4 Nutritional Benefits of Eating Asparagus—Plus Delicious Recipes to Try

Crisp and tasty asparagus is your secret weapon for healthy digestion, metabolism, and more—here’s why RDs recommend it.

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that likely won't incite much excitement if you've never had it prepared in a flavorful way. But as you might predict of this deep-green produce, the humble asparagus is both full of flavor and nutritional benefits that will make adding it to your regular meal rotation worth your while.

Asparagus is a dark green veggie usually sold in bunches of spears with tiny leaves on top. When shopping for fresh asparagus, look for spears that are more thick than thin, with closed, firm stems, and stalks that don't appear woody. You may also be able to find white or purple asparagus, which can offer sweeter or milder flavors, at farmers' markets—especially in the spring when they're in season (it's available year-round, but typically harvested and most fresh between February and June). When properly stored, fresh asparagus should last in the fridge for three to five days. Trim the ends, place them cut-side down in a jar or vase filled with an inch of water, and cover the tips with a plastic bag.

You might be surprised to learn how versatile and easy to prepare it can be. Enjoy asparagus in any number of ways, whether as a side dish, in a salad, or as part of a main course. Read on for more delicious, healthy benefits of asparagus, plus some fabulous ways to cook with it.

Asparagus Health Benefits
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Asparagus Nutritional Benefits

Asparagus is a superfood, jam-packed with nutrients and health benefits, says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, a New York City-based registered dietitian, health coach, and founder of BZ Nutrition. Here are several healthy reasons to include this veggie in your dishes.

It promotes a healthy digestive system.

One of asparagus's health benefits includes promoting gut health by helping to reduce bloat, improve digestion, and combat constipation.

"Asparagus is a great source of prebiotics, which help you to maintain good gut health," adds Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Conn. "It also provides filling fiber and a surprising amount of protein at 1.5 grams per half-cup."

It's an excellent source of folate.

"[Asparagus is] also a great source of folate, [an essential nutrient required for DNA replication]," Zeitlin says. "For those of you who are pregnant or breastfeeding, add in asparagus on a daily basis." This is because the body requires more folate during pregnancy in order to grow and develop the fetus.

It's chock-full of vitamins.

Asparagus is also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as vitamin K, which is key for bone health and the natural process of proper blood clotting (to prevent excessive bleeding).

It provides powerful micronutrients.

It also contains micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and riboflavin, essential for healthy development and metabolic energy production. And while you can (and should!) eat almost the entire spear (except for the very light, tough ends that you can trim off before eating), most of the minerals and nutrients have been found to be concentrated in the darker, leafier tips at the top of the spear.

That 'asparagus pee' smell isn't cause for concern

Finally, if you've ever eaten a serving of asparagus, chances are you've noticed the funky smell of your urine in the hours that follow. This is due to asparagusic acid, which is found exclusively in asparagus. When your body digests asparagus, this acid is broken down into byproducts that contain sulfur, which explains the unpleasant smell when your urine meets the air after you've consumed asparagus. Fortunately, it's nothing to be alarmed about regarding your health—and certainly doesn't outweigh the benefits of eating asparagus.

How to Cook and Enjoy Asparagus

Asparagus is one of those veggies that can potentially come out bland and flavorless if you simply steam it and barely season it. And it's not great if it gets overcooked. If you steam, boil, or blanch it, make sure to salt the water and season your veggies amply—and don't overdo it on cooking time. A few minutes should do the trick for crisp, sweet asparagus stalks.

Fortunately, it's a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways, with grilling and roasting being some more popular methods. It can also be incorporated into salads, pastas, and much more. It's also a fabulous canvas for add-ons like bread crumbs, crushed nuts, crispy prosciutto, nutty/salty cheeses, a tangy glaze, or a soft egg. "Asparagus is great grilled or roasted as a side to your chicken, salmon, or tofu," Zeitlin adds. "It is also fantastic diced up and mixed into scrambled eggs, frittatas, and veggie sautés."

For more inspiration, here are three easy asparagus recipes to test out at home.

1. Roasted Asparagus With Flax Seed-Walnut Crumble

Roasted Asparagus With Flaxseed Walnut Crumble
A crumble topping made from flaxseed and walnuts (yay, Omega-3s!) tops roasted asparagus in this pretty much hands-off side dish. The nutty and fragrant topping goes well with other fresh or roasted vegetables. Use it to perk up a salad, too!Get the recipe:Roasted Asparagus With Flaxseed Walnut Crumble. Greg DuPree

While the asparagus is roasting, you'll whip up a flaxseed-walnut crumble to dress the crisp and tender spears.

2. Asparagus With Prosciutto Chips

Asparagus With Prosciutto Chips
Oven-crisped prosciutto provides a delicious contrast to the simple, tender asparagus. Get the recipe. James Baigrie

3. Fettuccine With Asparagus, Leeks, and Mint

Fettuccine With Asparagus, Leeks, and Mint
Victor Protasio

This dish is the epitome of a spring veggie pasta (although you don't need to wait for spring to make it). It's light yet hearty and packed with a chorus of flavors and textures: sweet, bright mint, buttery sautéed leeks, and a pinch of heat.

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Sources
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