Dr. Libby on asparagus
Spring is when those funny little stalks of deliciousness known as asparagus become available, but the season is short, so make the most of it. Asparagus is rich in vitamins and minerals, is an excellent source of antioxidants, particularly the phenolic group and supplies some carotenoids. It’s one of the best natural sources of folate and is a source of fibre to help keep your bowel regular. Folate can be depleted by alcohol consumption, so make a conscious effort to incorporate asparagus into your evening meals this spring. Asparagus has been known for many centuries for its medicinal properties. It is thought of as a food that heals and cleanses, as it acts as a diuretic.
Like chicory root and artichoke, asparagus contains significant amounts of a unique type of carbohydrate called inulin—more commonly referred to as a "prebiotic." Unlikemost other carbohydrates, inulin isn't broken down in the first segments of our digestive tract passing through to the large intestine where it ferments — helping to support healthy gut flora.
Asparagus contains sulphurous compounds (some of which are also found in eggs, onions and garlic). When your digestive systembreaks down these sulphurous compounds, by-products are released and it’s these byproducts that are responsible for that distinctive smell in your urine. This process occurs so quickly that your urine can develop the distinctive smell within 15 to 30 minutes of eating asparagus. Interestingly, not everyone is affected and your genetics may determine whether your urine has the odour, or whether you can actually smell it.
Only some people appear to have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down these sulphurous components into their more pungent parts. The sulphurous compounds actually provide many health benefits similar to those of the brassica family, including supporting liver detoxification and cancer prevention.
How do you buy and cook asparagus?
Choose straight, firm, green stems. Buy small quantities regularly as it tastes so much better when eaten fresh. To prepare asparagus, snap off the tough ends. For maximum nutrition benefits and flavour, cooked asparagus should be tender but still slightly crisp. Try it lightly steamed and served with lemon juice, a drizzle of avocado or olive oil and celtic sea salt. It's just as delicious as part of a green stir-fry, in frittatas or simply eat as a side dish with anymeal. Next week I’ll share a recipe for a quick and easy breakfast.