Asparagus contains no cholesterol or fat and is very low in sodium and calories. It is an excellent source of Folate, a B-Vitamin essential for proper cell division during pregnancy, as it is necessary in DNA synthesis. Without folate, the fetus’ nervous system cells do not divide properly, linking inadequate folate intake during pregnancy to several birth defects, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate is also essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Rutin, a phytochemical in each spear, helps to strengthen capillary walls. Asparagus also contains high contents of Glutathione (GSH), a very potent antioxidant and anticarcinogen. GSH detoxifies carcinogenic electrophiles and protects cells from oxidative damage, thereby preventing damage to DNA and other macromolecules. Historically, asparagus has been used to treat problems involving swelling, such as arthritis and rheumatism. It may also be useful for PMS-related water retention.
- 7 spears of asparagus (100 grams) contains only 24 calories and provides you with two thirds of your total daily needs in folate.
- Excellent source of Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, copper, Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin B6 (pyroxide).
- Very good source of tryptophan, manganese, Vitamin B3 (niacin), phosphorus, zinc, protein, potassium and iron.
- Good source of Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), magnesium, selenium, Vitamin E and calcium.
- Most common type is green, white is most popular in Europe, and newest type to emerge is purple.
- Green asparagus contains more vitamins that the white version. White asparagus is obtained by keeping the spears buried beneath the soil.
History of Asparagus
Asparagus has been prized as an Epicurean delight and for its medicinal properties for almost 2000 years. It was originally found edging along marsh areas in Southern Europe in countries circling the Mediterranean Sea. Asparagus derived its name from the ancient Greek who used the word to refer to all the tender shoots picked and savored while very young. While it was the ancient Greek were collecting asparagus, it was the Romans who figured out how to grow it and preserve the tender spears, and as early as 200 BC the Roman had developed “how to grow” directions for the vegetable. They were the first to enjoy it in season and were the first to preserve it by freezing.
During the 1st Century chariots were raced from Rome to the snowline of the Alps where the tender spears were buried in the snow. The spears were preserved there for 6 months, and it was then enjoyed during the Feast of Epicurus. Augustus Caesar thoroughly enjoyed the vegetable, both fresh and those preserved in his Alpine storage vaults, but it was Louis the XIV who has the vegetable grown in his own green houses so that he could enjoy their taste year round. Dutch and English colonists brought Asparagus to North America and planted it in New England. Asparagus is still harvested by hand, with China the largest grower. South Africa and Spain are asparagus powers as well, along with the United States and Peru. Japan is probably the world’s largest importer of the vegetable.