Even though it makes your pee smell funny, asparagus should headline every health-conscious woman’s grocery list. Asparagus is super high in key vitamins and minerals and low in calories (less than 30 calories per cup), earning it a top spot on the ANDI (aggregate nutrient density index) scale, which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to calories.
Try these five great ways to integrate asparagus into your daily diet and reap all the benefits it has to offer.
As a Soluble Side
A cup of asparagus contains 18 percent of your Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin E, which is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, removing free radicals from the body, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Because vitamin E is fat-soluble, saute your asparagus spears in a little olive oil to help transport that E into your cells, tout suite.
As a Salad Ingredient
One cup of asparagus contains 70 percent of your RDA for vitamin K, which aids in the absorption of calcium. Calcium is important for keeping bones strong and dense, powering muscular contractions and maintaining the health and function of nerves. Use a vegetable peeler to shave raw asparagus into a salad made with high-calcium veggies such as arugula, spinach, edamame, fennel, artichoke, carrots and celery. That way the K and Ca can better meet, meld and do their thing.
As a Double for Dip
With 3 grams of fiber per 1-cup serving, asparagus is a satisfying sub for avocados in rich dips such as guacamole. And while we adore the heart-healthy fat found in avos, it’s easy to get carried away and OD on guac, possibly blowing your calorie quota for the day. Instead, try our delicious Asparagus Guacamole. Serve with veggie spears or baked whole-grain pita corners for a filling snack that won’t break your diet resolve (or pop your pants buttons).
Makes: 8 servings
1½ pounds asparagus, chopped and steamed
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
½ jalapeno, minced
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
dash hot pepper sauce (optional)
red pepper flakes, salt, pepper (to taste)
Puree cooked asparagus in food processor until smooth. Add garlic, yogurt, lime juice, jalapeno, scallions, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce (if using), and puree until blended. Add tomatoes and cilantro and pulse until chunky. Season with salt, pepper and pepper flakes, to taste. Refrigerate for an hour, or until chilled.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 25, fat 0.3 g, saturated fat 0.1 g, sodium 32 mg, carbs 5 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 2 g
As a Brain-Boosting Breakfast
Combine fiber-rich asparagus with protein-rich eggs and you have a breakfast that will stick to your ribs while giving your brain a boost: Asparagus is super high in folate (just four spears contain 22 percent of your RDA), which works in conjunction with the vitamin B12 found in eggs to help prevent cognitive impairment and decline, according to a study out of Tufts University. Folate has also been shown to protect against neural tube defects and miscarriage as well as cancers such as breast, colon, stomach, pancreatic and cervical.
Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata
Makes: 6 servings
½ tbsp olive oil
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 scallions, chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), drained and chopped
3 whole eggs
6 egg whites
1 cup nonfat milk
½ cup low-fat feta cheese
salt and pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 450. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk and ¼ cup feta cheese. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Add scallions and asparagus and saute until tender, two to three minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and cook one minute. Add egg mixture and cook until eggs begin to set, about four to six minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and place in oven. Bake for eight to 12 minutes, or until eggs are cooked through.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 139, fat 7 g, saturated fat 3 g, sodium 414 mg, carbs 7 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 3 g, protein 14 g
As a Satiating Soup
Numerous studies endorse eating soup as part of a weight-watching program: Soup is low in calories in relation to serving size, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those who eat clear or broth-based soups have a better chance at controlling their weight. The theory is that because soup takes longer to eat, (hey, it’s hot), it gives your brain and digestive tract more time to register satiety signals.
Simple Asparagus Soup
Makes: 6 servings
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Vidalia onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup low-fat milk
1 tbsp basil, chopped
½ tsp black pepper
cayenne and salt (to taste)
Steam asparagus and set aside to cool 15 minutes in large soup pot. Heat skillet on medium-low and add oil and onion, and saute until tender (five minutes). Add garlic and saute one minute. Place asparagus, onion and garlic into large soup pot and use an immersion blender to puree (alternately, puree ingredients in a food processor and add to pot). Add cayenne, broth, salt and pepper to pot and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Add milk and cook three to five minutes. Garnish with basil and serve.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 59, fat 3 g, saturated fat 0.5 g, sodium 74 mg, carbs 7 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 4 g