The Benefits of Asparagus: Foods that Fight Cancer - NFCR

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Summer is heating up, and that can only mean one thing: time to break out the grill!

Everyone loves a classic hot dog, but did you know a green stalky vegetable is winning itself a spot on many Americans’ grills this year? Asparagus is an easy-to-grill vegetable, needing little to no other preparation. But that’s not why it is growing in popularity. 

Asparagus is winning the hearts of many Americans due to its outstanding health benefits. For starters, it is packed with nutrients and flavor – but contains very few calories. In fact, just half a cup of cooked asparagus contains only 20 calories! Low-calorie, water-rich foods like asparagus are associated with maintaining a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce one’s risk of many cancers. 

Breaking Down the Benefits of Asparagus

This low-calorie veggie packs a punch as it is a good source of folate. Research shows that foods high in folate are likely to help protect against pancreatic cancer. Some evidence even shows that folate foods decrease the risk of esophagus and bowel cancer. Asparagus is also a great source of fiber. Foods containing dietary fiber, particularly when relatively unprocessed, can help protect against bowel cancer. 

Furthermore, this green superfood contains a large number of antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Research suggests that the antioxidants in asparagus reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. 

Need more asparagus in your diet? Try this lemony asparagus pasta recipe – great year-round! 

Lemony Asparagus Pasta

Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes

What you need:

  • Large pot
  • Large skillet
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Zester 
  • Lemon juicer
  • Cheese grater 
  • Cutting board
  • Knife

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of whole-grain pasta
  • 1 pound of thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil divided 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan plus more for serving
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta (cook according to the package directions until al dente). Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook asparagus until crispy, then season with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add heavy cream, white wine, lemon juice, and zest. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add in salt, parmesan, and black pepper. Reduce heat to low and mix until well combined. 
  4. Turn off heat and mix in pasta, asparagus, and parsley until well coated. Add small amounts of pasta water until you reach desired consistency. Serve with more grated parmesan, cracked black pepper, and red pepper flakes.