Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a perennial vegetable that is easy to grow in most climates. It comes in a variety of colors, including white, green, and purple. This low calorie, high nutrition spring vegetable is popular for its pleasing taste and versatility for use in a wide variety of recipes. In addition to being delicious, there are a number of other benefits to eating asparagus more often.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus is high in folic acid, which is especially beneficial in pregnancy. Increasing your folic acid intake before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of certain birth defects, including severe neural-tube defects and congenital heart defects. 1 Folic acid also promotes DNA formation and cell growth in adults. 2 These generative properties may improve cognition and slow the cognitive decline associated with dementia. 3
Asparagus is high in potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps to regulate blood flow and lower blood pressure, which improves heart health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. 4 Increasing consumption of potassium while reducing salt intake decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. 5 People on potassium sparing diuretics, kidney disease or a predisposition to forming kidney stones should avoid large quantities of asparagus.
Fiber is essential for good digestive health and helps to regulate weight. 6 Asparagus has a high fiber content and is an easy way to add more fiber to your diet. Additionally, fiber feeds healthy gut bacteria (specifically Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus), which improves immunity and strengthens overall digestive health. 7
How to Cook Asparagus
Asparagus can be easily added to many recipes or eaten as a side dish. Cook asparagus by steaming, boiling, sauteing, or roasting until it is tender and eat it on its own or add it to omelettes, pasta dishes, stir fries, or make this spring asparagus salad for a delicious light meal.
Spring Asparagus Salad
Recipe Courtesy of Bastyr University
1 1⁄2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp honey
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
1⁄4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus
2 pasture-raised fresh eggs
Cilantro to taste
2 lettuce leaves (for garnish)
Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, and sea salt until the salt is dissolved. Add the thinly sliced red onion and mix well. Allow the onions to marinate in the dressing for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan about 2/3 with fresh water and bring to a boil. Gently pierce the “butt” ends of the egg with a push pin or small needle. You want to make sure not to push in too far, just enough to pierce a hole into the shell. Gently add the eggs to the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. Allow the eggs to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are up quickly rinse the eggs under cold water and set aside on a dry towel to cool further.
As you are boiling the eggs, place a steamer basket into a large pot and fill with water just so the water is under the basket. Gently bend each asparagus spear at the bottom end until it naturally breaks. Discard the ends into the compost or save for a future asparagus soup. Place the asparagus into the steamer basket, cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender. Be careful not to over cook the asparagus, otherwise it will turn greenish-brown. Once the asparagus has reached optimal color and tenderness, quickly rinse the asparagus in cold running water for about 30 seconds to stop the cooking process.
Place the lettuce leaves in a nice dish and top with steamed asparagus. Sprinkle with freshly chopped cilantro. Evenly pour the vinaigrette with the marinated onions over the asparagus and top with the sliced hard-boiled eggs. Sprinkle the eggs with chopped cilantro, fresh ground pepper, and a bit of sea salt. Serve immediately.
If you are interested in the healing benefits of asparagus and other foods, consider studying naturopathic medicine.