Asparagus: benefits, properties, how to eat them

Detoxifying and diuretic, asparagus is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Let’s discover all the properties of asparagus.

Asparagus originates from Asia but today they are widespread throughout Europe. These are perennial herbaceous plants belonging to the Liliaceae family, therefore the same as garlic and onion.

There are cultivated asparagus, which derive from the common asparagus (Asparago officinalis) and wild asparagus (Asparagus pungente or acutifolius), with a more intense flavor.

Asparagus are made up of roots that produce so-called shoots, that is the shoots, which are the tips of the asparagus, the edible part. They are harvested from January, reaching maximum ripeness in spring. The harvest takes place when the sprouts sprout from the ground, otherwise they lose tenderness but also in flavor.

White, green or purple asparagus: characteristics and differences

The best known asparagus have a green color, but there are also white and purple asparagus. These chromatic differences do not involve substantial differences on nutritional properties but only on flavor and appearance.

The most used and recurrent on tables are green asparagus, which represent the most common variety of this vegetable, being easily available on the market.

White asparagus is an interesting alternative to green asparagus, distinguished from the latter by its less intense flavor and larger size. This variety grows in the dark under piles of soil, which is why it remains chlorophyll-free if not exposed to sunlight.

Typical of the Ligurian territory, the purple asparagus comes from a spontaneous mutation, carried out wisely by farmers. Among other things, this variety also stands out for its fruity, slightly bitter flavor, and for its softer texture.

As for the varieties, among the best known in Italy we can mention, by way of example, the white asparagus of Cesena, the asparagus of Badoere or the green asparagus of Altedo. All types of asparagus have numerous beneficial properties for our health, thanks to the substances present in them. Let’s find out together.

Asparagus: characteristics and nutritional values

Asparagus consists mostly of water and is low in calories. In fact, they provide only 24 kcal per 100 grams of edible part, so they are indicated if you are following a low-calorie diet.

Asparagus is rich in fiber and antioxidants. Fiber is very important to help intestinal transit and dispose of toxins and to reduce blood levels of cholesterol and glucose after meals. They also have a very low glycemic index, so they are indicated in the diet of diabetic subjects. Asparagus is also free of cholesterol and harmful fats, and is also low in sodium.

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of asparagus:

  • Waterfall: 91.82 gr
  • kcal: 24
  • Proteins: 3.23 g
  • Fat: 0.23 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.1 g
  • Fibers: 1.9 g
  • Soccer: 25 mg
  • Iron: 0.73 mg
  • Magnesium: 14 mg
  • Phosphorus: 64 mg
  • Potassium: 253 mg
  • Zinc: 0.59 mg
  • Manganese: 0.203 mg
  • C vitamin: 31.8 mg (53% RDA)
  • Vitamin B1: 0.121 mg (8.6% RDA)
  • Vitamin B2: 0.131 mg (8.2% RDA)
  • Vitamin B3: 1.202 mg (6.7% RDA)
  • Vitamin B5: 0.184 mg (3.1% RDA)
  • Folate: 191 µg (95.5% RDA)
  • Vitamin A: 948 IU
  • Glycemic index: 15
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Asparagus: nutritional properties

These vegetables are an important source of minerals, especially potassium, and vitamins, especially vitamin C and folate. Other characterizing substances of asparagus are asparagine, rutin and glutathione. Let’s find out their properties together.

  • Vitamin C: it is also known as ascorbic acid and has a strong antioxidant action, therefore it protects against free radical damage, keeping the tissues young. It stimulates the immune system, protecting against colds and flu, it is essential for the formation of collagen (important for the structure of bones, skin and blood vessels), the activation of folic acid, the synthesis of neurotransmitters and promotes the absorption of iron in the intestine, therefore, it prevents anemia. Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches and increased susceptibility to infections;
  • Folate: Asparagus is rich in folate, substances that are converted in the intestine into folic acid or vitamin B9. Folic acid participates in the synthesis of hemoglobin and some amino acids, and is very important for growth, reproduction and the correct functioning of the nervous system;
  • Asparagine: it is an amino acid with a diuretic effect and responsible for the strong smell of urine when eating asparagus;
  • Rutin: a flavonoic glycoside that protects capillaries as it strengthens their walls.

Asparagus: health benefits

The synergy of the substances present gives asparagus useful properties to support health on several fronts. In short, asparagus are diuretics, low-calorie, are good for the capillaries and have a purifying effect, but not only. Let’s find out what are the benefits of regular consumption of this vegetable.

✓ They are purifying and diuretic

The best known benefits of asparagus are probably the purifying and draining ones. Thanks to the abundance of water and potassium and the presence of asparagine, these vegetables stimulate diuresis and liver and kidney function, helping to eliminate toxins and stagnation of liquids and therefore to reduce cellulite.

✓ Reduce blood pressure

The strong diuretic power of asparagus is useful for reducing hypertension. A study showed that in asparagus there is a substance that inhibits the Angiotensin Conversion Enzyme (hormone that stimulates blood pressure), preventing hypertension and thus preserving kidney functions.

✓ They are low calorie

Thanks to their low calorie intake, asparagus can be safely consumed in case you need to lose weight or to keep fit. For this they are the perfect allies of the diet.

