British asparagus comes into season in April and you need to move quickly to enjoy it, because it’s only available until June. If you’ve been avoiding asparagus because it makes your urine smell funny, think again! The slightly sulphurous smell that some people experience is believed to be due to the breakdown of an antioxidant compound called asparagusic acid. Whether you experience it or not, asparagus is an all-round winner when it comes to nutrition because it’s packed with a huge amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so you should definitely make the most of it while you can.
3 reasons to tuck into asparagus
- It’s full of a diverse range of anti-inflammatory nutrients, including compounds called saponins. These help to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines which exacerbate symptoms of conditions such as arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.
- It’s one of the best sources of glutathione which is an incredibly powerful antioxidant, protecting us against illness, infection and the free radical damage associated with premature ageing. Research suggests that glutathione helps to protect against the growth of cancer cells. It also plays a crucial part in the detoxification pathways in the liver and supporting energy metabolism. This may be why glutathione is a very trendy – and expensive – supplement right now!However, the body is very efficient at synthesising glutathione from compounds in protein-rich foods, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions which is a safer and more balanced route than supplementing, no matter how tempting that may be. Antioxidants are designed to work in synergy, and high individual doses may cause more harm than good without specialist advice.
- Asparagus promotes heart health because of the high levels of quercetin which support a healthy vascular system, reducing the risk of fatty deposits in the arteries.
How asparagus can boost your energy levels
It’s an excellent source of folate, the B vitamin which is crucial for the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body to provide energy for our muscles, tissues and cells. Low levels of folate can cause fatigue, apathy and poor memory.
Best ways to eat asparagus
- Asparagus has a high respiration rate, which makes it perish more quickly than other vegetables, so it’s best eaten within 48 hours of purchase.
- It’s highly vulnerable to heat; try to limit cooking time to a maximum of five minutes or three minutes for thinner stalks, to avoid depleting the nutrients.
- It’s delicious as a simple side dish with lemony butter and chives; chopped asparagus works well in omelettes or frittata, or you could use asparagus stalks as a low-carb option to dip into a boiled egg.