February 21, 2024

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Is Asparagus Good for You? 9 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating It

Asparagus lovers know how versatile this stalky green vegetable is—eating it grilled, roasted, pickled, baked, and boiled any way they can from early to late spring when the harvest is at its peak. Varieties of asparagus can have their signature green hue, but also are grown in purple and white varieties. It’s also the ultimate spring delicacy, regardless of which color you enjoy best.

While local asparagus at peak freshness may only be available for a month or so in late spring, you can find this green stalky vegetable in grocery stores year-round. However, it’s fresh and abundant from late winter to early summer.

Whether you chop it up to bake it into quiche, pickle it to enjoy all year, or roast it with chicken for a sheet pan dinner, asparagus is a delicious and nutrient-rich vegetable. While we love it for its flavor and versatility, you can’t forget the plentiful health benefits of eating asparagus.

As a dietitian, I can’t rave about this vibrant spring veggie enough. Diving into the research, I asked fellow nutrition experts to help explain the many health benefits of eating asparagus so you can confidently fill your grocery cart and your plate with it all season long! Also, for more healthy eating tips about your favorite veggies, be sure to read 7 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Bell Peppers.

The nutrition content of asparagus

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Asparagus is a low-calorie, high-fiber, high-protein vegetable rich in many micronutrients, including vitamin K, folate, copper, and several B vitamins. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of cooked asparagus (180 grams) has:

Macronutrients:

  • 40 calories
  • 4.3 grams of protein
  • 0.4 grams of fat
  • 7.4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3.6 grams of total dietary fiber
  • 2.3 grams of natural sugar

Micronutrients:

  • 91.1 micrograms, 91% daily value (DV) of vitamin K
  • 268.2 micrograms, 67% DV of folate
  • 0.3 milligrams, 33% DV of copper
  • 0.3 milligrams, 24% DV of thiamin
  • 11 micrograms, 20% DV of selenium
  • 0.3 milligrams, 19% DV of riboflavin
  • 13.9 milligrams, 15% DV of vitamin C
  • 2 milligrams, 12% DV of niacin
  • 1.1 milligrams, 10% DV of zinc
  • 90 micrograms, 10% DV vitamin A
  • 1.6 milligrams, 9% DV of iron
  • 403.2 milligrams, 9% DV of potassium
  • 41.4 grams, 3% DV of calcium
  • 25.2 milligrams, 1% DV of sodium

RELATED: Are Olives Good for You? Here’s What the Science Says

 Is asparagus good for you?

chicken, asparagus, and tomatoes
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“Asparagus is an MVP of vegetables, with a nutritional lineup that’s hard to beat!” says Pam Hartnett, MPH, RDN, nutrition writer, coach, and owner of The Vitality Dietitians.

Every cup of cooked asparagus has 3.6 grams of fiber and 4.3 grams of protein, making it easy to meet your fiber goals and eat enough protein, especially if you follow a plant-based diet. Eating asparagus also gives your body a dose of polyphenols, saponins, and anthocyanins—plant compounds with powerful antioxidant properties and other health-promoting potentials.

Calorie for calorie, this vegetable is incredibly nutrient-dense, packing several nutrients into each delicious bite.

How much asparagus can you eat in a day?

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2–3 cups of vegetables daily for adults. Only 10% of adults meet these recommendations. If you’re part of the 90% of people who aren’t eating the recommended servings of vegetables each day, asparagus is an easy way to increase your vegetable intake.

It’s simple to slip a little asparagus into any meal of the day. Add chopped and sauteed asparagus to your morning scrambled eggs, a sandwich and cup of cream for asparagus soup for lunch, and an all-in-one grill packet for dinner with salmon, sliced potatoes, and asparagus spears!

RELATED: 8 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Cucumbers

Here are 9 science-backed benefits of eating asparagus

1. Asparagus may help manage blood sugars

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“Asparagus is considered a non-starchy vegetable, which doesn’t have as big of an impact on blood sugar as starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn do,” explains Amanda Lane, MS, RD, CDCES, and founder of Healthful Lane Nutrition.

One cup of cooked asparagus has only 7 grams of carbohydrates compared to the 31 grams of carbohydrates found in 1 cup of boiled potatoes, a starchy carb. Half of the carbohydrates in asparagus come from fiber, an undigestible plant compound that has less impact on blood sugar than other carbohydrates.

