March 2017 Issue

Culinary Corner: Asparagus — A Smart Spring Veggie
By Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD
Today's Dietitian
Vol. 19, No. 3, P. 66

Asparagus has been one of my favorite vegetables ever since I was a child, but not necessarily because my mom served them to me often. She rarely had to employ the keep-offering-until-your-child-eats-it method since I was the golden child who ate all my veggies. No, I loved asparagus because one of my favorite TV shows was VeggieTales, and my favorite character was an asparagus stalk. He was a know-it-all, and I was known as the smarty-pants of my juvenile group of friends. We bonded over our vast knowledge, or at least with as much knowledge as a 6-year-old can have.

As an adult, I still love asparagus. To me, there's no vegetable that represents spring more than a fresh, green stalk poking its speared head from the ground to greet the world. Have you ever seen asparagus stalks in the ground? They look a little funny sticking out of the dirt, standing tall, awkwardly spaced, and naked. Once harvested, these nutritious green spears make the perfect accompaniment to any spring meal. They can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted, sautéed, or just about any way you prefer, and their mild flavor lends itself to almost any cuisine.

Besides its culinary versatility, asparagus has a powerful nutritional profile. Asparagus is rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate and chromium. It's packed with free radical-scavenging antioxidants and glutathione, which can help prevent cancer, as well as prebiotic fiber for digestive and gut health. Finally, asparagus is well known as a natural diuretic, thanks to the amino acid asparagine, which promotes urine production—helpful for ridding the body of excess sodium.1,2

My favorite way to prepare asparagus is grilled with lemon and garlic, or raw in a salad like I've done here. Shaved asparagus with creamy goat cheese and sweet oranges makes the perfect light side dish to pair with any protein for one of your first spring meals. Look for thick, hearty stalks for an easier preparation and pretty presentation.

 Though vulnerable and awkward-looking in the ground, the asparagus is mighty and delicious on the table, and definitely a smart choice when it comes to nutrition.

— Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian and creator of the food blog Lively Table. Follow her on social media @liveytable.

1. Sanae M, Yasuo A. Green asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) prevented hypertension by an inhibitory effect on angiotensin-converting enzyme activity in the kidney of spontaneously hypertensive rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(23):5520-5525.

2. Nishimura M, Ohkawara T, Kagami-Katsuyama H, Sato H, Nishihira J. Improvement of blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and lipid profile by the intake of powdered asparagus (Lú Sŭn) bottom-stems and cladophylls. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013;3(4):250-255.


Shaved Asparagus Salad With Oranges and Goat Cheese

This fresh asparagus salad is the perfect way to welcome spring vegetables to your table. Try to find the thickest asparagus stalks possible to make it easier to form them into big, beautiful ribbons.

Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus spears
1 large or 2 small navel oranges, peeled and segmented
2 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked pepper
Coarse salt

1. To shave asparagus into ribbons, hold on to the base of one asparagus stalk. Place a Y-peeler about 2 inches from the base and slide toward the tip. Repeat, rotating the asparagus 90 degrees each time you cut, until the whole stalk has been cut into ribbons. Repeat with remaining asparagus. Discard woody ends.

2. Place asparagus ribbons on a serving platter. Top with orange segments, crumbled goat cheese, and parsley.

3. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper and coarse salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 61; Total fat: 4 g; Sat fat: 2 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 7 mg; Sodium: 185 mg; Total carbohydrate: 4 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 3 g