Let’s be honest, veggies are not always the first choice whenever you’re thinking about meals. Asparagus, however, could be the perfect exception. They are delish and come with lots of beneficial nutrients like minerals, vitamins and fiber. You’re probably wondering what the asparagus benefits and side effects are. Just why are they so popular among nutritionists and dietitians? We’re here to answer just that. In this article, we look at the cooked asparagus nutrition facts and tell you why you need it in your diet.
Cooked Asparagus Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA database, half a cup (90 grams) of boiled, cooked and drained asparagus contains (2):
- Calories: 20
- Protein: 2.2g
- Fat: 0.2g
- Fiber: 1.8g
- Sugars: 1.3g
- Vitamin A: 5% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 8% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 38% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 9% of the DV
- Folate: 34% of the DV
- Phosphorous: 4% of the DV
- Potassium: 4% of the DV
So yes, asparagus has an excellent nutritional profile, but how exactly does it affect your health? We find out next.
Asparagus Health Benefits
Here are top 5 benefits supported by science:
Excellent Source Of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that play a key role in protecting your cells from oxidative stress and the negative effects of free radicals. Oxidative stress has been shown to contribute to aging, diseases like cancer and chronic inflammation (21, 20).
Asparagus, however, is high in the flavonoids isorhamnetin, kaempferol and quercetin. In-vitro animal and human studies show that these compounds have possible antiviral, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering effects (22, 9, 1). Additionally, a high dietary flavonoid intake in general has been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (12).
Beneficial For Expectant Women
Many obstetricians have recommended pregnant women have at least 600 micrograms of folate daily. This is supposed to promote a healthy pregnancy while reducing the risk of neural tube effects like spina bifida (13). These neural tube defects can lead to serious complications l (17).
A half-cup serving of asparagus contains about 134 micrograms of folate which makes it a healthy source of this vitamin. Additionally, asparagus contains a nonessential amino acid known as asparagine that is necessary for normal brain function and development (7).
Aids In Lowering Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that high blood pressure affects more than 1.3 billion people globally and significantly increases the risk factors for heart disease and stroke (26). Research indicates that increasing your potassium intake while also reducing salt consumption can be effective at lowering high blood pressure (6).
Potassium is good for managing blood pressure and it’s available in high quantities from asparagus. It provides 4% of your daily requirement in just a half-cup serving. Additionally, the vitamin A and C content can help eliminate free radicals in your body. Doing so will reduce damages to your circulatory system (25).
Asparagus also has mild diuretic properties which helps lower blood pressure through promoting the release of excess fluids from your body. That being said, if you want to keep your blood pressure levels in healthy ranges then potassium-rich vegetables like asparagus may be just what you need.
Can Improve Your Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is crucial for maintaining good gut health. Asparagus provides 1.8 grams of fiber in just half a cup serving. Most adults should aim to include 25-38 grams of fiber in their daily diets.
Various studies have indicated that diets filled with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes (8). Asparagus also contains high amounts of insoluble fiber which is essential for supporting regular bowel movements. The soluble fiber content is also responsible for fostering the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut (11).
These bacteria play a key role in strengthening your immune system and producing essential nutrients like vitamin K (14). So if you want to keep your gut healthy, including asparagus in your fiber-rich diets is an excellent way to start.
May Be Useful In Your Weight Loss Regimen
No studies have decisively explored how asparagus can affect weight management. However, it contains several properties that are potentially beneficial when it comes to losing weight. Here are some of them:
- Low asparagus calories. Half a cup of asparagus contains 20 calories. This means you can take significant quantities of asparagus without the risk of consuming excess calories.
- 94% of its composition is water. Multiple studies have shown that eating water-rich, low-calorie foods can aid weight loss (16).
- Asparagus is rich in fiber which has been associated with weight loss and lower body weight.
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Asparagus Side Effects
Asparagus is considered to be generally safe for consumption and rarely has allergic reactions. However, it contains a compound known as trithiane-5-carboxylic acid which is particularly concentrated in young stalks. They have been known to cause dermatitis in sensitive people, mainly on the hands or fingers, and urticaria which causes swollen and itchy lips (18). The allergy symptoms usually last only a few minutes but you should call your doctor if they persist.
Another unpleasant yet harmless effect of eating asparagus is a strange odor coming from your urine. This is due to the sulfurous amino acid content known as asparagusic acid present in the vegetable. When it’s broken down during digestion, it produces a pungent smell which is excreted and can last up to a day, but isn’t harmful (10).
Other adverse interactions associated with asparagus consumption include:
Interactions With Lithium Drugs
Asparagus has a mild diuretic effect. It can therefore, theoretically, impair excretion while increasing concentration of lithium in your blood. So there’s a risk of amplifying the side effects of the drug when using asparagus (3).
Interactions With Coumadin (Warfarin)
Asparagus has a high content of vitamin K. People using warfarin or other blood thinners need to keep their intake of this vitamin consistent from day to day due to its effect on the blood clotting process. So if you fall in this group, it’s best if you first consult your doctor before adding it in your diet (15).
How To Pick And Buy Your Asparagus
The beauty of asparagus is that it comes in lots of varieties ranging from white, green or even purple. Whichever option you decide to go for, ensure the stalks have a tightly closed bud, are rich in color, appear plump and stand firm. The white and green variants have almost the same amounts of carbohydrates and calories per serving.
However, since white asparagus is not exposed to much sunlight when sprouting, it lacks chlorophyll which is a beneficial phytochemical. It also contains marginally less amounts of vitamin C. On the plus side, white asparagus is thicker and more tender than green asparagus, delivers a nutty flavor and is less prone to stringiness.
Now this vegetable can be purchased canned or frozen. Nutrients are retained in both scenarios but the canned versions have added sodium.
Finally, fresh asparagus tends to dry out quickly. As such proper storage is necessary to maintain its integrity. Here are a few storage tips:
- Trim about and inch of the bottom of the stalks
- Wrap the ends up in a moist paper towel
- Don’t wash the stalks until just before cooking
- Stand them in a jar of water before storing them in a refrigerator
How To Cook Asparagus
Asparagus can either be stir-fried, steamed, boiled or even eaten raw in salads. The thicker stalks however may need to be peeled off before and their woody ends snapped off.
You should also cook it long enough just before it loses its bright green color. Turning it into pea soup green color and it becoming limp is a sign of overcooking. This can lead to the loss of some of its nutrients, health benefits, flavor and texture.
Here are some healthy asparagus recipes you can try out at home:
Stir Fried Asparagus With Bell Peppers And Cashew Nuts (24)
This recipe is rich in flavor, nourishing and the perfect way to enjoy these vegetables. Here’s how you make it:
- 3 tablespoons low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons gluten free hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon low sodium gluten free tamari/ soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (in 1 inch pieces)
- 2 bell peppers, stems removed and deseeded, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup cashew nuts, lightly chopped
- 1 tablespoon high oleic sunflower oil or a neutral vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Prepare the sauce by combining the broth, hoisin sauce, vinegars, chili garlic sauce, cornstarch and sugar in a medium bow. Use a fork to stir until all the ingredients are properly mixed and combined and set aside.
- Next prepare the asparagus and bell peppers by chopping them into 1-inch pieces then mince the garlic. Set them both aside
- Heat a large cast iron medium skillet then chop and add in the cashew nuts. Cook for 2-3 minutes while constantly stirring until they are lightly toasted. Remove them from the skillet and set them aside.
- Now add some sunflower or vegetable oil to a hot skillet alongside the asparagus and minced garlic. Cook over the medium heat for about 3 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Throw in the bell peppers and continue cooking for 2 minutes and pour the sauce over the veggies. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the sauce just thickens.
- Stir in some sesame oil and cashew nuts and divide into 4 servings. Serve while warm.
This recipe is courtesy of verywellfit.com
Asparagus Rolantina (4)
This recipe delivers a crunchy, tasty, and creative way of making asparagus. For the best results, it’s recommended that you use pencil-thin asparagus. Here’s how you make it:
- 1 pound fresh green asparagus spears, trimmed
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 5 (½ ounce) slices prosciutto
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs
- Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Next bring a large pot of water to a boil then add asparagus into the water. If the spears appear to be thick, let it cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Now lay one slice of meat on a place then place a slice of cheese on top of the meat.
- Put 3-4 asparagus spears at one end of the meat and cheese then sprinkle over black pepper to taste. Roll the meat and cheese over the asparagus then firmly secure it using a toothpick.
- Arrange the asparagus rolls in a casserole dish then pour melted butter over the entire dish. Sprinkle it with some bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes or just until the crumb mixture forms a crust over the asparagus rolls.
This recipe is courtesy of allrecipes.com
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Roasted Asparagus With Bacon And Feta Cheese (23)
Whoever said the perfect match doesn’t exist must have neve tried asparagus with bacon! The bacon’s saltiness perfectly compliments the asparagus while the feta melts over it to deliver the perfect taste. Here’s how you make it:
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 8 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees F then line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Now pour the olive oil into a resealable plastic bag and season it with salt and pepper. Add in the asparagus, seal the bag then shake it to evenly coat the asparagus with the oil.
- Remove the asparagus from the oil, shaking it to get rid of any excess. Discard any remaining oil then arrange the asparagus onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Roast the asparagus for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven until it’s just tender.
- Transfer asparagus to a serving plate and sprinkle some bacon and feta cheese over it.
This recipe is courtesy of allrecipes.com
Asparagus With Lime And Mint (5)
This is an easy, delicious and fast way of preparing your asparagus. The mint is an added bonus seeing as how it adds a complimentary cooling flavor. Here’s how you make it:
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1-2 fresh limes (should yield 1 ½ tablespoons of juice)
- 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped or cut in a chiffonade
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the asparagus and sprinkle it with pepper and salt to taste. Cook for 5-6 minutes until it’s just cooked through but retaining its firmness.
- Transfer the asparagus on a plate then squeeze the lime juice over it. Sprinkle the mint and serve.
This recipe is courtesy of simplyrecipes.com
The Bottom Line
Asparagus has grown extremely popular over the years and for a good reason too. It is one of the healthiest vegetables you can find out there.
The vegetable comes loaded with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have numerous possible benefits including: reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure, improving digestive health and supporting healthy pregnancies.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Asparagus, cooked, boiled, drained (2019, usda.gov)
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- Asparagus with Lime and Mint (2009, simplyrecipes.com)
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- Stir Fried Asparagus With Bell Peppers And Cashew Nuts (2019, verywellfit.com)
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- Worldwide prevalence of hypertension exceeds 1.3 billion (2016, pubmed.gov)