The Health Benefits Of Asparagus (Shatavari)
- Asparagus officinalis
- Asparagus racemosus
In India, asparagus is called shatavari in Hindi. It means "one possessing 100 husbands," indicative of the herb's exceptional ability to tackle sexual debility and fertility issues in both sexes.
In Sanskrit, it is called shatmuli, meaning "a plant with 100 roots." It is also called the Queen of Herbs in ayurveda.
Asparagus racemosus is native to India, the Himalayas, and Sri Lanka, while asparagus officinalis is native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa.
Asparagus racemosus (or shatavari) is the species whose finger shaped roots, and to some extent its leaves, are used extensively in ayurvedic medicine, while asparagus officinalis (or asparagus, as the West knows it) is the variety that is cultivated for its edible shoots.
Asparagus is a herb that grows to a height of 1-2 meters and has thin needle like leaves. Its shoots are considered a delicacy.
White asparagus are produced when the shoots that sprout through the soil are covered with earth. This prevents photosynthesis from talking place, resulting in the white color.
Research indicates that unlike other vegetables, in which respiration or metabolic activity ceases the moment they are picked, the metabolic activity in asparagus continues for sometime after. This makes it more perishable than the other vegetables, causing it to lose nutrients and become wrinkly and hard.
The metabolic activity can be slowed by wrapping the ends in a damp paper or cloth towel before storing it in the refrigerator. Also, ensure that it is consumed in a day or two after purchase.
- Asparagus is a low calorie vegetable having just 20 calories per 100 grams. It has almost no fat and is free of cholesterol. The low calorie content makes it a negative calorie vegetable, as more calories are burnt in digesting it than what is gained from consuming it.
- The dietary fiber is 5.5% DV per 100 grams, which is considered a good level.
- It has a number of flavonoid antioxidants in appreciable levels like lutein, carotenes, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthins.
- It contains the very beneficial and unique carbohydrate inulin which has a major health benefits.
- Asparagus is a rich source of folates (13% DV in 100 grams) which is a very vital nutrient for a growing fetus.
- It contains all the important B-complex vitamins including niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin ,and thiamine, that are needed in many metabolic and enzymatic processes.
- Asparagus has rich levels of the antioxidant vitamin A (25% RDA/100 grams) and moderate levels of vitamins C & E.
- Vitamin K is found in very good quantities (35% RDA/100 grams) which is especially helpful in ensuring brain and bone health, apart from ensuring normal blood clotting.
- Various minerals like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc are found in fair amounts, while copper and iron are in good amounts.
- Contains about 4% potassium and almost no sodium which makes it good for those with hypertension.
Asparagus (A. officinalis), raw,
Nutrition value per 100 grams/ORAC value 2150
Percentage of RDA
The list of health benefits of asparagus is quite long and very impressive. Primarily shatavari is considered a female reproductive tonic in ayurveda, but the many benefits it provides go far beyond this.
According to ayurveda, the root (the most used part of the plant) has the following properties/benefits:
- Antidiarrheal and antidystentric
- Galactogogue (increases milk output in breastfeeding women)
- Demulcent (soothing pain and inflammations)
- Nutritive (nourishing)
- Refrigerant (cooling effect, pitta pacifying effect)
- Antitussive (relieves cough)
- Antioxytocic (prevents stimulation of the uterus muscles)
- Adaptogen (metabolism regulator, helping the body to adapt to environment factors easily)
These properties give asparagus a wide range of health benefits.
The health benefits of asparagus have largely been attributable to the saponins in the roots. Asparagus officinalis has saponins in the shoots as well. Saponins have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Asparagus contains a unique carbohydrate called inulin that does not get digested in the anterior part of the intestine, but travels to the large intestine where it is broken down by the bacteria residing there (the Bifidibacteria and Lactobacilli). These bacteria use inulin as food to thrive and multiply, thereby lowering the risk of colon cancer and allergies, and increasing the absorption of nutrients.
- Heart Disease
Its anti-inflammatory properties, and also its various B-complex vitamins (especially choline, biotin, and pantothenic acid) play a key role in regulating blood sugar levels and keeping the levels of the amino acid homocysteine low. This reduces the risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, and reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. It also helps regulate blood fat and cholesterol levels.
Ayurveda uses asparagus/shatavatri in treating a variety of problems related to digestion. The unique carbohydrate inulin, and the dietary fiber (which is a combination of insoluble and soluble fiber), relieves constipation, dyspepsia, ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery, and colic, and improves digestion by increasing the levels of the enzymes amylase and lipase, which digest carbohydrates and fat, respectively.
- Blood Sugar
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also translate into the lowering of blood sugar levels, with the dietary fiber also pitching in. This especially reduces risk of type 2 diabetes.
Apart from the above, asparagus (or shatavari) is used successfully in treating:
- detoxification of the body
- water retention
- arthritis and rheumatism
- skin diseases
- PMS issues
- nervous disorders
Asparagus and Urine Odor
Many people report a strong odor in their urine after consuming asparagus, while many others have no such issues. No simple or single explanation has been forthcoming on this by researchers as there are 21 different substances that are believed to cause this odor.
Also, many people do not experience this smell, either due the different ways their bodies metabolize asparagus, or because they are not being able to perceive this odor. Not enough research has been done on the connection between asparagus consumption, urine odor, and its risk to health.
Therefore, it would be safe to assume that, in view of the above facts, to consume or not consume asparagus is a personal choice. Of course, by not consuming it, one is bound to miss out on its various health benefits.
Medicinal Value of Shatavari/Satavar/Shatamull (Asparagus Racemosus)
Asparagus contains purines so those who suffer from gout or kidney stones, or even those who are susceptible to purine-related problems, should avoid or limit their consumption of asparagus as excess of purines can cause excess of uric acid in the body, and lead to health issues in such individuals.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly
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