Thursday, March 13, 2014

The little-known health benefits of asparagus


Asparagus is a member of the lily family with a number of health benefits. Unique-tasting, this vegetable contains many nutrients with known functions in and benefits on the human body.

First and foremost, asparagus has good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin and thiamin.

Vitamin A supports eye health, immune health as well as the health of epithelial tissues including the skin, intestinal lining and lung lining. Vitamin C also supports immune health, while being a strong antioxidant at the same time. A cup of raw asparagus tips has about 7.5 mg of vitamin C, which is more than the amount of this vitamin in a pear or a cup of plums or carrots.

Asparagus is high in potassium and low in sodium, with an excellent potassium-to-sodium ratio. It is a low-glycemic food which is low in carbohydrates and calories. At the same time, it has relatively higher levels of protein as compared to other vegetables.

Other nutrients found in asparagus include fiber, iron, zinc, niacin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur and fructose-containing oligosaccharide (FOS), and it also contains an array of phytonutrients such as alpha-carotene, inulin, lutein, quercetin, rutin, zeaxanthin and others.

Significantly, asparagus contains a good amount of folate, which is important in preventing birth defects. This makes asparagus a great food choice for pregnant and nursing women.

Folate has other health benefits too - it protects cardiovascular health by keeping blood levels of homocysteine in check, while sufficient folate intake has been linked with lower risks of certain types of cancer, in particular breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer.

Other compounds in asparagus also exhibit protective effects against cancer; for example, glutathione is a potent antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals in the body before they are able to cause significant damage to bodily cells.

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