Sometimes healthy eating is just a matter of getting more connected to your food source. Becoming familiar with the seasonality of regional edible plants allows you to access healthy foods at the peak of their ripeness. Nutrition and Wellness Elevated develops a monthly blog post featuring an edible plant that is in harvesting season in Colorado that month. Be sure to compare this to your state’s seasonal crop calendar.
This month the featured crop is asparagus. Asparagus grows well in climates where the ground freezes during winter months and where a dry season exists. Its harvesting season in Colorado is typically late April through early June. You can even find it growing freely in many irrigation ditches in rural Colorado.
As with most vegetables, asparagus is a low calorie food that is micronutrient dense. It is high in many vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. It also contains a large amount of fiber.
The antioxidant content of asparagus speaks to its potential to assist in decreasing inflammation and deactivating cancer causing free radicals. Folate is a nutrient known for its role in supporting healthy fetal development so women in their child bearing years can include asparagus in the diet to assist in obtaining appropriate nutritional status to support pregnancy. Diets high in fiber have been shown to induce many health benefits. Asparagus is high in a particular fiber type that serves as a pre-biotic; pre-biotics act to support appropriate ratios of healthy gut bacteria. A healthy microbiome has been linked to appropriate weight maintenance, decreased inflammatory markers, and reduced prevalence of many disease states (both physical and mental). The soluble fiber that is found in asparagus also has a direct role in improving blood lipids and decreasing risk for cardiovascular disease.
Asparagus was originally used as a medicinal food over 2,000 years ago related to these and other potential nutritional benefits. Today, asparagus should be included in a eating pattern to support health and disease prevention. Look for asparagus with firm spears that snap when bent. Asparagus can be pan seared, grilled, baked, and even microwaved and may be eaten as a side dish or in the main course. Try out my Grilled Asparagus recipe using locally grown asparagus.