Asparagus properties and benefits

Asparagus properties and benefits

The asparagus are good for your line, thanks to their diuretic and cleansing , but also mood, because their content of vitamin B12 and folic acid helps to regulate the levels of serotonin, the “happy hormone”, and to give us energy

Asparagus: what they are

Asparagus is a perennial herb plant belonging to the Liliaceae family and the Asparagaceae genus .

It has over 240 species dispersed in tropical and sub-tropical regions, with spreading up to 1500 m in height. The genus, very dominant in the regions of southern Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia, also includes the variety of Asparagus , whose cultivation has spread worldwide.

The major producers of asparagus are:

  • China
  • Peru
  • Mexico
  • United States
  • South Africa
  • Europe
  • Spain
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy.

It is a sub-erect thorny shrub that grows well in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

It prefers gravelly and rocky soils in medium soil varieties such as light sands, medium clay and heavy clays and needs well-drained but moist soil.

Furthermore, it can adapt to any light condition because it has the ability to grow both in shady places and in full sun and can easily withstand the sea air, managing to grow even in environments characterized by salinity of the soil.

The plant is made up of an underground leg and part of aerial vegetation. In fact, the “paw” is composed of an underground stem, called rhizome, from which a complex root system develops and in the center of which the buds grow , which form the so-called “crown”.

The buds give life to future shoots, called ” shoots “, which make up the edible part . The shoots develop at the end of winter, when the temperature reaches about 10 ° C, because in these conditions there begins to be a strong migration of nutrients that go from the roots to the shoots (the buds).

Asparagus: a little history

The asparagus plant is extraordinarily valuable for its uses for ornamental, food and medicinal purposes since prehistoric times.

Originally from Mesopotamia , it was already used over 5000 years ago by the Egyptians , who ate it for the extraordinary flavor of the sprouts and for its diuretic properties.

For the Greeks , It had aphrodisiac properties , while the Romans had a real passion for it, considering it, among other things, a powerful contraceptive . Cato, Pliny and Apicius, illustrious writers of ancient Rome, meticulously described the method of cultivation and preparation.

In addition, the Roman emperors did not miss the asparagus and had special ships called “asparagus” to supply them .

The Salerno medical school claimed that they helped men to enhance their reproductive faculties and the production of seminal fluid. However, it seems that the large-scale cultivation began only towards the end of the Middle Ages .

But with the discovery of the New World, asparagus also crossed the ocean and found new land suitable for its diffusion.

Nutritional properties

Asparagus is very beneficial for human health due to the low calorie content , the high protein content , the absence of fats and the good supply of fiber .

The main feature that brings out the asparagus among all vegetables is linked to its diuretic and laxative properties .

The main components are steroidal glycosides, saponins, inulin, asparagusic acid and eight fruit-oligosaccharides.

Other important constituents are inorganic compounds such as vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, E and folic acid), minerals (iron, calcium, potassium and phosphorus), essential oils, amino acids (asparagine, arginine, tyrosine), flavonoids such as quercetin and rutin , resin and tannins.

But also their folic acid content is essential for the formation of blood cells, the growth and prevention of liver diseases.

Nutritional values

100 g of asparagus bring 24 kcal .

Sodium 2 mg Vitamin B2 0.25mg

Phosphorus 65 mg Vitamin B3 0.9 mg

Potasium 278 mg Vitamin C 24mg

Zinc 0.8 mg Vitamin A BCarotene 78 mg

Vitamin E 1,16mg

Asparagus: the health benefits

Asparagus has long been used in homeopathy for the treatment of heart aches, palpitations, dyspnea due to hydrothorax, stones in the urine and toothache.

But also in classical medicine it is considered a plant with high value therapeutic and nutraceutical characteristics , thanks to its functions:

  • antioxidants, antimutagene (juice);
  • antifungal (roots);
  • hepatoprotective (roots);
  • hypoglycemic (roots / shoots) and immunoprotective (roots);
  • anti hyperlipidaemic and protective of the cardiovascular system (turions)
  • diuretics and laxatives (roots and shoots)
  • prevention of cognitive decline and nervous system work (turions).

Here, in detail, are all the beneficial properties.

Diuretic action, useful against cystitis, stones and high blood pressure

The shoots of the Asparagus officinalis plant are diuretics and their consumption favors the increase in the rate of urine production , improving the cellular activity of the kidneys : thanks to this action they are also useful for maintaining normal blood pressure and helping in the treatment of kidney and liver diseases.

It also facilitate the evacuation , increasing the fecal mass thanks to their non-digestible fiber.

Compared to shoots, the roots of cultivated asparagus are more diuretic, recommended in the treatment of a variety of urinary problems including cystitis , as well as as a powerful cardiac sedative.

Always for this action of elimination of liquids , it also helps to lower blood pressure.

