Asparagus: its high food value and storage technique for retaining nutrition
Asparagus, which is a Greek word meaning stalk or shoot, grows best in sandy, well-drained soils. Asparagus spears grow from a crown -- the root system of an asparagus plant that is grown from seed. The crown is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils. Spears grow from buds in the crown, and, if not harvested, branch out to form the "fern" which is the feathery green leaves and stems of the plant. Spears are not usually harvested until plants are two years old in order to allow the crown to become large and healthy.
Avocado, bananas, orange juice, cold cereal, asparagus, fruits, green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, and yeast contains high percentage of various types of vitamin and folate. Folate occurs naturally in food and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Historically, asparagus has been used as a diuretic and in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism.
Root of Asparagus racemosus (AR) is widely used in Ayurvedic system of medicine in India and is known for its steroidal saponin content. A study by Sardar Patel University in India indicate that the potent therapeutic phyto-components present in AR root i.e. phytosterols, saponins, polyphenols, flavonoids and ascorbic acid, could be responsible for increased bile acid production, elimination of excess cholesterol and elevation of hepatic antioxidant status in hypercholesteremic conditions.
Asparagus an excellent food source for its high food value:
- Asparagus is an excellent source of potassium, vitamin K, folic acid (263 micrograms per cup), vitamins C and A, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B6. It has an excellent ratio of potassium (288 milligrams per cup) to sodium (19.8 milligrams per up). Asparagus is also a very good source of dietary fiber, niacin, phosphorus, protein, and iron.
- Asparagus is a rich source of phytochemicals. Research on asparagus, much of which has been done at Rutgers State University has uncovered the following components with potential health effects: flavonoids, saponins, oligosaccharides, carotenoids and amino acids. Two phytochemicals that Rutgers researchers are looking at are protodioscin and rutin. Those compounds show promise in inhibiting a number of cancers cells (most notable colon cancer and leukemia), lowering cholesterol and providing numerous other health benefits. It is of interest to note that protodioscin, which is present in asparagus, has been linked to improvement of sexual performance.
- People who have one kidney stone run a high risk of forming more. That's why physicians advise them to take preventive measures to avoid kidney damage. They may be asked to cut down on foods containing oxalate, which can be found in spinach, broccoli and asparagus, for example, and reduce calcium intake.
- According to the Cancer Researchers of UK; dietary fiber contained in asparagus is also important for keeping the bowel working normally and helps protect bowel cells from cancer-causing damage. Recent research has shown that a diet high in fiber is linked with a lower incidence of bowel cancer. It is one of the richest sources of rutin, a bioflavonoid and phytochemicals – a natural substance found in plants, which together with vitamin C, can help to energize and protect the body from infections. Asparagus is also a source of iron, which boosts the immune system and prevents anemia.
- Studies suggest that 45 milligrams of vitamin K per day may help prevent bone loss. Vitamin K can be found in green tea, turnip greens, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, asparagus, and dark green lettuce. The National Cancer Institute also ranks asparagus the best known natural source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and cancer fighter.
- Asparagus contains a special kind of carbohydrate called inulin that we don't digest, but the health-promoting friendly bacteria in our large intestine, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, do. When our diet contains good amounts of inulin, the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria increase which acts as a healthy intestinal gut flora.
- According to FDA Asparagus are a high fiber vegetable, low calories, free saturated fat, and sodium free, high in folate & antioxidant. It may reduce the risk of:
- - Coronary heart disease.
- - Hypertension by decreasing sodium.
- - Birth defects by increasing folate.
- Asparagus Extract is effective in improving immunity and destroying abnormal cells. Study indicated that normal cells can biosynthesize aspartic acid, which is necessary for cells to grow. However, unhealthy cells cannot biosynthesize aspartic acid themselves, so they depend on the normal cells’ aspartic acid to live. Asparagus Extract degrades aspartic acid to inhibit unwanted cell growth.
- The Washington Asparagus Commission reports that it contains glutathione which is called the "master antioxidant" in that it helps regulate other antioxidants such as vitamin A or E and is also key in removing free radicals, detoxifying carcinogens and supporting immune functions
- An UC Irvine study suggested that changing their memories of food may be a way to influence their overeating habits. The researchers tackled a healthy food by implanting a phony memory of a positive experience with asparagus. They found that people later showed increased inclination to eat the green spear-like vegetable.
- Another research study shown that it contains folacin, a key factor in cell reproduction. Folacin is essential for growth and repair of body tissues and helps in the reproduction of blood cells in bone marrow. Folacin is perhaps better known as the B vitamin needed by women of childbearing age to assure proper fetal development and prevent some neural tube defects.
- May decrease homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels are known to be a leading cause in cardiovascular disease. Also may decrease renal glomerulus re-absorption & increases kidney function. Your kidneys are one of your main filters. It is ideal to keep them functioning well.
- Asparagus racemosus is traditionally used as a female tonic and may support the female reproductive system. It is believed to the have the energetic qualities of heavy and oily, to have a sweet and bitter taste as well as having a cooling digestive action and a building post digestive action.
Storage technique for retaining nutrition:
- Normally use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, and be sure to place the asparagus in the back of the refrigerator away from any light, since folate is destroyed by exposure to air, heat or light. Asparagus is best when cooked only tender crisp.
- The most recent findings -- published in the issue of the Journal of Food Quality by Brewer and Shahnaz Begum, a graduate student in food science and nutrition - indicate that microwave-blanched asparagus keeps its nutritional value, taste and texture, as well as and often better than, asparagus blanched using traditional methods. They blanched the asparagus, which had been picked within four hours of the process, at 700 watts for four minutes, then sealed it in plastic and put it into the freezer immediately.
- Fresh asparagus is highly perishable and deteriorates rapidly at temperatures above 40°F. In addition to general deterioration, spear growth, loss of tenderness, loss of flavor, loss of vitamin C, and development of decay take place at moderately high temperatures.
- Distinctively rich in flavor, asparagus is a good source of vitamin C, folate, iron and copper. To prepare asparagus for cooking, hold a piece of asparagus in the middle. Grab the cut end and bend it downward until the cut end snaps off. The asparagus will break in the right spot to remove its woody end.
- In arriving at the optimum time for micro waving, the researchers identified the minimum amount of heating needed to inactivate both peroxidase and ascorbic-acid oxidase activities, which break down a vegetable's quality and vitamin C content, respectively, during storage.
Health hazards or possible unwanted effect of asparagus:
- Asparagus contains naturally-occurring substances called purines. Purines are commonly found in plants, animals, and humans. Purines can be broken down to form uric acid; excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid and may cause gout.
- Food borne botulism has often been from home-canned foods with low acid content, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn. Sometimes gas pains or stomach ache may be caused by asparagus .But it is only happen to limited persons.
- You may find that some foods, such as asparagus and seafood, cause urine to have a stronger, distinct and distinctive odor in the urine .It's not harmful, just a smelly sign of the way your body breaks down the asparagus.
- Rarely asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) has been reported to cause allergy. A 55-year-old German cook presented with seasonal (always in May) recurrent dyshidrosiform hand. After consuming asparagus, this cook also developed dyspnea and dysphagia