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Asparagus is a popular vegetable in many parts of the world. Depending on the type of asparagus, people eat it raw or cooked, and in dishes such as soups, stews, salads, or on its own.

The nutrients in asparagus can support heart and bone health, while the folate and iron that it contains may be especially beneficial during pregnancy.

Here, learn more about the vegetable’s nutritional contents, possible health benefits, and how to incorporate it into the diet.

The nutrients in asparagus can provide a range of health benefits.

Supporting fetal development

Asparagus is a vegetable that is rich in nutrients and easy to prepare.Share on Pinterest
Asparagus is a vegetable that is rich in nutrients and easy to prepare.

Asparagus is rich in folate, also known as vitamin B-9. This nutrient plays an essential role in cell development.

Folate is an essential nutrient, and it is especially important at times of rapid growth, such as during gestation, infancy, and adolescence.

Taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy appears to help prevent pregnancy loss and protect the growing fetus from neural tube abnormalities.

Also, people who do not get enough folate from their diets may experience weakness and tiredness due to folate deficiency anemia.

One cup of asparagus weighing 134 grams (g) can provide around 17% of an adult’s daily requirement of folate.

Which foods should you eat or avoid during pregnancy? Find out here.

Lower risk of depression

Folate may also reduce the risk of depression, according to a scientific article published in 2008.

It may do so by preventing too much homocysteine from forming in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid that can block blood and nutrients from reaching the brain.

If too much homocysteine is present, it may also interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.

Can diet affect how a person with depression feels? Find out here.

Stroke

Using folate to manage homocysteine levels may reduce the risk of stroke, according to research reviewed by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

The evidence comes from studies in which people took folate supplements. However, dietary sources of folate may also be beneficial.

Cardiovascular health

Asparagus contains fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, all of which may promote heart health.

Fiber

Authors of a 2017 review found that people who consume a high fiber diet appear to have lower blood pressure and less low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol in their blood.

A cup of asparagus can provide around 10% of an adult’s daily fiber needs.

Potassium

The American Heart Association (AHA) urge people to reduce their consumption of added salt, or sodium, while increasing their intake of potassium, as this can help manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Antioxidants

The body naturally produces toxic molecules known as free radicals, and if too many build up, they can cause damage. Cardiovascular disease may be one result of this.

The antioxidants in asparagus — including beta carotene, tocopherol, and selenium — may contribute to cardiovascular health because antioxidants may combat free radicals.

Find more information on antioxidant-rich foods here.

Preventing osteoporosis

Asparagus contains phosphorus, iron, vitamin K, and some calcium, all of which contribute to bone health.

A cup of asparagus can provide almost half of an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin K, and a 2018 review, for example, concludes that vitamin K supports bone health in various ways and may help prevent osteoporosis.

Meanwhile, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium are among the minerals that support bone health, and asparagus contains all of these.

One cup of asparagus provides almost 10% of a person’s daily requirement of phosphorus and between one-sixth and one-third of their requirement of iron.

Learn more about how to maintain bone strength naturally.

Cancer prevention

High levels of free radicals in the body can lead to cell damage that may result in cancer. Asparagus provides a range of antioxidants that may help the body eliminate these unwanted substances.

According the ODS, scientists have found links between low folate levels and various forms of cancer. However, they note that more research is necessary to identify what role dietary folate may play.

Fiber may help prevent colorectal cancer, according to results of a population-based screening trial published in 2015. The investigators found that people with high fiber diets were significantly less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who ate low amounts of fiber.

Is there a link between a person’s diet and their risk of cancer?

Digestion

Asparagus is rich in fiber and water. Both help prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Learn more about high fiber foods.

Asparagus is available in various forms — it may be frozen, raw, precooked, or preserved. The nutritional contents vary accordingly.

The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in 1 cup, or 134 grams (g), of raw asparagus, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It also shows how much of each nutrient an adult needs, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, requirements vary, depending on sex and age.

NutrientAmount in 1 cupDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)26.81,600–3,000
Carbohydrate (g)5.2, including 2.5 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)2.822.4–33.6
Protein (g)3.046–56
Calcium (millgrams [mg])32.21,000–1,300
Iron (mg)2.98–18
Magnesium (mg)18.8310–420
Phosphorus (mg)69.7700–1,250
Potassium (mg)2714,700
Zinc (mg)0.78–11
Manganese (mg)0.21.6–2.3
Choline (mg)21.4400–550
Selenium (micrograms [mcg])3.055
Vitamin C (mg)7.565–90
Folate (mcg, DFE)69.7400
Betaine (mg)0.8No data
Beta carotene (mcg)602No data
Lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)951No data
Vitamin E (mg)1.515
Vitamin K (mcg)55.775–120
Vitamin A (mcg) RAE50.9700–900

Asparagus also contains B vitamins and a range of antioxidants.

Find out more about the potential health benefits of various vegetables.

Asparagus can be green, white, or purple. People should buy it when the stalks are dry and tight, not soft, limp, or wilted. A person can eat it raw or cooked.

To keep asparagus fresh, wrap the stem ends in a wet paper towel, and store the asparagus in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

A person can eat young asparagus whole. However, it may be a good idea to remove the bottoms of older, larger, thicker stems, as these can be tough and woody.

Tips for preparing and serving

Here are some tips for incorporating asparagus into the diet:

  • Steam whole asparagus for 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Add a handful of fresh asparagus to an omelet or scramble.
  • Saute asparagus in a little olive oil and minced garlic. Season it with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Add chopped asparagus to a salad or wrap.
  • Place asparagus on a large piece of aluminum foil. Add lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, wrap the vegetables in the foil and bake them for 20 minutes at 400°F, or until the asparagus reaches desired tenderness.

Recipes

Registered dietitians have developed most of the following tasty recipes:

People with certain health conditions should not eat too much asparagus.

Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting. Anyone who is taking a blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin), should not suddenly increase or decrease their consumption of vitamin K. It is important to discuss any major dietary changes with a doctor first.

Also, asparagus extract supplements are available for purchase, but speak to a doctor before trying these or any other supplements.

Supplements can interfere with medication or be otherwise unsuitable for some people.

Like many vegetables, asparagus can make a tasty and healthful addition to the diet.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s assessment for 2019, asparagus is also among the 15 types of produce least likely to contain significant amounts of pesticides.

When considering the reported health benefits of any food, it is worth remembering that researchers tend to work with higher concentrations of nutrients than those available from food.

It is more important to consume a balanced, healthful diet than to boost the intake of any one fruit or vegetable, for example.

Various asparagus products are available for purchase online.

Q:

Is it a good idea to take asparagus supplements for my health? Can I take them during pregnancy?

A:

Asparagus can be very beneficial to your health, for many reasons, but it is best to get these benefits from the food instead of a supplement.

However, if you are thinking about taking an asparagus supplement, speak to your doctor first to ensure that it is safe and right for you, especially if you are pregnant, on any type of medication, or have a medical condition.

Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D. Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.