In addition, it has also been observed that green asparagus promotes the conversion of proteins into amino acids, an action involved in the dissolution of uric and oxalic acid, which alleviates arthritic conditions and kidney stones .

Anti hyperlipidaemic and protective action of the cardiovascular system
Thanks to the reduced content of calories and the very low intake of sodium, in the face of a good reserve of vitamins, asparagus are considered a vegetable very suitable for people who are overweight or with heart complications such as hypertension.

hyperlipidemia, including hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia , is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.

It is useful for fighting it thanks to their ability to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-C cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL-C levels (good cholesterol).

The hypolipidemic activity could be mainly due to the content of saponin, a type of phytosterol, and also, in part, to the presence of flavonoids.

Hyperlipidemia can also induce oxidative stress in the liver : even in this case, the consumption of asparagus proves beneficial, because studies have shown that it is able to significantly improve liver damage by increasing the enzymatic activity of the liver for elimination of free radicals, dangerous for our health.

Asparagus and diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease , particularly related to lipid metabolism, as it has among its complications alterations in the plasma lipid profile of patients.

For this reason, controlling serum lipid levels through diet or drug therapy is an important approach to treat and manage diabetes and its complications.

It has a double positive action on diabetes . Chemical and pharmacological studies have shown that the administration of asparagus (extracts), in addition to promoting a decrease in plasma triglyceride levels , determines the activation of numerous compounds with proper hypoglycaemic action, including polysaccharides, flavonoids and saponins.

Therefore, regular dietary intake of asparagus has shown in several studies to actually perform this hypoglycaemic function , which improves the syndromes of glucose intolerance and hyperlipidemia and induces weight loss.

Furthermore, the results suggested that asparagus treatment could be useful in the prevention of diabetic complications such as hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia.

Purifying action

Sprouts, like the fruits and seeds of asparagus, are used for the treatment of skin imperfections such as pimples and for the purification of blood . The presence of high quantities of folic acid is essential for the production of new red blood cells . The rutin supplied by asparagus also strengthens the walls of the capillaries.

Useful in pregnancy

Folic acid , of which asparagus is rich, makes them suitable for pregnant women. Also known as Vitamin B9, folic acid is important for the prevention of spina bifida and encephalopathy of the newborn .

This vitamin also intervenes in the formation of red blood cells and in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates . It is useful for maintaining good physical shape, for stimulating appetite and digestion . It also allows the correct use of vitamin B12.

The dried powdered roots of asparagus are useful for new mothers because they have galactogogic properties, that is, they are able to promote and increase milk production .

Benefits for the nervous system and against cognitive decline

The combination of thiamine and folic acid in asparagus intervenes in the stimulation of brain activity and concentration: this makes them useful for the prevention of disorders that could affect the cognitive sphere with advancing age.

Sports allies

The consumption of asparagus and the roots of the plant induces sweating , useful for intense sports activities for the control of body temperature and the elimination of waste.

Contraindications

Asparagus is generally considered safe if taken in the recommended doses and does not have particular contraindications, except in the case of allergy , which can cause symptoms such as rhinitis, professional asthma, oral allergic syndrome, allergic contact dermatitis and anaphylaxis are well known.

However, in cases of kidney inflammation or diarrhea it is preferable not to consume them until healing . It is also advisable not to take asparagus supplements if you have severe kidney disease.

Excessive consumption could exacerbate the phenomena of gout, kidney stones prostate inflammation .

Among the “side effects” deriving from the consumption, the unpleasant smell assumed by the urine is the most characteristic. It is due to the presence of asparagine, a non-essential amino acid, and should not cause concern.

How to consume

To fully enjoy the beneficial properties of asparagus, in the height of their season, it is useful to eat them once or twice a week. In this way you will ensure a fundamental nutritional supply to facilitate the purification of the body, so important especially in the change of season.

Asparagus is also very suitable for dieters, due to their low caloric intake, the ability to keep hunger at bay and to stimulate diuresis.

How to clean

Before consuming them, it is important to wash the asparagus thoroughly . In fact, they are sprouts that sprout from the ground, therefore they need a particular washing in soaking with water and bicarbonate .

Then, after an abundant rinse in running water , they must be dried and deprived of the most woody part at the base of the turion.

Tips for cooking

Asparagus can be boiled or steamed . The tips are more delicate than the base of the stem, therefore to obtain a homogeneous cooking it is advisable to cook them separately, with a special pot or with a steamer.

A system to overcome this drawback is also to tie them after washing making a bunch and cook them vertically, with the tip up, out of the boiling water.

In cooking it is preferable to use as little water as possible, in order not to disperse part of the nutritional principles of the asparagus.

If you plan to sauté them in a pan , it is better to remove them from the pot a few minutes earlier and complete the cooking by mixing the other ingredients: in this way, you can maintain the right consistency of the asparagus.

