From providing relief from pre-menstrual syndrome to preventing cancer and diabetes, asparagus has a host of different health benefits. It also provides relief from hangovers, cataracts, rheumatism, tubercolosis, depression, neurogenerative diseases and convulsions. It also is beneficial during pregnancy and helps in lowering levels of homocysteine in the body.
Belonging to the family of lilies, asparagus is valued all over the world for its therapeutic properties. The name is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘sprout’. All parts of the asparagus plant from the roots to the shoots have medicinal effects. It has been widely used for a long time and its usage and benefits have been tested and proven in scientific as well as other indigenous forms of medicine. There are more than 300 different varieties of this plant available around the world. It generally comes in 3 shades - green, white or purple. The white variety grows away from the sunlight and so is devoid of chlorophyll. Purple asparagus derives its colour due to the presence of phytochemicals and anthocyanins.
Listed as one of the top 20 foods on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), asparagus has plenty of nutritional benefits. Asparagus is packed with essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. The different vitamins which asparagus contains are Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin K.
Again, asparagus contains a whole range of essential minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium and potassium. In addition to all the vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our health, asparagus also has dietary fibers. It also has very less calories and cholesterol and, hence, will not adversely affect your health in any way. Including asparagus in your diet can help reduce the chances of type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even some types of cancers.
Periods of rapid growth like in times of pregnancy, infancy and adolescence requires adequate intake of folate. It can be beneficial to have asparagus during these periods as it is one of the best natural sources of folate. Intake of folic acid supplements during pregnancy helps to prevent pregnancy loss (miscarriage) and protects the fetus from neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain, spinal cord or spine.
In today’s world, more and more people are falling prey to mental illnesses and are suffering from depression. Folate, which is present in asparagus in generous quantities, helps prevent the onset of depression by not allowing excess of homocysteine to form in the brain. Homocysteine prevents blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain and thus aggravates depression. Production of feel good hormones like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which regulate mood, sleep and appetite is hampered if excess homocysteine forms in the brain. Asparagus prevents this situation and makes sure that you do not fall prey to acute depression.
Pre-menstrual bloating can be eased with a generous quantity of asparagus extract. The essential nutrients present in asparagus help prevent depression and fatigue and also help women deal with menstrual cramps. During menstruation, asparagus helps to control blood loss and maintain hormonal balance.
Homocysteine is produced in blood when amino acids are broken down in the body. Asparagus contains Vitamin B in abundance which helps to maintain an optimum level of homocysteine in your body. Serious problems like damage of blood vessels, venous thrombosis which is clotting of blood in your veins and atherosclerosis which can lead to cardiac disorders are caused if homocysteine levels go beyond the permissible limit. Higher level of homocysteine can lead to coronary artery disease. So asparagus helps to maintain the homocysteine levelin your blood and ensures that your heart remains in a healthy condition.
Shatavari is the root of the asparagus plant which has aphrodisiac properties and is used to treat sexual problems of both men and women. It is also used to treat hormonal imbalance. It helps to enhance libidity and increases sperm count and mobility. It is effective in treating menopausal syndrome and anemia in women. It is also instrumental in improving the quality and quantity of breast milk and also helps to boost the appetite of nursing women.
Asparagus helps in the effective absorption of minerals and also reduces the risk of stomach cancer and allergies. This is because asparagus contains inulin which is a complex carbohydrate and which does not get digested until it reaches the large intestine. There it is fed upon by a kind of good bacteria known as Lactobacilli. Asparagus also helps in the smooth functioning of bowel and keeps bloating and constipation at bay as it contains dietary fibre and has laxative properties.
One variety of asparagus, asparagus racemosus or wild asparagus contains phytonutrients called saponin which possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Asparagus also helps in increasing the levels of glutathione which is an antioxidant and a detoxifying agent. This helps in the prevention of many diseases like HIV, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, anemia and others.
Asparagus contains good quantities of Vitamin K which is essential to keep your bones healthy and strong. A good intake of Vitamin K improves absorption of calcium by your body and also reduces the amount of calcium excreted in urine. This invariably results in stronger and healthier bones. Asparagus contains iron which also helps your bones to stay strong and elastic.
It has been scientifically proved that an adequate intake of dietary folate or folate from other food sources contribute a lot in the prevention of colon, stomach, pancreatic and cervical cancers. Women who do not intake adequate quantities of folate are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Asparagus contains folate and inclusion of asparagus in your diet can go a long way in preventing various forms of cancer.
Asparagus helps in preventing chronic ailments including Type-2 diabetes as it contains anti-inflammatory nutrients. The mineral chromium present in asparagus also plays a vital role in regulating your blood sugar levels. It also has an anti-diabetic effect and improves insulin secretion.
Asparagus helps in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the joints. Asparagus is rich in folates and thus possess anti-inflammatory properties and can thus help to relieve the pain and can also ensure better functioning of an arthritis afficted human body.
Asparagus is widely used all over the world as it has a wide variety of medicinal purposes. It is effective in treating Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. It helps to prevent reduction in birth weight of babies and also prevents birth defects during pregnancy. Even complex diseases such as epilepsy and urinary tract infections can be cured by including asparagus in your daily diet. Say goodbye to pre-menstrual bloating by opting for asparagus. It also provides a good remedy for curing hangovers, anxiety and stress. Furthermore, it also helps to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine and blood sugar. Lastly, it is also instrumental in preventing rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts and blood clotting.
Human bodies need to ferment a carbohydrate called raffinose when they consume asparagus. However, gas is produced in the human body during the process of breaking down of the carbohydrate and subsequently released. Asparagus is traditionally used for birth control but it also alters the hormonal balance. So it is advisable not to opt for medicinal doses of the same during pregnancy or lactation without consulting doctor. Asparagus can cause allergies to people who are allergic to onions, leeks and other members of the lily family.
The asparagus, a member of the lilaceae family is a distant cousin of onion and has been consumed for almost 2000 years. The garden plant originated in the eastern Mediterranean countries while the wild varieties were found in Africa. The Greek were also interested in its biological and pharmaceutical qualities. The ancient Greek doctor, Hippocrates, used asparagus to treat diarrhea and pain in the urethra. The Romans, on the other hand, were interested in the gastronomic qualities of asparagus.
Asparagus can be cultivated in sub-tropical and sub-temperate agro-climatic regions up to an altitude of 1300 meters. Although asparagus can be cultivated in a wide variety of soils, it grows best in well-drained soils which are rich in organic matter and having a pH range of 6.5 – 7.5.