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Asparagus: Fascinating Insights on this Healthy Holiday Favorite


Asparagus has been a prized vegetable for nearly 2,000 years. Though it originated in the eastern Mediterranean region (and was later re-popularized by Louis XIV in the 18th century), it is now quite common in the United States.


In fact, the Asparagus Capital of the World is right here in Oceana County Michigan, and if you’re interested in really delving into the “roots” of this fascinating vegetable, you may enjoy the award-winning documentary film just produced about its “spear-struck” residents: Asparagus: Stalking the American Life

Some Facts About Asparagus You Never Knew …

Aside from serving it as a side dish during the holidays, many people are largely missing out on what makes asparagus so unique. For instance:

  • Asparagus is a member of the lily family

  • It grows from “crowns” planted into the ground, and it takes about three years from first planting before it can be harvested (during this time the crown grows a strong root system)

  • An asparagus spear can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period under the right conditions

  • There are about 300 varieties of asparagus, but only 20 are edible

  • After it’s harvested, asparagus spears grow into ferns that produce red berries

Healthy Reasons to Enjoy Asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, the B vitamin folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, and numerous other B vitamins including vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6. It also contains dietary fiber, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium and protein.

Health-wise, asparagus is most noted for:

  • Heart Benefits: The folate in asparagus is excellent for your heart, playing a role in the proper transcription of DNA and transforming norepinephrine into adrenaline, and serotonin into melatonin. Folate also helps keep levels of homocysteine low, which is important as raised levels have been linked to heart disease. One serving of asparagus gives you nearly 66 percent of the daily recommended intake of folate!

  • Good for Your Gut: Asparagus contains inulin, a type of carbohydrate that friendly bacteria in your gut loves. A diet rich in inulin helps the good bacteria in your gut grow and flourish, which makes it harder for disease-causing bacteria to reside in your intestinal tract.

  • Reduce Swelling and Water Retention: Because of its mineral profile and the amino acid asparagine, asparagus has a diuretic effect. It has been used historically to treat the swelling of arthritis and reduce water retention associated with PMS.


If you really love asparagus you may want to invest in a special, narrow steamer that will boil the thick stalks while lightly steaming the delicate tips.

  • Fight Birth Defects: The folate in asparagus is essential for proper cellular division, and inadequate levels during pregnancy have been linked to birth defects. Because of this, eating plenty of asparagus during the early stages of pregnancy, or if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, is a healthy choice.

What About That Strange Smell?

If you enjoy asparagus you may have noticed that it can give a distinctive “asparagus smell” to your urine. Not to worry, this odor is caused by breakdown products of asparagus and is completely harmless.

Asparagus Recipes to Try Out

Asparagus is delicious simply steamed, boiled, or roasted, but here are a couple of more unusual recipes to try.

Asparagus Soup


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.
  • Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and puree until smooth.
  • Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Stir the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Source:

Baked Asparagus With Balsamic Butter Sauce


  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • cooking spray
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Arrange the asparagus on a baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake asparagus 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, and stir in soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Pour over the baked asparagus to serve.

Recipe Source:

Recommended Reading 

Nine Foods that Help You De-Stress Quickly

Calcium Better From Food, Says New Study: Here are the 26 Top Calcium Food Sources


The World’s Healthiest Foods: Asparagus

Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board

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