✓ Strengthen the capillaries

Asparagus is rich in rutin, a flavonoid present in various plants which, among its properties, also helps microcirculation. In particular, the rutin counteracts the formation of edema since it decreases the permeability of the capillaries. Furthermore, it seems that it is able to stimulate the elasticity of the capillaries and strengthen their walls, thus acting positively on the microcirculation.

✓ Help with type 2 diabetes

Eating asparagus regularly could help control blood glucose levels by improving insulin secretion and the functioning of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce it.

✓ They prevent fetal malformations

The consumption of asparagus is indicated during pregnancy as they provide good amounts of folic acid, essential for the development of the baby’s nervous system. However, they are contraindicated during breastfeeding, because they could give an unpleasant taste to the milk.

✓ They are antioxidants

Asparagus contains antioxidant substances such as Vitamin C and folic acid, helping to fight free radicals and counteracting the formation of tumors.

✓ They are laxatives

Asparagus is rich in fiber and this gives it useful properties in case of constipation as it favors the regularity of the intestinal tract.

✓ They are good for the mood

Asparagus, especially wild ones, contain a good amount of tryptophan which is the precursor of serotonin, the hormone responsible for good mood.

✓ They have anti-inflammatory properties

Asparagus can be considered natural anti-inflammatories, thanks to the presence of substances such as rutin and quercetin which have a good anti-inflammatory action on the body.

✓ They are beneficial for the nervous system and for the heart

The good quantity of potassium present gives the asparagus useful properties for the well-being of both the cardiovascular and muscular systems.

✓ Protect the skin

The antioxidants present in the vegetable help protect the skin from atmospheric agents and pollution.

How many asparagus to eat

Adapting easily to a single daily meal, an average portion of asparagus is around 200 grams, to be consumed at least once or twice a week and to be alternated with all the other seasonal vegetables.

Wild asparagus: what they are

Wild asparagus are the shoots of Asparagus acutifolius, a perennial plant with a woody stem, belonging to the Asparagaceae family. Typical of the Mediterranean area, wild asparagus are small, thin and very tasty, boasting an effective culinary use. The harvesting period for wild asparagus is spring, from March to June.

Asparagus: how to use and consume them

When buying asparagus, pay attention to their freshness. In particular they must be hard but not woody. To check the freshness it is necessary to observe the tops of the asparagus, if they are well closed then it means that they are fresh.

The best way to preserve their nutritional characteristics is to consume them raw, cutting them into small slices and simply eating them with oil, lemon juice and salt or adding them to the salad. The raw flavor, however, is very strong. If you want to consume them cooked, the ideal would be to steam them for a few minutes. The risotto with asparagus or the classic combination of asparagus and eggs are also excellent. If you want to know more about how to use asparagus in your recipes, you can read: 10 recipes for using asparagus.

Asparagus is also used in the phytotherapeutic field. In herbal medicine it is possible to find herbal teas based on asparagus root with a strong draining and purifying action. The best time to take it is in private room.

Asparagus in oil: how to prepare them

The preparation of asparagus in oil is simple. It is necessary to mix, in a large pot, a part of water and a part of vinegar (for a 1kg of asparagus, consider a liter of water and 500 mL of vinegar), placing everything on medium intensity heat; in the meantime, the asparagus can be washed and cleaned, removing the hard base. Once it has boiled, cook the asparagus in water and vinegar for 10 minutes, adding a pinch of salt. When cooked, the asparagus must be drained, allowed to cool and dab with a sheet of kitchen paper.

At this point, it is preferable to cut the asparagus into coarse fragments, and then lay them in a glass container (sterilized) with parsley, minced garlic and some pink peppercorns. Finally, completely cover the asparagus with olive oil.

As we have seen above, asparagus is rich in fiber, vitamins and mineral salts, boasting various beneficial properties, among which the diuretic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ones stand out. The boiling phase determines, in part, a loss of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). Furthermore, based on the oil absorbed, asparagus in oil are more caloric than the starting vegetable product.

For optimal conservation, it is preferable to always keep the asparagus completely immersed in oil, and always draw the contents of each jar with a clean fork. In any case, it is preferable to extend storage for a maximum of one month.

In conclusion, asparagus in oil are certainly an excellent solution to consume these vegetables even out of season but, during the spring period, it is preferable to consume them fresh in the manner seen above.

Asparagus: contraindications and potential negative effects

Asparagus is a food that has no major contraindications. However, they should not be consumed by those who are allergic to other vegetables belonging to the Liliaceae family such as garlic and onion. In this case it is always good to ask your doctor for advice.

Asparagus also has a high content of purines which, once metabolized, are transformed into uric acid. For this reason they are not recommended in cases of high uric acid, kidney stones caused by uric acid (less common than those caused by calcium oxalate) or other kidney disorders, rheumatic diseases and gout.

Those suffering from insomnia should avoid eating asparagus in the evening as they are energizing and therefore could disturb the night’s rest. Excessive consumption can lead to bloating and digestive difficulties. Finally, it is advisable to introduce these vegetables in the diet from 3 years of age.


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