Spring is here; and along with it comes the warm weather,
beautiful flowers and sunny afternoon walks. 
But more importantly, the fresh produce starts coming in soon.  Finally, after a long winter of frozen
vegetables people can start buying fresh from the farmers market and enjoy the
true flavor of “fresh.”  One of the
vegetables native to March is asparagus. 
These tasty stalks are from the lily family, which also arrive in
April. 

In addition to bursting with flavor and texture, asparagus
is packed full of nutrients and stripped clean of calories.  Four asparagus shoots are only 13 calories
with 12% of the Daily Value of vitamin A, 38% vitamin K and 22% folate.  This wealth in folate is important because
many scientists believe folate deficiency to be one of the most common
deficiencies in the USA [1].  Folate deficiency increase ones risk for
heart disease and causes megaloblastic anemia which could result in depression,
irritability, forgetfulness and disturbed sleep [1].  Additionally, the fetuses of pregnant women
who do not consume enough folate are at risk for neural tube defects [1].  Getting enough folate before pregnancy can
prevent such mishaps.  Fotunately,
asparagus is high in folate and other vitamins while it is low in calories and
easy to prepare.

The good stuff does not stop there; asparagus is also called
a prebiotic food.  Everyone has heard of
probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in yogurt that promotes digestive
health, but what about prebiotics.  Prebiotics
nourish the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.  Prebiotics not only nourish the good bacteria
which reduce pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and clostridia while
beneficial microbiota also decrease carcinogen activity in the gut [2].  So on top of being packed with healthy
goodies, asparagus also promotes good digestive health.

With all these benefits, eating asparagus is a no brainer
but preparing it properly may be tricky. 
Asparagus, like many other vegetables lose a significant amount of vitamins
during preparation because they dissolve in the cooking water.  In order to preserve the greatest amount of
vitamins steam, bake or grill your veggies. 
My favorite way to prepare asparagus is to cut off the woody bottoms,
rinse them with water thoroughly, then place them in a baking pan.  Drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil,
sprinkle on some salt and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bon
Appetite!

References:

1.            Insel, P., E. Turner, and D. Ross, Nutrition. 2 ed. 2004, Sudbury, MA:
Jones and Bartlett.

2.            Mahan,
K. and S. Escott-Stump, Krause’s Food,
Nutrition, & Diet Therapy
. 11 ed. 2004, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
Saubers.

 

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