Remember when you were a child and your mother told you to eat your vegetables? Turns out mom knew what she was talking about. Vegetables provide a nutritional powerhouse, packed as they are with vitamins, minerals and phyto-chemicals. That is why you will find that vegetables form a key part of virtually every diet out there.
Vegetables are also a key part of the keto diet. However, those veges that are high in carbohydrates need to be approached with extreme caution. Even though they may be healthy, they will also kick you out of the state of ketosis – the fat burning basis upon which the ketogenic diet is formed.
So, what about the humble asparagus?
In this article we provide the definitive answer to the question whether asparagus belongs on the keto diet. We also provide a comprehensive asparagus-keto FAQ, along with one of our favorite recipes!
Asparagus is one of the most welcome signs of spring. For centuries it was used as an aphropdisiac. The ancients didn’t know why asparagus boosted virility, but today we do. This tasty vegetable happens to be packed with nutrients that enhance our energy, optimize our urinary tract and negate the build-up of ammonia. Too much ammonia can make us lethargic and diminish our sexual interest. Asparagus has the power to help turn that around.
Asparagus is one of the most balanced vegetables that exist. It provides rich sources of Vitamin K and Folate (Vitamin B9) and is high in both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant nutrients. These include vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc, manganese and selenium.
Asparagus represents a great food choice for your brain health. One reason is that it contains the amino acid Asparagine, from which the vegetable derives its name. Asparagine has been shown to play a important role in the development and functioning of the brain. It’s also a good source of chromium, which helps insulin to do its job of transporting glucose.
Asparagus is an especially rich source of glutathione, which has been shown to be an effective carcinogen. For this reason, asparagus often gets added to the diet of people who are suffering with cancer.
Asparagus is considered to be an extremely nutrient dense food. That is because it is packed with vitamins and minerals but very low in calories. In fact a serving of five spears of asparagus contains just twenty calories. It also contains no fat and is very low in sodium.
Let’s take a look at the macronutrient profile for asparagus, based on a serving size of five spears:
- 3.10 g of carbs
- 0.10 g of fat
- 1.17 g of protein
- 1.7 g of dietary fiber.
Here are the key minerals contained in a serving of asparagus:
- Calcium (19 mg)
- Iron (1.71 mg)
- Magnesium (11 mg)
- Phosphorus (42 mg)
- Potassium (162 mg)
And these are the most important vitamins:
- Vitamin A, C, and E
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
Is Asparagus Keto Friendly?
Yes, asparagus is a keto friendly fruit. With just 3.1 total grams of carbs per five spear serving, of which 1.7 grams is dietary fiber, having a serving of asparagus on your dinner plate makes perfect keto sense. Of course, it doesn’t contain much fat, but that is not what you are trying to get from your vegetables. Green vegetables such as asparagus, green beans and peas will provide the healthy carb nutrition that your body needs to operate optimally.
Asparagus is good news for your heart. It has high rates of Vitamin K, which can help to alleviate blood clots. This is backed up with generous levels of Vitamin B, which are able to regulate an amino acid called homocysteine. This amino acid poses a serious risk for heart disease.
Every cup of asparagus provides you with more almost two grams of soluble fiber. This also helps to lower your risk of heart disease. The high levels of asparagine contained in asparagus also flushes out salt from the system.
Asparagus contains high levels of Vitamin B6, which has been shown to help regulate blood sugar. This vegetable can also benefit people who have Type 2 Diabetes. This is due to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. According to a number of studies, including a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, the ability to enhance insulin secretion and improve beta-cell function will also reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
The high levels of glutathione in asparagus are good to prevent the signs of aging. The combination of folate and Vitamin B12 also help stave off cognitive decline. Glutathione also protects the skin from sun damage.
According to a 2010 study, asparagus can also act as a natural diuretic by helping to flush excess salt and fluid from the body. This is especially beneficial for people with edema and high blood pressure. It is also known to flush toxins from the body and to help prevent kidney stones. However, it should be noted that people who suffer from uric acid kidney stones should not consume asparagus.
