Asparagus is a young tender shoot (spear) vegetable, emerging out from its underground root system. The flavorful spears are a favorite spring season delicacies. Their use as food was well recognized by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a prized delicacy. One of the oldest recorded vegetables, it thought to have originated along the coastal regions of eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions. Botanically, it is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the Asparagaceae family. It is closely related to the Liliaceae plants which also include onion, garlic, tulip, daffodil…etc. Scientific name: A. officinalis. This spear vegetable is grown extensively nowadays as a major commercial crop in Europe, Peru, Australia,Thailand and the USA.
Health Benefits of Asparagus :-
Asparagus is a very low-calorie vegetable. 100 g fresh spears carry just 20 calories. Besides, its spears contain moderate levels of dietary fiber. 100 g of fresh spears provide 2.1 g of roughage. Dietary fiber helps control constipation conditions, decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol levels by binding to it in the intestines and regulate blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that high-fiber diet help cut down colon-rectal cancer risks by preventing toxic compounds in the food from absorption. Its shoots have long been used in many traditional medicines to treat conditions like dropsy and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fresh asparagus spears are a good source of anti-oxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenes, and cryptoxanthins. Together, these flavonoid compounds help remove harmful oxidant free radicals from the body protect it from possible cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and viral infections. Their total antioxidant strength, measured regarding oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC value), is 2150 µmol TE/100 g.
Fresh asparagus is rich sources of folates. 100 g of spears provide about 54 µg or 14% of RDA of folic acid. Folates are one of the essential co-factors for the DNA synthesis inside the cell. Scientific studies have shown that adequate consumption of folates in the diet during pre-conception period and early pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby. Its shoots are also rich in the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid.
Fresh asparagus also contains fair amounts of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A, and vitamin-E. Regular consumption of foods rich in these vitamins helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body. Its shoots are also an excellent source of vitamin-K. 100 grams carry about 35% of DRI. Vitamin-K has potential role bone health by promoting bone formation activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established a role in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Asparagus is an excellent source of minerals, especially copper and iron.