Asparagus Contains the Master Antioxidant
Believe it or not, these tender green spears pack a nutritional punch that not only lowers your risk of chronic disease but could also unlock the door to the fountain of youth!
Asparagus is known for its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are major players in lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer, and possibly slowing the aging process.
In addition to these anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, the fleshy green stalks also contain asparagusic acid, a sulfur-rich compound found only in asparagus, and a rich source of glutathione.
Glutathione, which has been termed the “Master Antioxidant,” aids all other antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E, in free radical scavenging. (Read Glutathione – Hidden Miracle of Life)
The correlation between glutathione and the fight against free radicals has been known for quite some time, so it is unfortunate that a majority of the general public likely hasn’t heard of it. This is important as oxidative stress is the primary cause of aging, sickness and disease, and is caused by nutrient-deficient diets, a polluted environment, pharmaceuticals (prescribed and over the counter), physical and emotional stress, electromagnetic stress and radiation.
The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal, published a review in 1998 entitled, Nuttal SL Glutathione: In Sickness and in Health, which clearly outlines the links between glutathione in health and disease.
The study measured the amount of glutathione in blood plasma in both healthy and non-healthy individuals of all ages. What they found was interesting indeed:
The higher the glutathione level, the less oxidative damage and the healthier the person; the lower the glutathione level, the more oxidative damage and the sicker the person.
“Ageing is therefore associated with a decrease in plasma antioxidants and an increase in evidence of oxidative damage even in those who are apparently healthy. Disease, particularly acute severe disease requiring hospital admission, is associated with greater changes in antioxidants and evidence of oxidative damage.”
Another 2003 study, also from Italy, sought to directly link Glutathione and detoxification based on the premise:
“In humans, GSH depletion is linked to a number of disease states including cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.”
They concluded the following:
“Glutathione is a critical factor in protecting organisms from toxicity and disease.”
Now, of course, we can’t ignore the question of why eating asparagus often results in a distinctive smell in the urine. Well, the asparagusic acid is not only a rich source of glutathione but is also responsible for the funky urine odor that many experiences after eating these fleshy green stalks. According to a study published in 2014,
“This molecule, apparently innocuous toxicologically to man, is the most probable culprit responsible for the curious excretion of odorous urine following asparagus ingestion.”
When the asparagusic acid is broken down during digestion the pungent smelling components become volatile (airborne) as the urine leaves the body. Interestingly there is a portion of the population that claims not to experience this side effect. Is it that their bodies simply do not produce this less than pleasing aroma? Probably not. Scientists believe that the answer to this question is based on a gene that allows only some of us to smell the strange odor.
A 2010 study concluded,
“The individual differences exist in both odorant production and odor perception.”
Asparagus is a member of the lily family and is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions but is now grown all over the world. There is some evidence that it was first cultivated in Egypt where it was appreciated not only for its unique taste but also for its medicinal properties. Legend has it that Egyptians even offered this prized vegetable up to their gods!
Did you know that there are approximately 300 varieties of asparagus, but only 20 are edible?
The most common varieties of asparagus are green, or greenish-purple in color. However, white asparagus is generally available at peak season as well. White asparagus is grown underground to inhibit the development of chlorophyll creating a more delicate flavor, color, and texture.
These sweet tender green spears are available year round but are especially tasty when freshly picked during peak season. Although crops are harvested during the months March through June, April and May are peak months for enjoying this delicacy.
Asparagus can be enjoyed a number of ways including steamed, sautéed, grilled, or even added to your favorite salad!
For a quick weeknight side dish why not try Roasted Asparagus (This amazing recipe was donated by Susan Hartman):
- 1 bunch of asparagus spears
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- dash of sea salt
- dash of black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, minced garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Marinate the asparagus in the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes. Spread asparagus on a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Asparagus can also be grilled on a low heat until tender.
Serves 2 to 3.