Love it or hate it — there’s no middle ground when it comes to asparagus. Between the woody stem, the weird little Q-tip head, and the (putting it mildly) strong flavor, this vegetable just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
But if it is your cup of tea and you happen to be pregnant, is it OK for you to sauté a fresh bundle of asparagus for dinner? Yes! What about if you’re breastfeeding? Yup, then too!
Asparagus lovers can rest assured that their fave veg doesn’t need to be off the menu during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Still, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you go to town on this quirky — but nutritious! — option.
What is asparagus?
Asparagus is a member of the lily family of flowering plants and related to onions, leeks, and garlic. Its shoots, or stalks, are what we commonly eat as a vegetable (the more you know, right?!), and it’s green, white, or purple in color depending on the variety.
There’s a reason why you often see asparagus dishes on an Easter buffet table — it’s a spring vegetable, widely available in the United States from about April to July depending on where you live.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on asparagus at other times of the year, just that spring is when it’s in season, i.e., the cheapest and easiest to find in your local supermarket.
Safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Asparagus is 100 percent safe to eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
However, there are a couple of reasons why you might not want to go overboard with it during pregnancy (we’ll get to those in a bit). As far as breastfeeding, there are a couple of things to consider:
Eating a ton of asparagus might affect the flavor of your breast milk. That’s not a problem, per se, but baby might not be a fan. If you notice they’re less interested in feeding after you chowed down on asparagus, you may need to limit how much you eat in the future.
Eating a lot of asparagus while breastfeeding could make your baby extra gassy. Some people believe foods that make you gassy can also make your breastfeeding baby gassy, but others say breast milk can’t “pass on” gas to your baby. It’s best to observe whether your baby is noticeably gassy after you eat asparagus. If they are, cut back.
Health benefits during pregnancy
At any stage of life, asparagus is a super healthy vegetable that’s loaded with vitamins but contains nearly no fat or calories. This holds true in pregnancy, especially since some of the nutrients in asparagus are particularly good for growing babies in utero.
Here are some of the benefits of dining on these little green shoots while expecting:
This vitamin is important for both you and babyTrusted Source during pregnancy. It helps your blood clot, which means it can prevent excessive bleeding during labor and delivery (many OB-GYNs administer vitamin K to newborns right after birth for this same reason).
Asparagus is rich in vitamin K, but it’s important to know that it doesn’t build up or stay in your body for long, so it’s best to include some in your diet every day if you want to reap its benefits.
Folate is one of the most essential pregnancy nutrients. It’s important for the development of baby’s neural tube. Getting enough folate, which is naturally found in food, or folic acid (its synthetic form), especially in early pregnancy, reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube disorder like spina bifida.
Just a half-cup of asparagus contains 134 micrograms of folate, or about 34 percent of the daily recommended value.
In that same half-cup of asparagus, you’ll net more than 20 milligramsTrusted Source of calcium. While this isn’t a massive amount, every little bit counts, especially when it can help keep your and baby’s bones healthy and strong.
Asparagus is rich in soluble fiber, which is the kind that bulks up your stool and keeps you regular. Since constipation is a common complaint during pregnancy, adding asparagus to your diet on a regular basis may help you avoid some of the usual backup.
Side effects of eating too much
None of the side effects of eating too much asparagus are harmful, but they might be a little extra unpleasant when you’re pregnant.
Because asparagus has a lot of fiber, as well as an enzyme called raffinose, it can make you really gassy (just like when you eat broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower). If you’re already experiencing bad pregnancy-related gas, the discomfort asparagus causes you might not be worth its health benefits.
Also, the rumors are true: Asparagus makes your pee smell. The sulfurous acid in this veggie turns into a stinky gas as your body metabolizes it. When you pee after digesting asparagus, you’ll often note a very potent odor. If you’re nauseated from pregnancy hormones, you might want to skip this vegetable until you can handle strong smells more easily.
Any risks to eating asparagus?
Since asparagus is related to onions, leeks, garlic, and chives, you should avoid it if you have a known allergy to any of those foods.
The only other thing to note is that asparagus should be washed very thoroughly before being eaten during pregnancy. Of course, this is true for all raw veggies, but it’s a teensy bit more important with asparagus than, say, with cucumber.
The funky little heads of asparagus stalks are good at harboring the kinds of bacteria that can cause listeria infections (as well as those from other parasites, pathogens, and yuckies), so it’s wise to give your stalks a good scrub before consuming them.
How to prepare asparagus
After washing your asparagus well, you can eat it raw (like in a salad) or cooked by steaming, roasting, grilling, or baking it.
Since the bottom part of the stalk can be tough and chewy, you’ll have to remove it. Trim the bottom half-inch off with a knife or snap the bottom off by bending the asparagus shoot between your hands until it breaks.
The simplest way to prepare tasty asparagus is to sauté it with some olive oil, sea salt, and lemon, but you can get about as fancy as you want with it. Add it to pasta dishes, soups, and omelets; throw it on the grill in a foil packet; or toss it with your favorite stir-fry ingredients.
The bottom line
When asparagus is cleaned, stored, and prepared correctly, it’s 100 percent safe to eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You may experience a few minor side effects if you’re eating a ton of it, but none of these are harmful to you or your baby.
As long as you can tolerate it, eat as much asparagus as you want. It’s a folate- and vitamin-rich spring vegetable that can keep you and baby healthy.