Asparagus, officially known as Asparagus officinalis, is a member of the lily family.
This popular vegetable comes in a variety of colors, including green, white and purple. It’s used in dishes around the world, including frittatas, pastas and stir-fries.
Asparagus is also low in calories and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
This article uncovers 7 health benefits of asparagus, all supported by science.
1. Many Nutrients But Few Calories
Asparagus is low in calories but boasts an impressive nutrient profile.
In fact, just half a cup (90 grams) of cooked asparagus contains (1):
- Calories: 20
- Protein: 2.2 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Fiber: 1.8 grams
- Vitamin C: 12% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 18% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 57% of the RDI
- Folate: 34% of the RDI
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 7% of the RDI
Asparagus also possesses small amounts of other micronutrients, including iron, zinc and riboflavin.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient involved in blood clotting and bone health.
In addition, asparagus is high in folate, a nutrient that is vital for a healthy pregnancy and many important processes in the body, including cell growth and DNA formation.
2. Good Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress contributes to aging, chronic inflammation and many diseases, including cancer.
Asparagus, like other green vegetables, is high in antioxidants. These include vitamin E, vitamin C and glutathione, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.
Asparagus is particularly high in the flavonoids quercetin, isorhamnetin and kaempferol.
These substances have been found to have blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anticancer effects in a number of human, test-tube and animal studies.
What’s more, purple asparagus contains powerful pigments called anthocyanins, which give the vegetable its vibrant color and have antioxidant effects in the body.
In fact, increasing anthocyanin intake has been shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
Eating asparagus along with other fruits and vegetables can provide your body with a range of antioxidants to promote good health.
3. Can Improve Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is essential for good digestive health.
Just half a cup of asparagus contains 1.8 grams of fiber, which is 7% of your daily needs.
Studies suggest that a diet high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stool and supports regular bowel movements.
It also contains a small amount of soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract.
Soluble fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
Increasing the number of these beneficial bacteria plays a role in strengthening the immune system and producing essential nutrients like vitamins B12 and K2.
Eating asparagus as part of a fiber-rich diet is an excellent way to help meet your fiber needs and keep your digestive system healthy.
4. Helps Support a Healthy Pregnancy
Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, also known as vitamin B9.
Just half a cup of asparagus provides adults with 34% of their daily folate needs and pregnant women with 22% of their daily needs.
Folate is an essential nutrient that helps form red blood cells and produce DNA for healthy growth and development. It’s especially important during the early stages of pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby.
Getting enough folate from sources like asparagus, green leafy vegetables and fruit can protect against neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
Neural tube defects can lead to a range of complications, ranging from learning difficulties to lack of bowel and bladder control to physical disabilities.
In fact, adequate folate is so vital during pre-pregnancy and early pregnancy that folate supplements are recommended to ensure women meet their requirements.
5. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects more than 1.3 billion people worldwide and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Research suggests that increasing potassium intake while reducing salt intake is an effective way to lower high blood pressure.
Potassium lowers blood pressure in two ways: by relaxing the walls of blood vessels and excreting excess salt through urine.
Asparagus is a good source of potassium, providing 6% of your daily requirement in a half-cup serving.
What’s more, research in rats with high blood pressure suggests that asparagus may have other blood pressure-lowering properties. In one study, rats were fed either a diet with 5% asparagus or a standard diet without asparagus.
After 10 weeks, the rats on the asparagus diet had 17% lower blood pressure than the rats on the standard diet.
Researchers believed this effect was due to an active compound in asparagus that causes blood vessels to dilate.
However, human studies are needed to determine whether this active compound has the same effect in humans.
In any case, eating more potassium-rich vegetables, such as asparagus, is a great way to help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
6. Can Help You Lose Weight
Currently, no studies have tested the effects of asparagus on weight loss.
However, it has a number of properties that could potentially help you lose weight.
First, it’s very low in calories, with only 20 calories in half a cup. This means you can eat a lot of asparagus without taking in a lot of calories.
Furthermore, it’s about 94% water. Research suggests that consuming low-calorie, water-rich foods is associated with weight loss.
Asparagus is also rich in fiber, which has been linked to lower body weight and weight loss.
7. Easy to Add to Your Diet
In addition to being nutritious, asparagus is delicious and easy to incorporate into your diet.
It can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, grilling, steaming, roasting and sautéing. You can also purchase canned asparagus, which is precooked and ready to eat.
Asparagus can be used in a number of dishes like salads, stir-fries, frittatas, omelets and pastas, and it makes an excellent side dish.
Furthermore, it’s extremely affordable and widely available at most grocery stores.
When shopping for fresh asparagus, look for firm stems and tight, closed tips.