Asparagus is considered to be one of the delicacies of the vegetable world. The spring vegetable is well known for its unique and strong savory taste.
There are various different varieties of asparagus, including British and American varieties (which are green), French asparagus (which is purple), and Spanish and Dutch asparagus (which is white).1
Asparagus is loaded with vitamins and minerals and it is also a diuretic.
This MNT Knowledge Center article is part of a collection of features on the health benefits of popular foods.
Nutritional breakdown of asparagus
Vitamins and minerals - asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin B6, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
The vegetable also contains relatively high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, copper, potassium, selenium and manganese.
Dietary fiber - asparagus is very rich in dietary fiber. A one hundred gram serving of asparagus contains approximately 2.1 grams of dietary fiber.
Possible health benefits of asparagus
The second century physician Galen described asparagus as "cleansing and healing" and research indicates that eating asparagus can help control diabetes, act as a diuretic, prevent kidney stones, and reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies.
Reducing the risk of diabetes
Researchers at the Karachi University in Pakistan found that eating asparagus may help control type 2 diabetes. Their study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
According to the authors, asparagus "exerts anti-diabetic effects by improving insulin secretion and β-cell function, as well as the antioxidant status".2
Acting as a diuretic and preventing kidney stones
According to an article titled "Chemical constituents of Asparagus", published in the journal Pharmacognosy Review, asparagus "helps flush out the kidneys and helps in the prevention of the formation of kidney stones". 3
Reducing the risk of neural tube defects in babies
Asparagus contains almost half a person's recommended daily intake of folate. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects in babies.
According to KidsHealth.org, there are various studies that have shown that "women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily prior to conception and during early pregnancy reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a serious neural tube defect (a birth defect involving incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord) by up to 70%."4
Risks and precautions
You should not eat asparagus if you are allergic to it. People who are sensitive to other vegetables belonging to the Liliaceae family (such as onions, garlic, and chives) should be cautious as they are at a higher risk of being allergic to asparagus.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist