An ongoing challenge with nutrition is figuring out whether specific foods should be part of a healthy diet. After all, there are so many different types of food out there and they vary considerably nutritionally and even in terms of the impact that they have on the body.
So, what about asparagus? Is asparagus good for you?
Most people would immediately answer yes to that question, simply on the basis that asparagus is a vegetable and we tend to assume that vegetables are healthy – especially if they’re green.
But, when it comes to nutrition, we really shouldn’t assume anything. After all, there is a wide range of nutrition myths out there and their prevalence shows that common sense isn’t always correct.
Reasons to Eat Asparagus
Nutrients vs Calories
One of the main reasons we view vegetables as being healthy is their nutrients. Typically, vegetables are high in a range of nutrients that we need for health and this is certainly true for asparagus. In fact, asparagus scores a 94 completeness score for nutrients and a 92 completeness score for amino acids (1).
Both of those scores are measured on a scale of 1 to 100 and indicate how complete the nutrients in a given food are. In both cases, higher numbers are better, which shows that asparagus acts as a source of a wide range of essential nutrients and amino acids.
Some of the most significant nutrients found in asparagus include (in order of % daily value): vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, selenium, copper, manganese and potassium. Asparagus is also a good source of dietary fiber (2).
Many of these vitamins and minerals are important.
For example, one cup of asparagus contains more than 100% of your daily requirements for vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and it may play a role in treating osteoporosis and improving bone health overall (3,4).
Likewise, the folate in asparagus makes it particularly relevant for women who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant (5).
The fiber in asparagus is also especially important because many people do not get enough of it. Having a high intake of dietary fiber has been associated with a significantly lower risk of developing a range of diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Likewise, people with sufficient fiber intake are less likely to develop hypertension and obesity (8).
At the same time, asparagus is low in calories – making it a great choice for people trying to lose weight. For example, 4 spears of asparagus contain approximately 13 calories. At the same time, the fiber and small amount of protein in the asparagus help to make it much more filling than you might expect.
Those factors are some of the main reasons why asparagus is such a popular food among dieters.
Nutritionally, asparagus is also desirable because it is a good source of antioxidants. In general, antioxidants are compounds that act to prevent cell damage and these are commonly found in fruits and vegetables (9).
To learn more about glutathione, check out the article by Self Hacked. This goes into detail about the health benefits the compound offers. You can also visit the site Immune Health Science to find other foods high in glutathione.
In general, there is still a lot of debate about how prevalent the benefits of antioxidants are, especially as consuming too many antioxidants can actually increase the risk of death. That issue largely applies to cases where people are supplementing with antioxidants, but it is still something to be aware of (14,15). This suggests that the best approach for antioxidants is to get them through a healthy diet with adequate fruit and vegetable intake (16), making the antioxidants in asparagus especially important.
Nevertheless, those outcomes mainly suggest that antioxidant supplements aren't actually as good as most people assume. Getting a decent amount of antioxidants through your diet is still extremely important, which does make asparagus such a good option for your health overall.
Acts as a Diuretic
The chemical properties of asparagus mean that asparagus tends to act as a natural diuretic, something that people often notice when eating it regularly. A diuretic is something that promotes the production of urine, so it will make you need to go to the bathroom more often.
For many people, that side effect can be a bit frustrating, but diuretics can also be good for health.
In particular, this process can help to get rid of extra fluid and salt in the body. This is especially important for people with edema, as they experience fluid buildup in many parts of their body.
At the same time, diuretics can help reduce bloating and reduce blood pressure in some cases (19). There is also the potential for natural diuretics to be less harsh on the body than artificial ones, which also makes them appealing.
Additionally, many diuretics cause people to lose potassium, which can cause some health issues if this isn’t taken into account. However, asparagus has an advantage because it contains potassium.
However, the diuretic aspect of asparagus is something that you need to take into account. After all, you risk becoming dehydrated if you lose too much water. Additionally, diuretics are associated with some other health issues, such as kidney problems, although those typically do not occur with natural diuretics (20).
Risks of Asparagus
In general, asparagus is a healthy vegetable and isn’t associated with any significant health risks. However, there are still a few things to be aware of.
One of these is that asparagus can have some uncomfortable side effects. For example, some people experience significant gas when they eat asparagus. This isn’t dangerous in any way, but it can be embarrassing.
Likewise, asparagus is well known for making your pee smell funny. This happens because one of the chemicals in asparagus is broken down in the body, creating an unpleasant smell. There isn’t anything wrong with this smell and it doesn’t signify any issues with the asparagus or with you.
The smell associated with asparagus in urine is actually pretty interesting – because only some people can smell it. Often people assume that their pee smells while other people’s might not. However, that’s not actually the case. Instead, research shows that some people are able to smell the odor while others are not (21).
Regardless of whether you can personally smell any odor after eating asparagus, this certainly isn’t something to be concerned about.
While asparagus is generally a safe vegetable, you should avoid consuming any asparagus if you have uric acid kidney stones (22). Despite that perspective, there are actually some sites promoting asparagus as a treatment for uric acid kidney stones (23).
Because of this difference, I would recommend talking to your doctor about whether or not you can eat asparagus if you have this type of kidney stone.
It’s also worth noting that for most fruits and vegetables, buying organic tends to be healthier as this helps to decrease the risk of exposure to pesticides. However, asparagus is one of 15 fruits and vegetables that have a very low chance of pesticide contamination (24). As such, you can safely buy non-organic asparagus, which can help you to save a little bit of money.
You can see a full list of the 15 at the site Eating Well.
Is Asparagus Good for You?
Asparagus isn’t a particularly trendy food and it isn’t associated with the wide range of health benefits that you see for foods like kale. But, is asparagus good for you?
The simple answer to that question is yes.
Asparagus would be a good option for health because of the nutrition it offers alone. The other factors, like antioxidants and the fact that it is a diuretic, just strengthen the case for asparagus. Besides that, asparagus is a great option for anyone watching their weight, because the calorie count is so low.
There are also many amazing recipes that take advantage of asparagus. You can see some of these in my recipe roundup. The site Belle of the Kitchen also offers a simple Garlic Parmesan Roasted Asparagus recipe that you can try.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the main goal isn’t to find a single food that offers amazing health benefits. Instead, you should be focusing on developing a diet that is filled with healthy foods, including a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Want to Improve Your Health?
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I know some people love asparagus and others hate it. What about you?