“Those looking to lose weight and manage diabetes are encouraged to make half their plate non-starchy veggies like asparagus,” says Lane.

2. It might lower your blood pressure

Eating more asparagus could be one part of your blood pressure management diet.

“Asparagus is a natural diuretic due to plant compounds, vitamins and minerals, and potassium,” says Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a northern Virginia-based dietitian.

One cup of cooked asparagus has 9% of your DV for potassium, a mineral that helps lower the tension in the walls of your blood vessels and lessen the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium, per the American Heart Association.

A small 2013 study in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that the bottom stems of asparagus have a variety of bioactive compounds, in addition to potassium,  that can aid in lowering blood pressure. The problem is that the bottom stem is usually discarded because of its tough and woody texture.

To use all parts of the asparagus plant, make asparagus soup using the woody stems for stock!

3. Asparagus increases feelings of fullness after eating

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If you often end your meals feeling less than full or reaching for a snack just an hour or so later, consider adding a serving of asparagus to your plate.

As a vegetable high in fiber and protein, asparagus can help increase satiety, or feelings of fullness, after eating. Protein and fiber slow digestion, leading to a prolonged feeling of fullness. To stay full long after your meal is over, eat asparagus along with chicken and a whole grain like brown rice for a balanced, high-fiber, high-protein meal.

4. Supports a healthy pregnancy

Asparagus is one of the highest natural sources of folate, with just one cup providing 67% of the daily value. This nutrient is crucial for women who are pregnant or could become pregnant because of its importance on neural tube development in the developing fetus. Other foods high in folate include beef liver, spinach, black-eyed peas, and fortified cereals and grains.

Women who do not get enough folate are at risk for having infants with neural tube defects, low-infant birth weight, and preterm birth.

5. It’s packed with prebiotics for a healthy gut

White Beans and Asparagus
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“Asparagus is a great source of prebiotic fiber, which is food for the good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut,” says Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN, intuitive eating dietitian for moms.

Just over half a cup of asparagus has 2.5 grams of inulin, a prebiotic fiber highly effective at feeding beneficial gut microbes, per a September 2017 article in Nutrients.

“The fibers in asparagus help support a healthy gut microbiome and promote digestion and healthy bowel movements,” says Anzlovar.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories eaten. On a 2,000-calorie diet, just one cup of asparagus has 12.8% of your DV of fiber!

RELATED: 44 Best High-Fiber Foods for a Healthy Diet

6. It acts as a natural detoxifier

“Including asparagus in your diet can aid in the body’s natural detoxification process,” says Hartnett. This is thanks to the abundant antioxidants found inside.

“Compounds like quercetin and glutathione help neutralize harmful toxins in the body and support healthy liver function,” explains Hartnett.

Glutathione is found in all cells, especially concentrated in the liver, and plays an important role in detoxification and defending cells against oxidative stress, per a June 2020 review in Liver Research. Quercetin has its own powerful antioxidant activity and also increases the amount of glutathione found in the body, per a May 2020 article in ACS Omega.

7. Asparagus promotes a healthy heart

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Eating more asparagus could lower your risk of heart disease.

“Asparagus is a rich source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood, a compound linked to increased risk of heart disease,” says Hartnett.

Homocysteine is broken down by folate and vitamins B12 and B6 into other usable and beneficial compounds. High levels of homocysteine can damage arteries, lead to blood clots, and increase your risk of heart disease, per the National Library of Medicine.

8. It may help support immune health

Fruits and vegetables are important for immune health for a number of reasons—from their prebiotic fibers to antioxidants and copious amounts of vitamins and minerals. Asparagus is a triple threat when it comes to immune support. This veggie is a good source of vitamin C and zinc, two nutrients essential for the growth and function of immune cells, has high antioxidant activity, and is a good source of prebiotic fiber to help stimulate immune cells in the gut.

9. Asparagus may give bones a boost

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Vitamin K plays a major role in bone health, as proteins involved in bone mineralization and turnover depend on vitamin K to function. A December 2019 review published in the Journal of Osteoporosis found that low vitamin K intake and low vitamin K blood levels are associated with an increased risk of hip fractures in observational studies.

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, with one cup giving you 91% of your DV. Other dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are also excellent sources of this vitamin.