Asparagus: Myths and Facts
Does asparagus cure a hangover? Is it poisonous? Is it…
Asparagus: Sorting fact from fiction
Green is good!
As well as the fibrous, oxygen-boosting properties of the purple asparagus, raw green asparagus provides a crunchy dose of beneficial nutrients. I’m sure we all know that green is good when it comes to eating our veggies, but exactly why are green vegetables just so good for you?
The US Department of Agriculture shows an impressive nutritional list for asparagus. Five to six medium sized spears, or a 100g serving, provides a “well rounded” (California asparagus Commission) source of our daily nutritional needs based on a 2000 calorie diet. What’s better, these 5 or so spears, provide a miniscule 20 or so total calories and virtually no fat. Snyder (1908) wrote in his study “Human Foods and their Nutritive value” that water makes up about 93% of the asparagus. With what claims to be very low calorie and fat levels, asparagus does have a lot going for it, including the need for frequent restroom visits due to the release of the amino acid asparagine. Although this natural diuretic quality has yet to be scientifically proven, the idea of ‘what asparagus juices go in must also come out’ has my culinary nod of approval.
5 or so spears provide a miniscule 20 or so total calories and virtually no fat.
As well as the health-giving properties of vitamin C, asparagus also has a big dose of the group B vitamins such as thiamin and riboflavin which help convert carbs into energy. The British National Health Service states that vitamin B is believed to work with folic acid to reduce pregnancy complications and cognitive decline. Asparagus makes a great addition to your diet if you’re over 50 and looking to maintain your memory and keep your brain active, states a study by Tufts University. Scientific explanation in Science Daily shows that rutin and glutathione are powerful antioxidants in asparagus and could help slow down the dreaded tick-tock clock of the ageing process. Although this particular study emphasised the need to keep cooking to a minimum to maintain the high levels of rutin and glutathione present in asparagus. There is a high dosage of Vitamin K in green vegetables such as asparagus, and MedlinePlus indicate this is associated with the process of blood clotting. According to the USDA, asparagus has just under 3 grams of fiber in every 134g cup and fiber and the US National Center for Biotechnology Information states that fiber can improve digestion and reduce the incidence of heart disease.
Now onto some of those asparagus myths…
Does asparagus cause smelly pee?
You don’t have to be a qualified Urologist to work out if asparagus is affecting the smell of your urine. If it is and you have a relatively sensitive nose then you will smell it. Not everyone produces ‘asparagus pee’ and/or is able to smell it — and genes have a lot to say for whether you have these gifts or not. But why does asparagus cause smelly pee? A comprehensive scientific study at the University of Delaware claim that it’s due to an organic, metabolic pungent-smelling gas called mercaptan that is made up of asparagusic acid which is a compound of sulphur, hydrogen and carbon. Mercaptan is a human waste-product often found in bad breath and flatulence. Not surprisingly, it has a distinctive smell like that of rotting cabbages with a hint of sulphur. Depending on diuretic inducements, asparagus pee is usually ready for sniffing within 30 minutes of eating those mercaptan-causing spears. Like I said though, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to smell mercaptan in their own urine. This is due to a genetic mutation causing immunity to smelling their own odor – which could be one of the better superhero powers one might wish for. The good thing about asparagus pee is that it is completely harmless; one flush and it disappears from view and your sphere of smell!
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Does asparagus cure a hangover?
Based on a study from the Journal of food science, asparagus is “generally regarded as a supplement for the alleviation of alcohol hangover.” Like I said, given that a typical asparagus spear contains 90% water and has distinctive diuretic qualities, it sounds like the perfect natural remedy for rehydration as well as a required supplemental burst after a heavy night. If you suffer easily from mild hangovers then I would suggest drinking a total of 3 cups of asparagus juice spread over about 12-16 hours. To make about 6 or so cups of juice, simply chop up 20 -24 raw asparagus spears and throw into a juicer/blender. Add about 3 cups of apple juice to thin out and sweeten the pureed asparagus. Keep refrigerated for up to 24 hours. The recommended process for consumption is:
Line that stomach: consume 1 cup of asparagus juice before you head out
Top-up your tolerance: consume another cup before you crash into bed
The morning after: consume a final cup of asparagus juice before you face the light of day.
