Yes, eating asparagus does make your pee smell. But once you’re past that, there are plenty of reasons to fill your plate with more of this spring super food. The bright-green veggie is packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as folate, iron, copper, calcium, protein, and fiber. Thanks to all these nutrients, asparagus offers some serious health perks.
“People should definitely take advantage of this vegetable while it’s in peak season,” says Keri Gans, RD, a New York City-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet. “I love it roasted, grilled, or tossed into a pasta meal with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, and grilled shrimp.”
Not only is asparagus low in fat and calories (one cup sets you back a mere 32 calories), but it also contains lots of soluble and insoluble fiber, making it a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight. Because your body digests fiber slowly, it keeps you feeling full in between meals.
“Fiber can definitely help you feel satiated, making it beneficial for weight loss,” says Gans. “It can also aid constipation, and research suggests it may help lower cholesterol.”
To maximize the veggie’s calorie-torching potential, pair it with a hard-boiled egg: the combination of fiber-rich asparagus with the egg’s protein will leave you feeling satisfied.
Asparagus contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, making it a natural diuretic. In other words, eating more of the spears can help flush excess fluid and salt from your body, which may help prevent urinary tract infections.
“When women are not urinating enough, they can get a UTI,” explains Gans. It’s possible that a diet rich in asparagus could prevent these painful infections from developing, since going to the bathroom more frequently can help move bad bacteria out of the urinary tract.
Asparagus—purple asparagus in particular—is full of anthocyanins, which give fruits and veggies their red, blue, and purple hues and have antioxidant effects that could help your body fight damaging free radicals. When preparing asparagus, try not to either overcook or undercook it. Although cooking the veggie helps activate its cancer-fighting potential, letting it boil or sauté for too long can negate some nutritional benefits. “Overcooking asparagus could cause the vitamins to leech out into the water,” says Gans.
Asparagus is also a source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant. This vitamin helps strengthen your immune system and protects cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. To fill up on its benefits, roast asparagus with a little olive oil: “Our body absorbs vitamin E better if it’s eaten alongside some fat,” says Gans. “And when you cook it with olive oil, you’re getting healthy fat and vitamin E.”
You may want to consider adding asparagus to your next date night menu: the veggie is a natural aphrodisiac thanks to vitamin B6 and folate, which can help boost feelings of arousal. Plus, vitamin E stimulates sex hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
It can ease a hangover
If you crave a greasy breakfast the morning after too many drinks, research suggests that a side of asparagus might be the better choice. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science conducted on laboratory-grown cells suggested that the minerals and amino acids in asparagus extract may help ease hangovers and protect liver cells from the toxins in alcohol.
When it comes to fighting bloat, asparagus packs a mean punch. The veggie helps promote overall digestive health (another benefit of all that soluble and insoluble fiber!). And thanks to prebiotics—carbohydrates that can’t be digested and help encourage a healthy balance of good bacteria, or probiotics, in your digestive track—it can also reduce gas. Plus, as a natural diuretic, asparagus helps flush excess liquid, combating belly bulge.
Four asparagus spears contain 22% of your recommended daily allowance of folic acid. “Folic acid is essential for women who are planning on getting pregnant, since it can help protect against neural tube defect,” says Gans. One 2009 study published in PLoS Medicine found that folic acid supplements help reduce risk of premature birth by 50% when taken for at least a year before conception compared with women who didn’t take additional folic acid.