Ask The Pharmacist: Asparagus is good medicine

Q: My grandfather moved in with us last year. He is 86 years old and relatively healthy. He does not take any medication but says that eating asparagus is his “medicine.” He asks my wife to cook some every day but this is rather annoying. I know some foods have health benefits, does asparagus? — C.Y. Nashville, Tennessee

A: Grandpa and I agree on this one; asparagus is good medicine. It contains folic acid (vitamin B9) and studies have repeatedly shown that folic acid can reduce levels of an inflammatory substance called homocysteine; high levels of this amino acid are linked with heart disease. One serving of asparagus (5 spears) provides over 60 percent of the recommended daily intake so it’s a terrific natural source of a powerful heart-healthy nutrient.

Asparagus also contains vitamins A, B6, C, K, and thiamine. This tasty veggie also has some beta carotene, potassium, zinc and fiber. Here are other reasons to fall in love with asparagus:

- It has no fat, contains no cholesterol and is low in sodium.

- It may improve the health of your digestive tract by sparking production of friendly flora (like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria).

- It could improve your mood because it provides vitamin C and folic acid, which spark production of the “happy” brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.

- Asparagus contains plant chemicals that are anti-fungal and anti-viral and are generally helpful in boosting immune function.

- Asparagus contains a very strong antioxidant called glutathione, which has been shown to have properties that could be preventive against cancer.

- Asparagus is a diuretic and increases kidney function; this may also help you reduce water retention, blood pressure and urinary tract infections.

- A special anti-inflammatory plant chemical in asparagus may ease arthritic pain.

- Asparagus are part of a healthy diet for pregnant women, as folic acid is known to prevent birth defects. Asparagus should not replace prenatal vitamins, which are often prescribed for their folic acid.

- Asparagus has sulfur-containing amino acids that might help slow or stop the spread of warts.

- It is one of the richest sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls.

- It tastes delish when it’s sauteed in olive oil with fresh garlic, sea salt and feta cheese. I am seriously getting a craving now! More information about asparagus and some recipes can be found at asparagus.org. Don’t overcook asparagus, steam it only until it’s bright green and somewhat crisp, as this retains the healthy nutrients inside. Don’t worry if your urine has a greenish hue or if it smells weird after you eat asparagus – that’s normal.

If you don’t like the veggie and only want to reap its health benefits, try a dietary supplement. I’ve purchased “asparagus extract” from two reputable sources, ‘Enzymatic Therapy’ and ‘Chi’s Enterprise,’ sold online and at some health food stores.

Did you know?

German customs authorities have smashed a ring of online pharmacy dealers that were selling counterfeit Viagra sex pills to consumers over the Internet.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Always consult your physician.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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