By Anne Palumbo
Asparagus is known for making urine smell funny. But that’s not why you should eat more asparagus. You should eat more asparagus because it’s packed with nutrients that support good health and longevity.
Asparagus is a vitamin K superstar, providing well over half of our daily needs in one cooked cup. While vitamin K is crucial for coagulation, it’s just as important for bone health because it helps our body absorb calcium. Some studies suggest that vitamin K may even keep osteoporosis at bay. Along with vitamin K, asparagus contains a variety of minerals, in lesser amounts, that also support bone health: iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and magnesium.
This slender-but-mighty vegetable is an excellent source of folate, also known as vitamin B-9. An essential nutrient that plays a central role in cell growth and the formation of DNA, folate is especially important at times of rapid growth, such as during gestation, infancy, and adolescence. Getting enough folate from sources like asparagus can protect against neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida.
Of course, adults benefit from folate, too, and in more ways than one. Because it helps to lower homocysteine, an amino acid that, when elevated, has been linked to narrowing and hardening of the arteries, it may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Folate’s impact on homocysteine levels may also lower the risk of depression, since too much of this amino acid may interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones that regulate mood.
Another great reason to reach for asparagus? It may help you lose weight and beat bloat. Low in calories (only 20 per half cup), high in water, and rich in fiber, tasty asparagus has many features that make it a weight-loss friendly food. It beats bloat because it’s a natural diuretic and its fiber promotes regularity and healthy digestion.
Sauteed Asparagus and White Bean Salad
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1½ lb.)
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons canola oil
5-6 thinly sliced radishes
½ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon coarse black pepper
In a large sauté pan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus pieces and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring throughout. Remove from heat and transfer to plate for cooling.
Combine cooled asparagus, beans, sliced radishes, crumbled cheese, and sliced shallot in a medium bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over asparagus mixture, tossing gently to coat. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Select spears that are firm with compact tips and a rich green color almost the entire length of the stalk. Steer clear of stalks that are limp, wilted, or have a smell. Thinner stalks tend to be tougher than thicker ones. Best used on day purchased, but if you need to store, wrap the stem ends in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator for up to four days. Don’t wash the spears until you’re ready to use; and try not to overcook them, as overcooking may diminish some nutrients.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Palumbo at firstname.lastname@example.org.