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Asparagus

Asparagus are young plant shoots, white or green in color, which are high in nutrients, fiber and the amino acid asparagine. They have a warming nature and are cleansing to the body.

Asparagus
The thermal nature is slightly warming..
The flavour is .
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What it is

Asparagus are the young shoots from a flowering perennial plant of the same name.  Asparagus is a member of the lily family. 


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What is in it

Asparagus contains no fat or cholesterol. It is an excellent supplier of folate and vitamins C, A and K, it is also a very good source of fiber, protein, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium and the vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B3. In addition, asparagus is a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium. 


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What it is good for

The asparagines in asparagus have diuretic qualities that give it the ability to eliminate water through the kidneys. It can help in kidney and bladder stones but do not use when there is inflammation of the kidneys. Asparagus can also help to treat urinary tract infections; clean the arteries of cholesterol ease vascular problems like hypertension and Arteriosclerosis.

The underground tubers of asparagus are used in Chinese medicine to tonify the kidneys and moisten the lungs, it is cooling to treat lung congestion and chronic bronchitis and help in the wasting stage of diseases like diabetes and tuberculosis. Asparagus also improves the feminine principles to ease menstrual problems, promote fertility and a compassionate nature.


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When you get it

Each asparagus plant will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.


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Which to select

Choose asparagus that is not dry or split in appearance. It should look fresh and moist.


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Where to store

Store in the refrigerator where it should stay fresh for up to 5 days.


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How to use

The asparagus shoots are prepared in many ways and in many countries. They are particularly popular in Asian, French and Italian cooking.

• Stir-fried in meals with meats or shrimp in Asian recipes
• Grilled quickly over hot coals or wood, then with a drizzle of olive oil
•  Soups and stews 
• Boiled or steamed and served with Hollandaise sauce, butter of olive oil with Parmesan cheese 

A great version of this is to pan fry asparagus, on a very hot heat, in a couple of spoonfuls of water and a couple of olive oil. The water will boil off cooking the asparagus then it will fry slightly in the oil. Place the asparagus on a plate with shaved Parmesan Cheese, drizzle with the oil from the pan and season with salt and pepper. As a variation squeeze a little lemon juice over the asparagus once the heat in the pan is turned off.


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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
 
Servings per food group. 
Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
High quality fats: 1
Dairy:     2 - 3
Fruit: 2
Vegetables: 5
Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible. Always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.


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Things to watch out for

Too much asparagus can irritate the kidneys.


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References

Wikipedia, Asparagus, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asparagus, retrieved 01/2009

The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board http://www.asparagus.org/, retrieved 01/2009

Australian Asparagus Council, http://asparagus.com.au/, retrieved, 01/2009

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)


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