Asparagus was first cultivated beginning over 2,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region, and its name comes from the Greek word for stalk or shoot. Asparagus has also been renowned for its rumored aphrodisiac effects and health benefits since ancient times; it has been used for centuries in traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine, and Galen, a Greek second-century physician, described asparagus as "cleansing and healing."

Science says that he may have been on to something. Asparagus is high in a special fiber called inulin, which is associated with improved digestion. The vegetable is also a natural diuretic, which means it can help flush the body of excess salt and fluid by encouraging more frequent urination, which can also help prevent UTIs.

The perks don't stop there. Half a cup of asparagus is only 20 calories, but provides you with 57 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, 18 percent of your Vitamin A, 12 percent of your Vitamin C, and 34 percent of your folate, which has been linked to improved mood and is especially important if you're trying to conceive!

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Asparagus also contains smaller amounts of chromium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin E, iron, zinc and riboflavin. Plus, it boasts a rare group of phytonutrients called steroidal saponins, which may be responsible for its bitter taste and have been tentatively shown to reduce inflammatory processes.

Asparagus is rich in antioxidants, including the flavonoids quercetin, isorhamnetin and kaempferol. It is also high in glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help destroy carcinogens. Purple asparagus additionally contains anthocyanins, which have been shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.

Finally, asparagus is so high in the amino acid asparagine that the chemical, which is important in the development and function of the brain, got its name from the vegetable. So did asparagusic acid, which is responsible for the odd smelling urine that some people notice after eating asparagus.

The phenomenon is caused by the body's breakdown of aspargusic acid into sulfur. Modern scientists believe that while most people produce this "asparagus urine," only about 50 percent of the population has the genes necessary to smell it!

If you can, choose the wider stalks of asparagus you come across in the supermarket; the larger the diameter of an asparagus stalk, the better its quality! Asparagus is also more perishable and sensitive to cooking than some other vegetables, so it's best to eat asparagus within 48 hours after buying and minimize its heat exposure if possible. This is also some pretty old knowledge; ancient Romans would describe something fast with the phrase "as quick as cooking asparagus!"

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Cold Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

  • Asparagus spears
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice  
  • Fresh chopped mint leaves or parsley  
  • 2 tablespoons caper juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Lightly steam the asparagus until tender. Marinate in juices and spices for at least 30 minutes and enjoy.

Variations

Toss with the marinade of your choice for flavor variety. Makes one serving (1 vegetable).

Phase 3 modifications:

Add olive oil or drizzle with melted butter.

Grilled Asparagus with Rosemary Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

  • Asparagus, with juice of
  • 1⁄2 lemon with rind
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 clove garlic crushed and minced
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon rosemary
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Dash of onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Directions

Marinate asparagus in lemon, garlic, salt, cayenne pepper and Braggs. Steam or grill asparagus spears to desired level of doneness. In a small saucepan, place remaining lemon marinade along with lemon rind, 1⁄2 cup water, and spices. Cook until pulp starts to come out. You may add a little stevia if you wish for added sweetness. Reduce liquid by half. Remove lemon rind and pour over grilled asparagus. Garnish with lemon wedges and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 serving (1 vegetable).

Herbed Asparagus

Ingredients

  • Generous serving of Asparagus
  • 1⁄2 cup vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice  
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed and minced  
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon organic Italian herb mix  
  • Water as needed

Directions

Lightly sauté chopped onion, garlic and herbs in the chicken broth for about one minute. Add the asparagus and cook until tender. Top with herbed sauce (add a little powdered garlic and onion for a thicker sauce). Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Makes 1 or more servings (1 vegetable).

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