Thursday, April 1, 2010

Asparagus; The Quintessential Vegetable of Spring

It won't cure cancer, but it may relieve a hangover. The minerals and amino acids have been shown to help detox the body of alcohol related toxins. It is an unusually nutritious vegetable. One cup of of cooked asparagus provides 2/3 the Daily Value of folate, 114% of the DV for vit. K, 400 mg potassium, vit. C, A, B-complex, several minerals, 4 grams of protein, and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber. Besides the familiar nutrients, asparagus is one of the best food sources of rutin, which strengthen capillary walls. A down-side however, asparagus is also high in purine; a compound that produces uric acid which is related to gout and kidney stones, though a 2004 study found no increased risk of gout associated with moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables.
White asparagus is the green plant grown without sunlight, so it lacks the anti-oxidant chlorophyll, and is also lower in nutrients. Purple asparagus contains 20% more sugars, so it has a sweeter taste. The color also contains the antioxidants of the anthocyanins.
Select asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips. Thick or thin spears is a matter of taste or how you plan to cook them. Trim off woody stems.
Store asparagus in a dark place in the refrigerator, wrapped in a moist paper towel to prevent wilting. Use as soon as possible.
Cook asparagus quickly and just to tender/crisp. Steaming and microwaving are better than boiling, which leaches the nutrients into the water. Try stir-frying, grilling or broiling. Slathering with butter or Hollandaise sauce only adds fat and calories to the otherwise healthy, 3 calorie per spear vegetable.
~ Tufts University, 2010

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