Because of its high fiber content, asparagus is excellent for the digestive system. It will help to move your food through your gut and help to bring relief from digestive issues such as belching and flatulence. Asparagus contains an important pre-biotic known as inulin, which does not get broken down until it reaches the large intestine. Once in the large intestine, inulin helps to develop the good bacteria that promotes gut health.
Asparagus also contains saponins in high amounts. Saponins contain both fat-soluble and water-soluble compounds. These are known to have a positive effect on cell membranes and improve the body’s immunity. Recent studies also suggest that saponins from asparagus may help to prevent secondary tumor formation.
Why does asparagus cause urine to smell?
Asparagus is the only food that contains asparagusic acid. When digested this acid breaks down into sulfur containing compounds that have a rather unpleasant odor. It is this acid that causes urine to smell.
How much asparagus should I consume?
As we have seen, asparagus is a very healthy food that doesn’t have any downsides. It is low in carbs, which makes it a smart addition to the ketogenic diet. It also has great taste, cab be enjoyed baked, roasted, steamed or raw, is low in calories and carbohydrate grams and can be added to a whole host of recipes.
On this diet, your goal should be to keep your daily carb count to 20 grams or under. A typical meal might include 5 asparagus spears. That will provide you with just over 3 total grams of carbs and about 1.7 grams of net carbs. When we consider how much nutritional goodness is contained in that amount, it represents very good use of your limited carbohydrate resources.
If you really love the taste of asparagus, you can safely have 5 spears with your evening meal each night without any fear of blowing out your carb grams count!
What are some good foods to pair with asparagus?
You don’t have to only eat asparagus as a side to your dinner meal. Here are some other keto friendly foods you can pair with asparagus for a tasty snack:
Artichoke, arugula, butter, cashews, chives, eggs, farro, fava beans, garlic scapes, goat cheese, green garlic, hazelnuts, leeks, lemon, mint, mushrooms, onion, orange, parmesan, parsley, peas, Pecorino Romano, quinoa, radishes, ramps, scallions, shallots, sorrel, Taleggio, tarragon.
How should I select asparagus?
Green and purple spears should be brightly colored from tip to end with little or no white and no shriveled, dry ends.
Examine the tips and avoid any that show brown bruising or have started to unfurl: Tips that are no longer in a tight head have either been left too long in the ground or have gotten old. Check the cut ends for moisture, which is a sign of recent harvesting.
Avoid bunches with dry or split ends.
How should I store asparagus?
Use asparagus as soon as possible. Refrigerate in an open plastic bag. If the spears seem limp after prolonged storing, try rehydrating them before using: Trim a quarter inch off the ends and stand in cold water in the refrigerator until the spears become more firm, 30 to 60 minutes (the longer the better).
What is the best way to steam asparagus?
For green or purple asparagus, fill a skillet with water to a depth of ¼ inch. Add the asparagus, cover, and cook to tender-crisp, 4 to5 minutes for spears less than ½ inch in diameter, 5 to 6 minutes for jumbo asparagus. For white asparagus, place in water to a depth of ½ inch, and steam until tender, 8 to 15 minutes, depending on size; toss gently with Herb Butter.
Can you share any asparagus recipes?
Here is one of my favorite recipes:
Asparagus, Leek, and Herb Frittata with Fresh Goat Cheese
Whisk together 7 large eggs; 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped fresh chives, and chopped fresh mint leaves; 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest; ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard; ½ teaspoon fine sea salt; and ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium- size, ovenproof, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 large leek, washed well, and patted dry, dark green tops discarded, sliced into ⅛-inch-thick half-moons, and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften. Stir in ½ bunch asparagus, cut into 1- inch lengths, and another ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the egg mixture and gently shake the pan to distribute. Cook, occasionally pulling the edges away from the pan with a silicone spatula, allowing uncooked egg to run underneath, until the edges are set and the center is just beginning to set (it should still be mostly runny), 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle ⅓ cup freshly crumbled goat cheese on.
Here is another great Keto asparagus recipe.
Asparagus constitutes a very keto-friendly food. As well as being very low in carbs, it’s also great for heart health and overall well-being. They are low in calories, taste fantastic and can be served up baked, steamed, roasted or raw. Have a serving alongside kale, green beans, any leafy green vegetable or bell peppers and you will be getting in a perfect keto-friendly meal.