Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a spring vegetable native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, and is widely cultivated as a vegetable crop. Asparagus is usually available in white, green and purple colors. White asparagus is grown away from the sunlight and is deficient in chlorophyll.
Here are seven health benefits of asparagus.
1. Asparagus can help keep homocysteine levels down.
Homocysteine is a byproduct in the blood when an amino acid like methionine is broken down in the body. Elevated homocysteine levels can be the root of many serious body problems like the damage of blood vessels, clotting of blood in the veins, and atherosclerosis, which can all further lead to heart problems. Asparagus is abundant in the B-vitamin complex. B-vitamins, especially folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are essential for converting homocysteine into the safer and more available amino acid, cysteine.
2. Asparagus can help prevent common congenital disabilities.
Asparagus is rich in folic acid, a B-vitamin important for helping rapid cell division and growth during infancy and pregnancy. A deficiency of folic acid in pregnant women can lead to the birth of underweight infants and may also result in neural tube defects in newborns.
3. Asparagus can help you fight various cancers and prevent cellular damage.
The liver detoxifies the body from harmful compounds that are toxic to the body. In a two-step process, the liver breaks down toxins involving enzymes. Then, a different set of enzymes comprising glutathione breaks down the substances that can cause cancer and free radicals. Like the avocado and kale, asparagus is a herbaceous plant, rich in a compound called glutathione.
4. Asparagus can help improve your bone health preventing fractures.
One cup of asparagus contains 55.7 micrograms of vitamin K or 70 percent of the daily recommended needs. Adequate vitamin K consumption acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption, preventing bone loss and osteoporosis.
5. Asparagus can help fight or delay Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin K also plays a very crucial role in brain and neuronal health. It can prevent the oxidation of brain cells and encourages cognitive activity, helping to delay or even avoid the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Also, a 2008 study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, suggests individuals who were folate deficient were 3.5 times more likely to have dementia. Luckily, one cup of asparagus contains 66 percent of the recommended needs for folate.
6. Asparagus can improve blood circulation.
Asparagus is rich in copper and iron. One cup of asparagus will give you 16 percent and 13 percent of iron and copper’s recommended daily intake, respectively. Both minerals are essential for red blood cell formation. Increased red blood cell production increases oxygen to the cells and improves the metabolic activity. This could help prevent conditions like anemia.
7. Asparagus can contribute to improving digestive health.
Asparagus is an excellent source of fiber. Fiber can help prevent constipation, promoting bowel regularity. Asparagus contains significant quantities of the nutrient inulin. Inulin is a type of complex carbohydrate that is commonly known as prebiotic. It does not get digested until it reaches the large intestine, where good bacteria consume it. Inulin aids in better absorption of nutrients, which may help reduce the risk of stomach cancer and allergies.References
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- Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. (1998). Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. National Academies Press (US).
- Scholl, T. O., & Johnson, W. G. (2000). Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 71(5), 1295s-1303s.
- Varga, E. A., Sturm, A. C., Misita, C. P., & Moll, S. (2005). Homocysteine and MTHFR mutations. Circulation, 111(19), e289-e293.
- Saxena, G., Singh, M., Meena, P., Barber, S., Sharma, D., Shukla, S., & Bhatnagar, M. (2007). Neuroprotective Effects of Asparagus Racemosus Linn Root Extract: An Experimental and Clinical Evidence. Annals of Neurosciences, 14(3).
- Kim, J. M., Stewart, R., Kim, S. W., Shin, I. S., Yang, S. J., Shin, H. Y., & Yoon, J. S. (2008). Changes in folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine associated with incident dementia. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 79(8), 864-868.
- What Is Neurodegenerative Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/about/what/
Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 30, 2014
Last updated: April 3, 2017
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