Furthermore, a useful tip is not to throw away the hardest scraps of the shoots: you can use them to prepare excellent creams, omelettes and sauces . So, just cook them for a long time to soften them, then blend them, flavor them and use them for the recipe you want.

Green, white and violet

Dell ‘ Asparagus officinalis there are many varieties, but this range is independent of color.

Asparagus can be green, white or violet, but the difference in color is linked not to the variety but to the conditions in which they were grown, specifically from exposure to light .

These are cultivation practices, often the result of ancient traditions linked to the territory. The white asparagus grows covered by specially made heaps of earth (rincalzi) and is harvested as soon as the sprouts emerge from the subsoil, before they suffer the consequences of exposure to sunlight.

The same procedure is used with violet asparagus , which are white asparagus whose apexes have been placed in sunlight in the last stages of ripening before harvest.

Some products with a protected designation of origin (DOP), for example, foresee this practice as indispensable in their production specifications. The reasons are basically related to achieving a better flavor .

Typically, white asparagus has a slightly more delicate taste, as it is free of chlorophyll. The violet is more fruity.

Instead, green asparagus are left to grow above earthy soil and acquire their green color due to the effect of the sun ‘s rays which stimulate the production of chlorophyll by the plant.

Of Asparagus officinalis, the commonly cultivated species, the varieties registered at European level are 101.

Of these, 14 are Italian, namely: Albenga, EC12, Ercole, Eros, Franco, Giove, Guelph Evolution, Guelph Millennium, Italo, Marte, Pacific 2000, Santense, Vittorio and Zeno.

As for the genus of Asparagus , here are the most interesting varieties.

Wild asparagus or butcher’s broom?

The wild asparagus or Asparagus acutifolius, called pungent asparagus or more commonly “asparagine”.

It is a completely different plant from Asparagus officinalis : it produces an asparagus highly sought after and appreciated by gourmets of Mediterranean cuisine . Vegeta in the stains, in the holm oaks, in the deciduous woods, in the hedges from 0 to 1300 m.

The pungent shoots of Asparagus have a slightly bitter taste and, as for the common asparagus, they are delicious in various gastronomic preparations (omelettes, sauces, risotto, soups, side dishes, in oil).

Very similar to the latter, it is the bud of the butcher’s broom ( Ruscus aculeatus ); these are thin and long twigs with an intense and bitter taste, which sprout from the ground near the mother plant.

Who knows the appearance of the wild asparagus plant (filamentous bush) is not likely to get confused with the butcher’s broom (bush with flat, broad and pointed leaves) but an inexperienced layman can be fooled.

How to choose them

Asparagus is a late spring vegetable that is best eaten when it is in season .

But buying asparagus out of season is not an advantageous choice, because it would mean bringing to the table a product that probably comes from far away and, therefore, guarantees neither freshness nor quality and involves a much higher expense.

Tips for buying and storing

At the time of purchase, the asparagus must be whole, uniform in color , strong and bright.

They must not appear wilted, but turgid and elastic , with the tips of the shoots well closed , without superficial marks or cracks .

Since they are sold in bunches, when you buy them check that the shoots are not too big, because they would be too hard and fibrous and would produce a greater waste .

It is better to choose those bouquets that present medium or thin shoots, however taking into account that the size can change between one variety and another, as well as the color can be different depending on the cultivation method.

Wrapped in a damp cloth, the asparagus are kept fresh in the fridge for 2-3 days.

If you want to keep them longer, you can clean them, boil them for 4/5 minutes, dry them well and put them in the freezer in a food bag, taking care to let the air out completely before freezing them.

In this way they can last ready to use for a year .

Alternative uses

In addition to the sprouts, other parts of the plant have found culinary use, for example , toasted asparagus seeds can be used as a coffee substitute . Some plants of the genus Asparagus are grown as ornamental plants . They are very different from each other, even if they retain the typical botanical characteristics of the Asparagus officinalis species , that is to say that they are perennial herbaceous plants, with an underground rhizome from which adventitious roots depart. Suffruticose, bushy or climbing, they are all species that produce small and insignificant bell-shaped flowers of pale green color tending to yellow or white-pink and star-shaped (slightly fragrant) followed by berries.

Asparagus in the kitchen

Asparagus are usually eaten boiled or steamed , seasoned with a drizzle of oil or sautéed in a pan with butter and parmesan. But they are also excellent raw , preferably thinly sliced ​​and simply seasoned with fresh squeezed lemon and a little extra virgin olive oil. The typical combination of asparagus is with the egg , fried or hard or even in an omelette. Another successful combination, able to greatly enhance the aroma of this vegetable, is with the truffle flakes . It, however, goes well not only with aged cheeses such as parmesan but also with white and red meats, boiled potatoes, sausages and also with shellfish. And, in the kitchen, it lends itself to the preparation of many recipes.

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