What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Asparagus
Whether simply grilled with olive oil, salt, and pepper or roasted in truffle oil and parmesan, asparagus is without a doubt one of the most elegant and versatile veggies around. As a side dish, it pairs just as well with steak as it does with seafood or vegan pilaf. Plus, it's a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable that's made up of 94% water—making it an excellent weight-loss food. Ever wondered what happens to your body when you eat asparagus, though? And furthermore, why does asparagus make your pee smell funny? We're going to cover it all.
"Asparagus has the highest amounts of folic acid and is also rich in various vitamins like vitamins K, C, A, and manganese," says Dr. Rashmi Byakodi, a dentist, health and wellness expert, and editor of Best for Nutrition.
Diana Gariglio-Clelland, a registered dietitian with Next Luxury, explains that since asparagus is a non-starchy vegetable, it also doesn't raise blood sugars significantly—making it an excellent choice for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
"You'll get a dose of folate, which is a nutrient important for the prevention of neural tube defects in babies," she says. "Pregnant women and those who plan to become pregnant should ensure they get at least 400 micrograms of folate per day to help prevent these defects, which tend to occur in the first trimester of pregnancy when some women might not know they're even pregnant."
In other words, if this springtime superfood is one of your go-to's, your body will thank you. But here are some of the health effects you can expect when you eat asparagus. And for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Your blood might thicken.
Asparagus is a phenomenal source of vitamin K—in fact, just half a cup of asparagus contains 45.5 micrograms—a whopping 57% of the RDI. That nutrient is essential for normal blood coagulation, meaning it comes in handy when you get a cut.
"Vitamin K helps to form blood clots, which is why people on blood thinners need to keep their intake of vitamin K consistent in order to make sure their medications work properly," explains Gariglio-Clelland.
Your blood pressure might go down.
Research has consistently shown that increasing your potassium intake (while also reducing your sodium intake) is an effective strategy for lowering your blood pressure. Luckily, asparagus is chock-full of this essential mineral, which can actually help your body to flush out excess salt through your urine.
"Potassium helps to dilate (relax) blood vessels, which then helps to reduce blood pressure," says Gariglio-Clelland. "Researchers have even found asparagus to be a natural ACE inhibitor, which helps reduce blood pressure by stopping an enzyme that causes blood vessels to narrow."
Be sure to scope out How to Cook Asparagus So It Becomes Your New Favorite Veggie.
Your pee might smell weird.
If you've ever caught a whiff of your pee after you eat asparagus, you know that sometimes it can smell—well, a little off. Blame it on the asparagusic acid, a non-toxic substance found only in this particular vegetable.
"This acid gets broken down into sulfur byproducts and causes urine to have that distinct odor," says Gariglio-Clelland.
When your body metabolizes asparagusic acid, it produces several sulfurous byproducts that evaporate almost immediately after you urinate. Here's the weird part, though: Not everyone can smell it—in fact, research has shown that a significant portion of people are unable to detect this unusual odor. The more you know, right?
You'll feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
A 1 cup serving of asparagus boasts 3.6 grams of fiber—or 14% of your daily needs. It's particularly high in insoluble fiber, which helps to ensure you have regular bowel movements. But it also contains soluble fiber, which supports friendly bacteria in the gut, like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
"Asparagus is rich in fiber, which is beneficial for the digestive system," says Gariglio-Clelland. "Fiber helps promote regular bowel movements, as well as acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics help feed the healthy bacteria in our digestive systems, which have a significant impact on our overall health. Maintaining a healthy flora of bacteria in the gut helps keep the digestive system healthy and can even impact the immune system."
"A healthy gut leads to a healthy immune system," she adds. And No, Probiotics and Prebiotics Aren't the Same Thing.
You'll get an influx of antioxidants.
According to Richards, asparagus is an antioxidant powerhouse: not only is it high in vitamin C, but it's also a good source of vitamin E—both of which promote a healthy immune system while protecting cells from free radical damage. This veggie also contains the flavonoids quercetin, isorhamnetin, and kaempfero, which are known for their anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticancer effects.
Purple asparagus, in particular, gets its vibrant color from anthocyanins, which have antioxidant effects in the body. Studies have shown that a higher anthocyanin intake is linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
You'll flush out excess water and salt.
Cranberry juice isn't the only natural way to ward off UTIs. The amino acid asparagine, which asparagus is loaded with, acts as a natural diuretic. That means if you eat asparagus it can help to get rid of excess fluid, salt, and bacteria from your body, thus potentially fending off pesky (and sometimes painful) urinary tract infections as well as kidney stones. Not only that, but this diuretic effect can also help to relieve or prevent bloating.
FYI, though, if you are already suffering from uric acid kidney stones, the National Institutes of Health recommends avoiding asparagus.
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