Of course asparagus is delicious and versatile—its culinary range would be enough to make us love this harbinger of spring. But this elegant veg’s array of nutritional benefits makes it stand out among the all-star lineup of spring produce.
What’s so great about asparagus? For one thing, these stalks are prebiotic. Probiotics—the good gut bacteria that aid digestion, boost immunity, strengthen teeth and fight disease—have been getting all the love in the press lately. But prebiotics, non-digestible elements found in asparagus and certain other foods, promote the growth of probiotics. So they’re like the essential sidekick to the superhero. Better prebiotics = more probiotics = healthier you.
If that isn’t enough to get you to grab a bunch of asparagus at the farmer’s market, how about this: It is rich in potassium (important for heart function), vitamin K (essential for blood clotting) and folic acid (supports new cell growth), says New York City-based dietician Stephanie Middleberg.
“Asparagus is also a natural diuretic—helping to facilitate the removal of water and waste to decrease discomfort and bloat—due to both its high potassium levels and because of its amino acid, asparagine,” says Middleberg.
Just to make sure you’re as excited about asparagus as we are, here five quick, easy and delicious ways to get it on your table:
- Broiled: Toss the spears on a foil-lined tray and broil; you’ll have a dish of toasty deliciousness in six minutes flat.
- Grilled: Toss your spears on the grates toward the end as you’re grilling your chicken, fish, burgers or anything else (they only take 6 to 10 minutes). With so much smoky flavor from the grill, all you need to season your spears is a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Steamed: Place the asparagus in your steamer basket over boiling water and just let it be for a few minutes. You can do this right before serving to have it hot, or do it in advance and refrigerate to serve cold. Either way, toss the spears with a bit of your favorite vinaigrette just before serving.
- Raw: You read that right. You don’t even have to cook asparagus to enjoy it in this beautiful salad. Simply peel it into ribbons, toss it with olive oil and a few other ingredients and you’re good to go.
- Stir-Fried: Enjoy this vegetarian dish with some rice for Meatless Monday, or add your protein of choice. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds give this dish easy Asian flair.