target rate of 50 per day or higher. Asparagus also got a five-star rating for both weight loss and optimum health from NutritionData. NutritionData rated foods that are both nutrition and filling as better choices for weight loss; they also rated foods that have more essential nutrients per calorie are better choices for optimum health.  Dr. Andrew Weil, a clinical professor of medicine and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, noted that researchers believe that the benefits of eating asparagus include heart health, a healthy fluid balance, and prevention of birth defects.

    The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board described asparagus as a member of the Lily family. The spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils. An asparagus spear can grow 10 inches in one day if there are ideal conditions. Each crown sends up spears for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.


    According to Dr.Weil, three types of asparagus can often be found in grocery stores – green, white and purple. I’m used to the green version, which is the most common variety. It turns out that white asparagus is grown underground, which stops the development of chlorophyll. Because of this, the white version has a more delicate flavor and texture. Purple asparagus, which has a fruitier flavor, gets its color from anthocyanin, which is a phytonutrient that is good for you.

     “When selecting asparagus, look for stems that are thin and firm, with closed tips that are deep green or purple in color,” Dr. Weil's website explained. “When preparing to eat, an easy way to determine where to cut the ends of asparagus stems is to hold one stalk and break it - wherever the break naturally occurs is your guideline for trimming the rest of the stalks.” I’m personally found that cooking asparagus in water until it’s al dente turns out a tasty side dish. However, my primary method of cooking the vegetable is by using Food Network star and cookbook author Ina Garten’s recipe for roasting asparagus, which includes three other ingredients – olive oil, salt and pepper. (Be sure to check on the asparagus periodically since, depending on the width of the asparagus you use, they may cook faster than the time that Garten has allotted.) On occasion, I have sautéed asparagus in a frying pan, and – now that we’ve got warm weather again – I want to try grilling asparagus.

  • Finally, don’t be surprised if you’re one of the 22% of people who after eating asparagus if you find, as my cousin says, “Your pee stinks!” According to Hanna Holmes on’s “The Skinny On...” column, researchers believe some compound -- possibly methanethiol,  S-Metnthyl Thioesters, metabolites, or six sulfur-containing compounds – is the cause. But there’s nothing wrong if you do smell a sulfur odor! Just remember that you’re getting a lot of benefits from eating asparagus!

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Published On: May 09, 2011