12 April 11 Asparagus Nutrition

It's spring and asparagus is everywhere! This vegetable is a great source of nutrients while being very low in calories. It is also very easy to cook - it can be grilled, roasted, sautéd, or steamed in minutes. If you think you don't like asparagus because you grew up eating bitter, soggy, over-boiled asparagus, then please give it another chance. Learn to love this veggie by simply not overcooking it.

I giggled when I found websites devoted entirely to asparagus. I don't know why – everything else has a website, so why not asparagus? The major producers of asparagus in the United States all have advisory boards and websites devoted to asparagus: Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, California Asparagus Commission and the Washington Asparagus Commission. Be sure to look at all three websites for suggestions on cooking, storage and for lots of recipe ideas. Asparagus is a pretty good source of many vitamins and minerals (copper, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins C and E) but is it particularly high in folate and vitamins A and K. Keep in mind that a food is considered an excellent source of a nutrient if it meets 20% or more of your RDA in one serving. For asparagus, a standard serving size is 1/2 cup of pieces or 6 medium spears, which is about 90 grams or 3 ounces cooked. For only 20 calories, you get a lot of nutrients!


Many of you know about the importance of folate during pregnancy to reduce risk of neural tube defects in the growing fetus. Folate is also an important player ("coenzyme") in protein and DNA metabolism, and red blood cell formation for people of all ages. Asparagus is one of the richest food sources of folate. One serving of asparagus provides a whopping 134 mg of folate – that is 34% RDA for non-pregnant women and men, 22% RDA for pregnant women and 27% RDA for breastfeeding women. Other sources of folate include dark green leafy veggies, dried beans/peas and fortified foods.

Vitamin A

This fat-soluble vitamin is necessary for vision, immunity and for proper growth and healing. The plant form, beta-carotene, is an orange pigment with antioxidant properties. It is technically a precursor of vitamin A – our bodies complete the conversion. Beta-carotene is found in orange-colored fruits and veggies, but also in many green veggies. The green chlorophyll pigment simply masks the orange pigment, as is the case for asparagus. One serving of asparagus provides 905 IU of vitamin A, which is: 39% RDA for adult women, 30% RDA for adult men, 35% RDA for pregnant women and 21% RDA for breastfeeding women.

Vitamin K

This fat-soluble vitamin is needed for proper blood clotting and bone metabolism. One serving of asparagus provides 45.5 mcg of vitamin K, which is 50% of the Adequate Intake (AI is used since there is not enough data to formulate an RDA) for all adult women and 38% AI for adult men. Note that the Daily Value on nutrition labels is still set at 80 mcg, which is lower than the AI for all adult women (90 mcg) and adult men (120 mcg).

The next time you are in the grocery store or at the Farmer's Market and want something green to add to your meal, consider asparagus. It is a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories, cooks quickly and tastes great in a wide variety of dishes.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Foods & Recipes/Fruit & Vegetables Nutrients/Other Vitamins & Minerals

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