Eating Spring Foods ~ Asparagus

By Tammera J. Karr, PhD.

With spring weather comes seasonal foods like asparagus. This is one of those foods harvested from fields and meadows across Greece to Ireland, providing critical food-based nutrients for many with methylation challenges. Today we are learning more about the MTFHR gene that approximately 40% of the nation’s population. This gene is a possible cause of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. Educator, author, and researcher Dr. Elizabeth Lipski shared, “it takes four generations to damage human genes and four more to repair the damage.” The food we eat every day is a leading cause of DNA damage, one we have complete control over.

This nutrient-dense food is high in folic acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin. Asparagus has no fat, contains no cholesterol and is low in sodium. Asparagus is the leading whole food supplier among vegetables of folic acid. It can also boost energy levels, skin complexion, and hair.

Folate may reduce the risk of depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body. Homocysteine can block blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Too much homocysteine may also interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
Asparagus is one of the top-20 foods listed on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). The index aims to give an idea of the overall health benefit of foods by measuring vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content in relation to the caloric content. To earn a high ANDI rank, food must provide a high amount of nutrients for a small number of calories.

A 5.3-ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year. Its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice.

Why Does Asparagus Make Your Urine Smell When You Eat?
Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan. It is also found in onions, garlic, broccoli, rotten eggs, and in the secretions of skunks. The signature smell occurs when this substance is broken down in your digestive system.

Not everyone has the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan, so some can eat all the asparagus they want without the distinctive smell. One study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found only 46 percent of British people tested produced the odor while 100 percent of French people did. (Another one of those government funded studies?)
Now let me get this right?

California leads the nation in asparagus production with more than 50,000 metric tons harvested annually. Most of this is marketed as fresh green asparagus. And there are 100 asparagus farmers left in Washington State. Before the Andean Trade Preferences Act of 1990 took effect 20 years ago, there were 250 growers.
According to the Capital Press an Agricultural news publication May 19, 2011; By eliminating tariffs, the act, later replaced by the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement, was intended to wean Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and Ecuador away from cocoa leaf production for cocaine and toward asparagus.

U.S. aid and agricultural expertise helped establish asparagus farms, irrigation, and roads in Peru. Asparagus is a seasonal crop in the U.S., Peru is able to produce and export year-round for lower cost. “Now we have record imports of drugs and asparagus. The U.S. asparagus industry, some 500 growers, bore the cost of a drug control policy that failed, said ” Alan Schreiber, administrator of the Washington Asparagus Commission.

Meanwhile, U.S. production went from 244 million pounds in 1990 to 79.9 million pounds in 2010, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Washington State lost 82 percent of its production, falling from 102 million pounds in 1990 to 18 million in 2010.

All the more reason to buy your vegetables from local farmers markets and CSA programs – or grow your own as much as possible.

How to Select and Purchase Asparagus:
 Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, and firm tips. Also look for cut ends that are not dry.
 Select asparagus stalks that are about the same thickness so cooking will be uniform. Thickness does not influence quality.
 If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water.

How to Store Fresh Asparagus:
 Storage of fresh asparagus is important. Fresh asparagus must be kept refrigerated at all times.
 Wrap a moist paper towel around the stem ends and place in the refrigerator.
 Keep fresh asparagus moist until you intend to use it.

To your good health and local fresh foods.