Power Food: Asparagus

Improve Your Health at Less Than 4 Calories a Stalk

Modern food lovers like to think that we discovered everything, but we can’t claim asparagus. Asparagus was originally found growing on Mediterranean hillsides, and recipes date back to late fourth-century Rome and Apicius Book III, one of the oldest known cookbooks. Early American colonists referred to asparagus as a “food of kings.”

Although farmers in California, Washington, and Michigan grow substantial quantities, the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of asparagus, with much of it coming from China and Peru. We love our asparagus, and for good reason.

Stalking Good Nutrition

One serving of asparagus – 5 stalks – contains 3 grams of fiber and 60% of your recommended daily intake of folic acid, a vitamin that’s essential for mental and physical health. Folic acid is known to prevent birth defects in developing fetuses, and is an essential part of key enzymes and neurotransmitters.

Asparagus also contains glutathione, the major detoxifying antioxidant in your liver.

One stalk contains fewer than 4 calories, making it a great tasting, low calorie addition to any meal.

Functional Fiber

Asparagus contains a unique type of soluble fiber called fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which goes undigested until it reaches your large intestine. From there, it serves as food for the good bacteria that lives in your gut and helps improve your digestive health. Because of its unique ability to support the growth of beneficial bacteria, scientists have even started putting FOS in infant formula.

In addition to improving digestion, FOS can help lower triglycerides, decreasing your risk for cardiovascular disease, and improve your body’s ability to absorb minerals from your diet.

Nature’s Hang Over Cure

Asparagus is the perfect food to have the day after a night out with friends.

A 2009 study from the Journal of Food Science found that asparagus can boost, by 200%, the effectiveness of 2 key alcohol-metabolizing enzymes in your liver. In addition, asparagus can help replenish your body’s supply of glutathione, which gets used up quickly by your liver after you have a couple of drinks.

The Best of the Best

Size matters when buying asparagus. The thicker the stalk, the more tender it will be. Make sure the tips are closed and compact; these are signs of freshness, which will lead to better taste.

Hot and Steamy

For best results, steam your asparagus with the stalks straight up for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they become tender. Top with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little extra-virgin olive oil for the perfect complement to a salmon filet or grilled steak.Grilled-Asparagus-with-Balsamic-Reduction

Stir It Up

Stir-frying asparagus is another fast and easy way to get this power food in your diet. Cut the asparagus stalks diagonally into 2-inch pieces and sauté them in a nonstick pan over medium heat with sesame oil, fresh ginger, and a splash of soy sauce.

You can make this a complete meal by adding sliced mushrooms, chicken breast strips, and steamed brown rice.

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