Health on a Plate

…because what you put on your plate matters

Asparagus: a nutritional power-house!

Asparagus – a fabulous health food

Unlike most vegetables, asparagus contains more protein than carbohydrates and is also low in calories – one cup supplying a mere 24 calories. This makes it a low GL food and an excellent choice for anyone looking to control their blood sugar  – to maintain energy levels and a healthy weight or to prevent or manage diabetes.

In addition, asparagus has a fabulous ratio of potassium (288mg per cup) to sodium (19.8mg), which could be helpful for people with blood pressure issues. It’s an excellent source of vitamins K, C and A and a range of B vitamins – riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), folate (B9), niacin (B3) and B6 – as well as high in dietary fibre and iron. When buying asparagus remember that the darker the stalk, the higher the concentration of nutrients – and eat your precious asparagus within a day or two of buying to ensure nutrient content.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Asparagus has traditionally been used in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism. This could be due to 3 recently discovered phytochemical antioxidants unique to asparagus – asparagamine A (which contains the amino acid asparagine – the culprit of the strong odour in your urine after indulging in asparagus!), racemofuran and racemosol. Asparagus also inhibits COX-2 – an enzyme in the body responsible for pain and inflammation. This is the same chemical pathway that prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) use.

The asparagine which causes the characteristic odour in urine may also be responsible for giving asparagus its diuretic effect which could aid people looking to control high blood pressure or reduce bloating.

Recipe suggestions

Dip steamed asparagus ‘soldiers’ into a soft-boiled egg – my personal favourite, especially with local duck eggs.

Alternatively, serve lightly sautéed spears with a soft-boiled egg on a bed of fresh salad leaves.

Still with the egg theme – finely chopped raw asparagus can be added to an omlette mix.

Stir-fry asparagus spears with garlic, shiitake mushrooms and chicken (or tofu).

Add steamed asparagus to cooked pasta – and stir in olive oil, haricot beans, Mediterranean herbs and parmesan cheese.

References:

McCance and Widdowson (2002), ‘The Composition of Foods’ (6th edition). London: Royal Society of Chemistry.

Murray, Pizzorno and Pizzorno (2005), ‘The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods’, London: Little, Brown Book Group.

Nutrition Data: Asparagus- cooked, boiled, drained (online). Available at http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2312/2  [accessed on April 23rd 2012]

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This entry was posted on April 23, 2012 by in Resources and tagged , .

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