Updated: Jul 28, 2020
While approximately 300 varieties of asparagus have been noted, only 20 are edible. Asparagus has an almost 2000 year history of medicinal properties, especially with use in Ayurvedic medicine in relationship to digestive problems. Asparagus is often thought of as a luxury vegetable.
Most commonly asparagus is green in color, however it also comes in white (the shoots are grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, therefore creating its distinctive white coloring), and purple.
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, copper, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, potassium, choline, vitamin A, zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. Additionally, it is a good source of magnesium and calcium. Asparagus also provides a vast array of phytonutrients.
Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidant Benefits: Due to the presence of saponins and vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the mineralszinc, manganese, and selenium. In addition asparagus contains a large amount of glutathione, the master antioxidant.
Digestive Support: The presence of inulin (acts as a “prebiotic”) is a food source for certain types of bacteria in the large intestine. The benefits include better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy, and lower risk of colon cancer.
Heart Health: The rich array of B vitamins in asparagus may help prevent high levels of homocysteine in the blood, a strong risk factor for heart disease.
Blood Sugar Regulation: The presence of B vitamins helps play a key role in the metabolism of sugars and starches which is thus critical for healthy blood sugar management. Fiber also helps provide a steady blood sugar level.
Selection and Storage:
Asparagus stalks should be rounded. Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips. These cut ends should not be too woody.
Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel. Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor and texture.
Asparagus and purines: Asparagus contains naturally-occurring substances called purines (commonly found in plants, animals and humans). Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. In some individuals (those with gout and kidney stones from uric acid), excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems.