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Asparagus: The Ultimate Detoxifying Vegetable

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Posted Tuesday, Apr. 29th, 2014

When you spot asparagus in your local market, you know spring has sprung.  In fact, this nutritious vegetable gets its name from the Greek word for “shoot” or “sprout” – the appearance of its long green stalks pushing through soil were a sure sign that warmer weather was on its way.

What’s another seasonal tradition?  Spring cleaning.

And asparagus can help you do just that.

Time for Spring Cleaning…

Asparagus is the ultimate cleansing food.  It’s been used for millennia in folk medicine to help flush toxins and waste from the body.  In ancient Greece and Rome, physicians relied on this green veggie to detoxify the kidneys and prevent urinary problems.  Later, Native Americans used it for this same purpose.

But that’s not just folklore.  There’s real science behind these uses.

See, asparagus is rich in potassium and low in sodium.  It also contains an amino acid called asparagines.  Taken together, these ingredients make asparagus an excellent diuretic.  It increases your output of urine, which in turn helps flush out waste.

Asparagus can also help move irritating substances, including bacteria, from the urinary tract and out of the body.  That’s great news for anyone prone to urinary tract infections and bladder problems.

But the benefits of this superfood don’t stop there…

A Nutritional Powerhouse…

There’s no doubt about it: Asparagus is one of nature’s healthiest vegetables.  Along with potassium, it’s also an excellent source of many other vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health.

Specifically, asparagus contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B9 (folic acid).  It’s also high in calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, copper, manganese, selenium, and chromium.

Asparagus is a real superstar when it comes to some of these nutrients.  For example, one cup of asparagus contains 60 percent of the recommended daily value for folic acid, a B vitamin crucial for cardiovascular health and the prevention of certain cancers and birth defects.

Asparagus is also rich in vitamin C, which the body needs to maintain healthy skin and connective tissue.  It’s also high in dietary fiber, so noshing on it will keep your cholesterol low and your digestion regular.

Plus, asparagus has about half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K – important for strong bones, blood clotting, and wound healing.  In fact, several studies suggest that regular consumption of asparagus appears to help keep blood pressure from rising.

A Potent Disease Fighter…

It’s obvious that asparagus is a real standout in the produce aisle.  But it’s the abundance of other powerful compounds that make this veggie really special.  That’s because it contains plant chemicals that may have remarkable health benefits.

One of these compounds, rutin, plays double duty.  It’s an antioxidant that also acts as an anti-inflammatory.  That means that asparagus might help ease symptoms of arthritis.  Rutin helps keep blood vessels strong and flexible, too, making it a boon for people with cardiovascular concerns.

Got tummy troubles?  Asparagus can help improve digestion, thanks to its content of inulin, a special type of prebiotic carbohydrate that fosters the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Even more exciting, asparagus is the highest dietary source of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that fights damage from cancer-causing compounds.  It’s also packed with saponins, substances that are being investigated in the lab for their effects on human and animal cancer cells.  And asparagus contains chemicals called histones, which help block the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.

That means you can give cancer the one-two-three punch – all with the power of your plate.

Food as Medicine…

Want to get the most out of asparagus?  You’ll want to do whatever you can preserve all those vitamins, minerals, and other amazing nutrients before they end up in your belly.

First, pick the perfect bunch of asparagus.  It should have firm, rounded stalks topped with closed green or purple tips. (An exception is white asparagus.)  Store it in the fridge, away from light to protect its folic acid content.  You can wrap asparagus in a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out, but it’s still best eaten within 48 hours of purchase.

How you prepare asparagus matters, too.  You can steam it, sauté it, or grill it – but don’t boil this vegetable. Not only will it turn out soggy, but you’ll lose all those beneficial nutrients in the water.

Of course, this isn’t a problem if you’re using asparagus in a soup.  Some people even make a tea from asparagus and drink the liquid in which it’s boiled.  Have a juicer? Try adding some asparagus to your glass and sip it as a detoxifying beverage.

Obviously, you should pass on asparagus if you have an allergy to it (symptoms include itchy eyes, a runny nose, tightness of the throat, and hives.)  And be cautious about eating a lot of asparagus if you’re prone to kidney stones or gout, since large amounts might exacerbate these problems.

But don’t worry about this veggie’s most notorious side effect.

Although asparagus can add a distinctly funky odor to the urine, this only occurs in about half the population. These people have a gene that prevents them from metabolizing certain sulfur compounds in asparagus.  It’s a harmless, temporary change that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying asparagus.

So make some room on your plate – and get ready to let asparagus “spring clean” your body.

Remember, keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework… and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.

References

http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/nd/Search.aspx?rn=3&cs=NONMP&s=ND&pt=100&id=286&fs=ND&searchid=42906033

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-286-ASPARAGUS.aspx?activeIngredientId=286&activeIngredientName=ASPARAGUS

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2873

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