Warning: Assuming you have the right genetics and sensory disposition for smell, be prepared for an aromatic surprise in the rest room.
Is raw asparagus poisonous?
Not at all. In fact, a raw, crunchy chunk of asparagus is even better for you as none of the nutrients have been blasted with heat and killed off. The asparagus juice recipe above is testament to this and raw asparagus works really well in a salad to balance out the different textures. Raw asparagus does not have the same unique flavor that it develops from steaming etc though. The young, tender spears of raw asparagus are better for eating raw as they’re less fibrous.
Is asparagus an aphrodisiac?
Apparently so, but without scientific proof. This particular myth stems from literary history starting in 12th century Tunisia with the sex manual “The perfumed garden”, then in the 17th century with French herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (great name!). Culpepper wrote that “asparagus stirs up lust in man and woman.” Feeding asparagus to your lover by hand is also said to encourage excitement. Nineteenth century French folklore would have you believe bridegrooms were served up several courses of asparagus to arouse the senses during the prenuptial feast. The high amounts of vitamin E and B as folic acid in asparagus are thought to wake up the sex hormones in both men and women. Despite insufficient scientific evidence to prove whether snacking on asparagus also feeds you sex drive, these seductive spears certainly look the part as a psychological aphrodisiac. Nobody can deny the sexy-looking stems that.
Searching for an asparagus aphrodisiac recipe? Why not keep it quick and easy with the slightly steamed cooking method to retain the color and that pert asparagus appearance. Mix in some melted salted butter to the hot asparagus spears and finish off with a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it just a little kick in the right direction for finger licking perfection.
FORQ Featured Asparagus Recipes
Eggs with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Garlic Scapes
This dish uses some of the true gems of the late spring and summer and combines them with farm fresh eggs for a dish you’ll want to make again and again.
Poached Asparagus with White Miso Beurre Blanc
This variation of the classic beurre blanc sauce pairs perfectly with quickly poached fresh asparagus.
Panzanella with Asparagus and Pecorino Romano
A twist on the traditional Tuscan version, this panzanella adds asparagus and pecorino romano to the wonderful combination of toasted bread and ripe tomato.
Millet with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Goat CheeseThis healthy dish uses a wonderful but frequently forgotten ancient grain and pairs it with lightly sautéed asparagus and mushrooms, which are then finished with goat cheese.
Shaved Asparagus Salad with Sriracha-Lemon Vinaigrette and Pecorino RomanoThis cold salad is brightened by the tang of lemon and cheese and the hot, garlic flavor of Sriracha.
Beef & Asparagus Stir FryThis stir fry works really well if the asparagus and water chestnuts keep their crunch alongside the succulent beef strips.
Asparagus & Ricotta QuicheEmbrace pie crust making in this tasty asparagus quiche recipe where fresh flavors and cheesy creaminess dominate.
Asparagus in Hollandaise Sauce with Crusted SalmonCrack the ‘double emulsion’ method of making hollandaise with this surprisingly simple asparagus and salmon recipe.
Filet steak & peppered asparagus with sweet potatoGreen peppercorn and asparagus make a wonderful partnership in this indulgent steak recipe.
Thai Green Curry with Chicken & AsparagusTransform the mood in your kitchen with the fragrant aroma of Thai green curry and the fresh flavor of asparagus.
Who’s Cooking Today
I’ve sampled exotic and unusual foods on my travels, but nothing beats coming home and sharing my experiences in the kitchen and in my writing. I love the sticky leftover goo of barbecued pork ribs that my kids can’t quite polish off on their own; I yearn for the safe and homely aroma of roast chicken as I pull it from the oven; I adore the sizzle and smell of broiled bacon on a wet Sunday morning. Food will always be my friend as it is meant for sharing. You can enjoy my written and visual translation of taste at jambip.com or via the various social media channels.
More delicious asparagus recipes!
The full FORQ asparagus archive, straight from our FORQ Enthusiasts.
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