What is asparagus?
Asparagus is a spear-like vegetable and a member of the lily family (liliaceae). In the UK asparagus season runs from April until June, traditionally starting on the 23 April (St George’s Day) and ending on the summer solstice in June. Most asparagus is green in colour but you can also get white and purple varieties, too.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and find out more about the health credentials of other green vegetables. Or check out some of our best asparagus recipes, from classics like asparagus risotto, to twists such as salmon & asparagus quiche.
Nutritional benefits of asparagus
An 80g portion of asparagus (boiled) provides:
- 21 Kcal / 88KJ
- 2.7g protein
- 0.6g fat
- 1.1g carbohydrates
- 1.5g fibre
- 176mg potassium
- 311mcg carotene
- 138mcg folate
- 8mg vitamin C
Five asparagus spears or 80g of asparagus counts as one portion towards your five-a-day. Read our five-a-day infographic and discover cheap ways to reach your five-a-day.
Top 5 health benefits of asparagus
1. Supports gut health
Encouragingly, research has shown that cooked asparagus may be useful in gastrointestinal conditions as it helps to regulate the digestive system, thereby reducing inflammation and promoting repair.
2. May ease hangovers
There is some evidence that asparagus may help ease some of the symptoms of a hangover due to both its fibre and flavonoid (protective plant compound) content. The research even suggests that asparagus may help reduce damage to the liver caused by alcohol, although further research is needed.
3. A rich source of folate
Asparagus is a rich source of folate, a vitamin which is important for making red blood cells and for cell division – the synthetic version of this vitamin is folic acid.
Folate is an essential nutrient during pregnancy because it is needed for foetal development and protects against neural tube defects including spina bifida. Just 120g of asparagus (boiled) will provide your daily reference intake (RI) (200mcg). However, the NHS recommends that women planning a pregnancy or in the first trimester of pregnancy obtain 400mcg of folic acid a day.
4. May help relieve inflammatory conditions
Not only is asparagus rich in vitamins like vitamins C and E but it also contains plant compounds called polyphenols, all of which have anti-inflammatory effects, and is why eating asparagus may relieve inflammatory conditions.
5. May lower blood pressure
It’s understood that increasing your potassium intake while reducing salt has a positive effect on high blood pressure. Asparagus is a good source of potassium, with one portion providing about 5% of your daily reference intake (RI).
In addition to this, animal studies suggest that a natural compound in asparagus acts as an ACE inhibitor helping dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It does this by preventing an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance that narrows blood vessels making your blood pressure higher. Although this is a promising finding, the same effects have not, to date, been replicated in humans.
Is asparagus safe for everyone?
Asparagus is high in purines, compounds that increase the body’s production of uric acid and may influence conditions like kidney stones and gout. Therefore, if you’ve been advised to reduce levels of purines in your diet, asparagus may not be appropriate for you.
It is possible to be allergic to asparagus – if so, you may also be allergic to other members of the same botanical family, including garlic and chives.
If you are not accustomed to fibre in your diet, eating a generous portion of asparagus in one sitting may result in bloating and wind. Some people also cite having smelly urine after consuming asparagus. This is because asparagus contains a compound called asparaguisic acid which is broken down into sulfur-containing compounds, which have a strong smell.
Try our healthy asparagus recipes...
Creamy chicken & asparagus braise
Lemony tuna & asparagus salad box
Healthy pasta primavera
Pea & broad bean shakshuka
Asparagus salad with a runny poached egg
Warm salad of asparagus, bacon, duck eggs & hazelnuts
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This article was reviewed on 9 August 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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