Many fruits and vegetables fall into the antioxidant plus anti-inflammatory category, but one that really stands out is asparagus. This tender and tasty vegetable is truly unique in the combination of anti-inflammatory nutrients it provides. Some of the antioxidant nutrients found in asparagus are vitamin C, beta carotene and vitamin E as well as the minerals zinc, selenium and magnesium. While asparagus does not provide as much antioxidant protection as some of the green leafy vegetables such as spinach, it compares favorably with cruciferous vegetables.
Some of the anti-inflammatory nutrients in asparagus are saponins which include aspiranin A, sarsasapogenin, protodioscin and diosgenin. Recent studies have shown sarsasapogenin to be of possible benefit to those suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Anti-inflammatory nutrients as well as antioxidants are among the most effective risk reducers known for common major health problems which include heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These nutrients have also been shown to reduce risk for certain cancers.
As a result of strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content, asparagus can be expected to rank as a possible preventative for certain cancers. A variety of cancer types result from excessive inflammation and oxidative stress and these phenomena result from a deficiency in dietary nutrients containing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. Asparagus provides exactly these types of nutrients and is looked to as a promising risk reducer for these cancers.
Preparation of asparagus has a direct impact on the retention of available nutrients. A healthy sauté seems to be the preferred method of preparation to retain the most nutrients and also create the most appetizing dish. Asparagus should be cooked whole to retain more nutrients, but can be cut in smaller pieces after cooking. Smaller spears of asparagus can also be eaten raw and provide the best level of nutrients if enjoyed in this way.
The asparagus commonly available in supermarkets is green in color, although it is also available in a white and a purple variety. The white stems are tenderer with a delicate flavor, and the purple variation is smaller with stems only two to three inches long and is sweeter resulting from higher sugar content.
Asparagus has been enjoyed as a delightful vegetable for more than two thousand years across most continents. Varying types of asparagus were grown by Egyptians as early as 3000 BC, as well as European cultures including the Greeks and Romans. It was during the era of Louis XIV that asparagus rose to popularity in France.
Most vegetable lovers look forward to the availability of asparagus in stores and farm markets in spring, and now they can know how very healthy this wonderful vegetable is. Continued research may actually find the cure for cancer revealed in this delectable food.