The Health Benefits of Asparagus

April 1, 2008

Asparagus originates from The Mediterranean, and the Southern and Northern areas of Africa, with Egypt possibly being the first to cultivate asparagus, where it was valued for it’s medicinal properties.

Roman emperors kept an “Asparagus Fleet” of boats for collecting this prized delicacy.

Asparagus and smelly pee was first researched in 1820, and the French novelist Marcel Prost famously remarked that asparagus “transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume”.

Today China is the world’s largest producer of asparagus, with Peru, United States, Mexico and Mediterranean countries being the other main producers.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Nutrients in Asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent source of potassium, and a good source of dietary fiber. Asparagus is low in calories and carbohydrates, and relatively high in protein. Research of anthocyanins from purple asparagus has proved their high antioxidant activities.

A comprehensive breakdown of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin and mineral content presented in an easy to read pie chart can be found in our Nutrition Database where this food can also be added to a meal planner.

Diabetes Treatment
Research at the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, has demonstrated that asparagus stimulates insulin secretion, which may provide new opportunities for the treatment of diabetes.

Arthritis Treatment

asparagusAt the University of Illinois at Chicago, the constituents of asparagus were evaluated for inhibitory activity against cyclooxygenase-2, an enzyme that catalyzes the production of prostaglandins, which are responsible for promoting inflammation. When cyclooxygenase-2 activity is blocked, inflammation is reduced. This may be the reason that asparagus is beneficial for the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism.


Asparagus has a diuretic effect, and asparagine, an amino acid present in asparagus may be the source of its diuretic properties, and when excreted, gives urine a strong odor. In another study at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Birmingham in the UK, the pungent urinary odor produced by certain individuals within a few hours of eating asparagus has been shown to be due to a combination of up to six sulphur-containing alkyl compounds identified as methanethiol, dimethyl sulphide, dimethyl disulphide, bis-(methylthio)methane, dimethyl sulphoxide and dimethyl sulphone.

In yet another study, it was determined that everyone’s urine has an odor after ingesting asparagus, and that not everybody has the ability to smell it.

1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. Dartsch PC. The potential of Asparagus-P to inactivate reactive oxygen radicals. Phytother Res. 2008 Feb;22(2):217-22. PMID: 18236449.
5. Sakaguchi Y, Ozaki Y, Miyajima I, Yamaguchi M, Fukui Y, Iwasa K, Motoki S, Suzuki T, Okubo H. Major anthocyanins from purple asparagus (Asparagus officinalis). Phytochemistry. 2008 May;69(8):1763-6. Epub 2008 Apr 10. PMID: 18406435.
6. Wiklund I, Berg G, Hammar M, Karlberg J, Lindgren R, Sandin K. Long-term effect of transdermal hormonal therapy on aspects of quality of life in postmenopausal women. Maturitas. 1992 Mar;14(3):225-36. PMID: 1508062.
7. Waring RH, Mitchell SC, Fenwick GR. The chemical nature of the urinary odour produced by man after asparagus ingestion. Xenobiotica. 1987 Nov;17(11):1363-71. PMID: 3433805.
8. Image by Muffet

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