Asparagus, like most veggies, is low in calories (27 per cup) and high in fiber, making it the perfect addition to any healthy diet or weight loss plan. A bonus – it is a natural diuretic, a treasured secret among those of us are battling the bloat!
Crispy yet tender, bitter yet sweet, and always satisfying, asparagus is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to keep you healthy. It’s a superb source of vitamin K (important for bone density and blood clotting), folic acid and other B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, and the minerals zinc and selenium. It’s also an impressive source of prebiotics, which serve as a food source for healthy bacteria in our digestive tract. Asparagus has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal food, perhaps because it helps to reduce inflammation in the body, fights high blood pressure, and has detoxifying and anti-cancer properties.
What about that weird odor of your urine after eating asparagus? Interestingly, some people have the ability to detect the smell, and some do not. It’s normal and perfectly harmless, and can emerge within 15 minutes of eating the asparagus and last up to 2 days. It comes from asparagusic acid, which breaks down into several smelly sulfur-containing compounds when digested. These very components are protective against disease, so if your pee is pungent, rest assured your body is reaping great benefits!
Asparagus, which is in the same veggie family as onions, garlic, leeks, and turnips, is in its peak season right now, so enjoy it fresh from your local farmer’s market or store. You can also get it year-round thanks to modern agricultural techniques and mass transport, but of course fresh, locally grown asparagus is a real treat. You’ll enjoy it at its peak of flavor and maximum nutritional punch, and reduce your carbon footprint too.
Choose firm, healthy-looking green/purple or white spears with plump, compact buds at the tips. (Old asparagus is yellowed, bendy, and the tips will look dry or wilted.) Stalk thickness is a matter of personal preference; sometimes the fatter ones are tougher, but not necessarily. When the bunch is squeezed, it should squeak.
Store asparagus in the fridge, with the stalks’ base wrapped in a damp paper towel to extend freshness. Just before using, rinse under cool water to remove dirt, and trim 1-3” of the base with kitchen shears.
Ditch any temptation to boil it — elevate your asparagus to new heights. Try it marinated and grilled; roasted and tossed in a salad; topped with a tangy or spicy sauce; or sautéed with pasta and fresh veggies. Enjoy asparagus in tasty dishes from all over the world — from curries to omelets to pizza to sushi to stir fries.
Here are 3 variations on 3 basic asparagus cooking methods.
You will need:
1 pound of asparagus spears
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add in trimmed asparagus and sauté over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (depending on thickness) until it starts to brown. Sprinkle on salt and pepper and serve.
Trim the asparagus and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 450°F for 8-12 minutes (longer for fatter asparagus) until tender.
Trim the asparagus and toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, for 4-6 minutes.
Variation 1: The “Triple A” — Asparagus-arugula-avocado salad with citrus dill dressing
For the dressing, mix up 1/2 cup orange juice, the juice of 2 lemons, 4 tbsp avocado oil (or olive oil), and 1 tbsp dried dill or 2 tbsp fresh chopped. Slice up cooked asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Place in a big bowl with a 5-ounce bag of arugula and one large ripe cubed avocado. Gently toss salad with dressing and serve immediately. Serves 4.Per serving: 272 calories, 23 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 4.4 g fiber, 5 g protein
Variation 2: Asparagus tossed with whole wheat or sprouted penne, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts
Boil 8 ounces of penne according to package directions. Meanwhile, slice up cooked asparagus into 1-inch pieces, roughly chop 1 cup packed sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), and shred up a cup of basil leaves. When pasta is done, drain, place back in hot pot, and add the prepared vegetables. Stir and add 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and 1/3 cup pine nuts. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6. Per serving: 355 calories, 21 g fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 10 g protein
Variation 3: Asparagus with Miso Glaze
For the miso glaze, combine 3 tbsp natural sweetener, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp hot water, and 2 tbsp miso. Slice a large red onion into eighths. Slice 8-10 ounces mushrooms of your choice. In a large sauté pan or wok, heat 1 tbsp canola or safflower oil. Stir fry the onion and mushrooms in the oil until cooked, about 8 minutes. Add the sauce. Cook over low heat for several more minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Add the asparagus and toss to coat. Serve over brown rice or rice noodles. Serves 4. Per serving: 335 calories, 15.5 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 44 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 28 g sugar, 12 g protein.