Archive for May, 2009

Asparagus: Edible Flower?

Yes, that is a flower that you are eating! Believe it or not, the delicious Asparagus that you eat is actually a perennial garden plant and member of the lily family.

Asparagus has been considered a delicacy since ancient times. Originating in the Easter Mediterranean region, cultivated in ancient Egypt as well as Africa, and then made wildly popular in the 18th century by Louis XIV, asparagus has been prized as an epicurean delight and for its medicinal properties for almost 2000 years!

Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food that is extremely high in folic acid and also contains substantial levels of potassium, vitamins B1, 2, 6, vitamin A, C, & K, niacin and thiamin.

Folic acid or folate is responsible for protecting against birth defects, promoting healthy skin, protecting against parasites and food poisoning, and helping ward off anemia. Containing a wopping 263 mcg of folate per cup, asparagus is something that is very beneficial to add to your diet if you are thinking about getting pregnant or are in the early stages of pregnancy.

Asparagus is also a diuretic. Asparagus contains 288 mg of potassium per cup and is very low in sodium. Due to its mineral profile and the active amino acid asparagine, asparagus is a wonderful diuretic which helps reduce water retention due to PMS and high blood pressure.

Some experts also believe that asparagus improves symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism by breaking down the oxalic acid crystals, particularly if taken in a juice form.

Asparagus also improves digestion by promoting intestinal flora. Asparagus contains the carbohydrate inulin that we don’t digest, but the health-promoting friendly bacteria in our large intestine such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli do. When our diet contains good amounts of inulin, the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria increase resulting in healthy bacteria population in our intestines that makes it difficult for unfriendly bacteria to take hold.

On top of all that, asparagus is an excellent source of fiber!

Now that May is upon us and harvest season of asparagus has officially begun, make sure you pick up some freshly gown asparagus and serve them raw with crudite for a snack, dice them in your favorite salad for lunch, or prepare them grilled as a side dish at dinner.

Below are some of my family’s favorite recipes!

Asparagus Pasta

Rigatoni or penne pasta
Olive oil
Bunch of asparagus
1 clove of garlic

Place the diced garlic and olive oil in a pan and allow to cook until tender. Dice asparagus into thin slices horizontally and add to garlic and olive oil and cook approximately 3-5 minutes until tender. Cook the pasta in a separate pot until done and then drain and place in a large bowl. Spoon the asparagus, garlic and olive oil on top of the pasta and serve with shaved parmesan. This is truly a very simple, delicious dish!

Grilled Asparagus

Bunch of asparagus
Olive oil
Sea salt

Coat a non-stick griddle with a bit of olive oil or olive oil spray. Place the asparagus on the griddle and drizzle with olive oil and then spice with a dash of sea salt. Grill until brown. In our family, we love them when they are a bit crispy and very brown like they have been out on the grill but they can also be done al dente if you prefer.

Soft Drinks: Liquid Poison?

In Texas, we call Coke, Sprite and all other fizzy, canned sugary drinks “soft drinks.” Why we call them “soft drinks” when they can completely eat away at a penny or a tooth if left in a cup of it, I will never know! The bottom line is never, ever drink cokes, diet cokes or any other soft drinks. They are poison in a can. I am a former diet coke addict and used to drink literally 6 cans of diet coke a day and come from a family where my mother lived off Tab! But, have you ever looked at the label? If you can’t understand the majority of the ingredients you should not be putting it into your mouth!

The United States per capita consumption of soft drinks has risen to 49 gallons per year and the per capita sugar intake per person has risen to 149 pounds per person per year! Never have we seen such a record number of cases of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and other degenerative diseases not only in adults but in children!

Not only does the sugar and calories in all this soda lead to weight gain but the sugar contained in these drinks erodes teeth. Additionally, the caffeine in these drinks contributes to sleep problems and also acts as a diuretic shepherding yet more beneficial nutrients out of the body.

Ok, so you say, I will just drink “diet” or I will drink “diet and caffeine-free.” I have a few clients who fess up to using diet cokes as a way to stave off eating. The problem with this is that in both diet and regular cokes, the phosphates block the absorption of calcium and leach alkaline minerals from the body. It is very important for women that we get adequate amounts of calcium in our diet so that our bone density levels do not erode, which can ultimately lead to osteoporosis. It is also crucial for children to get adequate levels of calcium and other vital minerals while their bodies are growing and developing!

Drinking diet drinks is no better for you (and may be even worse)! Aspartame found in diet soft drinks has been linked to birth defects, brain cancer, arthritis, emotional disorders, diabetes and epilepsy. When methyl alcohol, a component of aspartame, enters your body, it turns into formaldehyde, a toxic and carcinogenic substance. Sure you would have to drink a lot to have those consequences but just think of the effect that these drinks still cause to your body.

Researchers have also found a correlation between drinking diet soft drinks and metabolic syndrome- the collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels and elevated blood sugar.

Lastly, the more soft drinks you drink, the less water and other healthy drinks such as fresh fruits and vegetable juices that you will consume! And, water helps flush toxins out of the body and keeps us hydrated and healthy.

Most of have difficulty giving up cokes for a variety of reasons such as an addiction to caffeine, patterns of behavior, and what I call the “fizzy factor.” Try to pinpoint why you are reaching for the coke. If it is out of habit, perhaps another healthy snack or beverage will do. If it is because you need the boost of caffeine in the afternoon, perhaps you can substitute a green tea latte or, even better, find ways to slow down. Are you fueling your day with a caffeine or soft drink addiction? If it is just out of habit or you need a snack at a certain time, try having a fresh fruit or vegetable juice, a cup of yogurt or even a few squares of chocolate for your afternoon lull. Read my article on “How to Give Up the Afternoon Latte or Sugar Binge and Stop Your Fluctuating Blood Sugar Levels and Mood Swings to learn more about why you are reaching for one in the first place. And, lastly, if you are craving a fizzy drink mix your favorite fruit juice or crush fresh berries and mix with Perrier- a very refreshing and uplifting alternative!

There is nothing healthy or nutritious about soft drinks and they are something I recommend everyone eradicate from their diets!