Thursday, May 3, 2012

Asparagus Nutrition

Just one cup of cooked, drained fresh or frozen asparagus provides more than 10% of our daily needs of 8 vitamins and minerals and a smaller amount of 11 other nutrients. One cup serving of this little green spear can provide 74% of our Vitamin C, 61% folate, and 30% Vitamin A. These nutrients have many functions, including antioxidants, immune health, heart health and prevention of neural tube defects in pregnant women. The other plus is all this comes with only 30 calories and provides 3 g. of fiber per serving.

As a dietitian, I am often asked which is the best way to cook vegetables to save nutrients. Water and heat destroy some nutrients. Fat and heat helps the body absorb other nutrients. These differences makes this a hard general questions to answer. This is another reason to keep a variety of types of foods and cooking methods part of your routine.

Water soluble vitamins like C and folate can leach in water so minimizing water used in cooking will save more of this nutrient. Adding a little fat from olive oil or a soft margarine will help absorb the fat soluble vitamins like K and A along with phytochemicals like beta carotene and lutein. For example, heating tomatoes or carrots makes their fat soluble substances easier to absorb. Steaming and stir frying are great options to save your Vitamin C as it limits water. Heat can damage some sensitive nutrients like folate which is often found in leafy greens so you may want to have more raw spinach salads.

If you are not a chef, focus on getting in vegetables in whatever form you are comfortable cooking them as there will still be more nutrients left in any versions than what would have been in a potato chip or French fry.
I have boiled, grilled, baked, and stir fried asparagus. For cooking instructions I would recommend this link:

http://www.asparagus.org/maab/recipes/cooking.html
from Mary S., RD, LD

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