Asparagus is a spring vegetable and member of the lily family. Also known as asparagus officinalis, it is a widely cultivated crop throughout Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It is one of the most nutritionally-rich vegetables available as it is rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamine and fiber.
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Asparagus is one of the leading vegetable sources of folic acid. Folic acid helps the body form red blood cells and genetic material. It also is necessary for protein metabolism, cell growth and division and the prevention of certain neural tube birth defects. A 1/2-cup serving of asparagus contains 132 mcg of folic acid, which is 33 percent of your daily folic acid needs.
Potassium and Vitamin C
Asparagus is a rich source of potassium. Six asparagus spears contain approximately 20 mg of potassium, which is half of the potassium you need in a day. Potassium is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and digestive system. Richly-colored green asparagus spears are good sources of vitamin C, which is necessary for the formation of the body's connective tissues.
Fiber, Thiamine and Vitamin B6
A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus has 3 grams of fiber, as well as 15 percent of the thiamine and 10 percent of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. Dietary fiber helps normalize bowel movements, lowers blood cholesterol levels, aids in weight loss and lowers blood sugar levels. Thiamine and vitamin B6 help the body convert carbohydrates into energy.
Other Nutritional Benefits
Asparagus is also a rich source of rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. Asparagus also contains glutathione, which is an antioxidant that can help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that may cause cancer. A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus also contains 8 percent of the vitamin A you need each day. Vitamin A is necessary in cell growth and development and retina formation in the eyes.