Now that spring is here, I’m glad that one of my favorite vegetables will be coming back into season. Not only because it tastes great, but also because it can help reduce your blood pressure and inflammation.
Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, and E, and the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione helps your immune system and liver function effectively, so I think it’s worth the unusual side effect. Many people say the glutathione in asparagus makes your urine smell. But it doesn’t. Asparagus contains a sulphurous compound called mercaptan (which is also found in rotten eggs, onions, and garlic). When your digestive system breaks down mercaptan, it releases by-products that cause the strange smell.
Doctors prescribe a variety of medicines to aid in lowering blood pressure. Many plants and vegetables can also aid in lowering blood pressure. In fact, one study found that feeding asparagus to rats with high blood pressure significantly lowered their ACE activity (a primary factor in high blood pressure) compared to rats that ate a normal diet. And no, the rats weren’t eating asparagus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It accounted for just 5% of their diet.
Eat asparagus regularly when it’s in season. But there are several months when it’s not. Researchers are currently investigating the effectiveness of canned asparagus as well as asparagus extract. One great thing about the extract is that it includes not just the edible stalk but the whole plant, including the roots.
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One review study found that asparagus extract can reduce homocysteine, an amino acid that can increase your atherosclerosis risk. You can bring your homocysteine levels down with B vitamins and folate, which asparagus extract contains. In fact, taking the extract lowered homocysteine by 28% in one study.
Both asparagus stalks and asparagus extract have diuretic effects, which can help reduce water retention and flush out the kidneys. This is especially important if you’re prone to water retention or kidney stones.
Studies have investigated the best preparation methods to ensure asparagus retains its nutritional value. The consensus seems to be that asparagus is best baked or steamed for a few minutes. Overcooking (baking longer than 18 minutes) or boiling it decreases levels of the antioxidants glutathione and rutin.
Fortunately, asparagus is delicious after being baked or steamed just until tender. It’s a wonderful side dish and a great reminder that spring is here. If the warm weather isn’t enough to help you relax and release some tension, asparagus will help with that too.
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