For centuries, asparagus was considered a luxury and praised for its distinctive flavour by such famous figures as Julius Caesar, Louis XIV and Thomas Jefferson. Despite this, no one is quite sure where it originated, although some believe it derived from a wild plant that grew thousands of years ago in sandy soil across northern Europe and in Britain.
Why should I be aware of this?
- Asparagus is high in glutathione, an important anticarcinogen.
- It also contains rutin, which protects small blood vessels from rupturing and may protect against radiation.
- Asparagus is a good source of vitamins A, C and E, B-complex vitamins, potassium and zinc.
- Asparagus has been used to treat problems involving inflammation, such as arthritis and rheumatism, and may also be useful for PMS-related water retention.
- An excellent addition to the diet during pregnancy because asparagus is a good source of folic acid.
All about asparagus
Asparagus is a perennial, an almost leafless plant which is apart of the lily family. Cultivated as a major cash crop, asparagus is considered to be a very popular gourmet vegetable. The vegetable consumed by us are the un-emerged shoots of the asparagus plant. The vegetable is known for its slightly bitter and pungent flavor. Side by side the plant is renowned for its diuretic properties as well as being very rich in potassium, the element which is essential for the human body as it helps maintain a good water balance in the body. Asparagus is also an excellent source of the B vitamin folate.
A raw 100gm serving of asparagus would provide us with 260mg of potassium, 175gm of folate. It is not very high on calories with every 100gm serving having only 25 calories. Asparagus also provides the body with 72 mg of phosphorus with every 100gm serving.
Traditional uses of asparagus can be traced back over a thousand years in ancient China where it was used as a cooling remedy to treat chronic bronchitis, lung congestion, and tuberculosis. Asparagus was also said to curb aggression in women and improve their femininity as well as improve their menstrual problems. Asparagus was also known help and ease cases of acidity caused due to excessive eating of sweet, refined and intoxicating foods. In ancient Greece asparagus was prescribed to those with ailments of the kidney, as well as those who were overweight or possessed blemished skin. Under ayurvedic medicine asparagus is given to treat indigestion, relieve various kidney and bladder problems, rheumatism and gout. Lastly in folk medicine asparagus has been used to restore failing eyesight, toothache and even relieve the pain caused by bee stings.
Consumption and Storage
When buying asparagus buy fresh spears that are locally grown, which are straight and appear green or white in color. Ideally asparagus should not be stored and should be prepared on the day of purchase. While preparing snap the stalk where they begin to thicken. Trim the asparagus then boil whole ideally keeping them up right in about 6cm of water. Cook until tender and one of the most popular ways of serving them is with a vinaigrette dressing.
Asparagus and health
- Bloating -- Asparagus is made up of a combination of active ingredients which include asparagines, asparagose, chelindonic acid, coniferin and potassium, that bring about a diuretic effect. For the treatment of water retention caused by heart failure and to treat hypertension (raised blood pressure), doctors commonly prescribe diuretic drugs which are extracted from asparagus.
- High Blood Pressure -- High blood pressure is often hereditary in nature. It can be caused by decreased blood flow in the kidneys as well. With smaller amounts of blood being processes through the kidneys, less water is removed and the blood volume and pressure remains higher than the norm. in the past asparagus was used to help relieve ailments and prevent complications such as heart diseases and migraines. If high blood pressure is common in the family then a diet that is low in salt and includes asparagus could prove very useful in prevention.
- Cataracts -- Most people who develop cataracts possess low quantities of the antioxidant glutathione. Asparagus is very rich in glutathione and will be helpful in preventing cataracts.
People with gout or kidney problems should avoid asparagus. This is because the vegetable is high in a substance known as “purines” which is broken down to create uric acid in the body. Uric acid is known to cause ailments such as gout and kidney stones.
- The Complete Guide, Healing Foods by Amanda Ursell, published by Dorling Kindersley