As a widely consumed crop vegetable, asparagus is well known for its diuretic effect. It has numerous health benefits, most of which have scientific facts to back them up. It is used to improve digestion and relieve constipation, fight infertility, control diabetes, fight neurodegenerative disorders, and treat urinary tract infections.
Botanical name: Asparagus officinalis
Other names: Special asparagus, Asparagus fern, White asparagus, Green asparagus, Garden asparagus, Sparrow grass
Asparagus is the tender stalk and buds of the asparagus plant, Asparagus officinalis, a herbaceous plant of the botanical family Asparagaceae, which usually reaches a height of about 1.5 meters. The stalks that make up the asparagus are covered with tiny scale-like leaves.
The most common forms of asparagus are the white asparagus and the green asparagus. Of these two forms, green asparagus is preferred by most people, because it is more flavorful to taste and most importantly richer in vitamins than the white asparagus.
A common property of asparagus that is noticed by everyone who eats it, is its ability to increase urine production. If you have ever taken asparagus, you must have noticed an increase in volume of your urine along with a unique odor it emits, just minutes after consumption. This is due to the presence of asparagine, its active substance that also forms part of its volatile essential oils. Its elimination together with urine brings about the increase in urine volume.
- The shoots of asparagus are used as a vegetable. However, only young shoots are used, since old shoots tend to be woody.
- The shoots are served in numerous kinds of dishes all over the world; typically as a vegetable or an appetizer.
- Asparagus are commonly served stir-fried in Asia along with chicken or beef. They can also be grilled. These days, they are eaten even raw as components of salad.
- Asparagus also has a long history of use in medicine. It has been cultivated for over 2000 years as a medicinal herb. Both its root and shots are used to treat numerous ailments and conditions including rheumatism, nerve pain, kidney stones, acne, eczema, and cystitis.
- Most of its uses have been attributed to its antibiotic, antispasmodic, diuretic, sedative, tonic, and laxative properties.
- Asparagus is among the top foods that are low in calories. It provides only 20 kcal per 100 g. This property of asparagus being very low in calories is due to its lack of fat and a very low carbohydrate content.
- As mentioned above, asparagus is very low in carbohydrates, but that’s not the case with protein. It is among the vegetables with the highest protein content, representing about 2.2% of its total content.
- This wonderful vegetable also contains considerable amounts of vitamins, mainly B group vitamins, vitamin A, E, and C. It is very rick in vitamin K, providing about 40% of the its daily recommended intake per 100 gram serving.
- In terms of minerals, asparagus is not left out as it provides significant amounts of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron.
9 Health benefits and medicinal uses of asparagus
- Fights kidney disorders
- Aids weight loss
- Relieves constipation
- Fights infertility
- Controls diabetes
- Fights neurodegenerative disorders
- Treats tuberculosis
- Lowers cholesterol
- Fights rheumatism
Asparagus is considered a very good diuretic which helps stimulate urine production in the kidney. This helps detoxify the body and eliminate toxic waste. It also helps in eliminating fluids retained within the body. Due to these effects, patients suffering from the inflammation of the kidney (nephritis), may find consumption of asparagus in moderate amounts beneficial.
A research carried out by a team of scientist in 2012, found asparagus to have a protective effect against urolithiasis or kidney stones, a condition characterized by solid non-metallic deposits that form in the kidney (1).
Asparagus provides very few calories and a reasonable amount of fiber. This makes them produce a sensation of satiety in the stomach. Moreover, they have very little to no fat content. These properties of asparagus makes them a perfect food for those who want to shed off some weight. You can of course include asparagus in your slimming diets to achieve even better results. It can be consumed with a few drops of lemon, which acts as a seasoning.
The consumption of asparagus may be very beneficial in cases of constipation, which is characterized by difficulties in passing out feces or infrequent elimination of feces. Asparagus has a significant content of dietary fiber, which has a lot of benefits to the digestive system. Fiber which acts as an effective laxative, fights constipation by adding some bulk to the stool, and stimulating peristaltic action of the gut to pass stool down the colon with ease.
Asparagus racemosus is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine as a potent aphrodisiac to boost sexual function and improve fertility in general. This Ayurvedic claim has been backed by a scientific study, which found consumption of asparagus to improve genital and mammary gland function in female animals (2).
Asparagus also contains significant amounts of vitamin E, which increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the genitals. It is also involved in the production of sex hormones which boosts sexual drive. Also, the reasonable content of vitamin C it contains can help increase sperm count and nourish its cells (3).
Again, species of Asparagus racemosus has been proven by a scientific research to have beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes, by improving insulin secretion (4). On the other hand, a research conducted with Asparagus officinalis also showed promising results by regulating blood glucose level through improved insulin secretion (5).
We also shouldn’t forget about the fiber content of this wonderful vegetable, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Fiber regulates blood glucose level by binding to sugar molecules in the digestive tract, and then releasing them slowly for absorption into the bloodstream. Like this, blood glucose level remains fairly constant, without sudden spikes.
Asparagus is said to have protective effects on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This was proved by a research published in Annals of Neurosciences. The research used asparagus root extract to evaluate its neuroprotective effects on both experimental animals and humans in clinical studies (6). The results suggested use of asparagus root extract as an alternative treatment for cognitive disturbances.
Also, some extracts from Asparagus racemosus have been described as a rejuvenator and nervine tonic, which delays aging by antagonizing degenerative changes. Aging is a primary factor of cognitive disorders, as cognitive decline happens as someone grows older.
There are growing evidences that asparagus consumption can be effective in treating tuberculosis. Certain components of this wonderful vegetable has been attributed to improving the health status of lung tissue and also relieving throat infections (7).
Asparagus racemosus has a wide history of use in folk medicine. This made researchers to investigate its effect on blood cholesterol. Interestingly, a research found it to eliminate excess cholesterol in the body, while increasing bile acid production (8). The research attributed this therapeutic property to some phyto-components present in its root extract which includes saponins, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, and ascorbic acid.
Numerous studies have found extracts from asparagus to have great anti-inflammatory properties (9). This property may help relieve rheumatoid arthritis which is a condition caused by inflammation of the joints.
Asparagus can be prepared and consumed in ideally two ways, which are the most common. They are:
- Cooked – This is the most common and efficient method of preparing asparagus. It can be fried or roasted, as well as boiled for about 10-15 minutes. Most people find it easier by peeling it, particularly when the stalk is tough. This is by far the most efficient and effective method of preparing asparagus for consumption.
- Canned – Asparagus can also be prepared by canning. This method is not as effective as the above method. This is because canned asparagus loses some part of its vitamin and fiber content, and thus, reduces its nutritional value to the body.