When we talk about superfoods, a few obvious contenders—walnuts, chia seeds, lemons, green tea, quinoa, kale—immediately come to mind. But it may be time to add one often-overlooked food to that list: asparagus.
“Asparagus is a non-starchy vegetable that has a nice array of nutrients and fiber,” says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Maya Feller Nutrition. And that’s just the beginning of its benefits. Need proof? Here are some great benefits of asparagus you probably never heard of.
1. Asparagus is loaded with Vitamin K
Vitamin K isn’t a vitamin that gets a lot of attention, but the fat-soluble vitamin has some amazing health benefits. “Vitamin K is involved in preventing blood clotting and improving bone health and heart health,” says Feller. Just a cup of raw asparagus comes with 56 micrograms of vitamin K, per the USDA—over half of your recommended daily intake (90 mcg) in one fell swoop.
2. Asparagus is a prebiotic
By now, you probably know how good probiotics are for you—they’re helpful for everything from moving your digestion along to improving your mood. But prebiotics (the non-digestible carbs that feed your gut’s bacteria) are super important, too. “Asparagus is a prebiotic,” says Feller. “[Prebiotics] help with the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.” In other words, you can’t have probiotics without prebiotics—and asparagus will get the prebiotic job done.
3. Asparagus is a great source of folate
You may have heard that folate is a super-important B-vitamin for pregnant women, but everyone needs this essential nutrient. “Folate is important for DNA synthesis,” explains Feller, adding that the body needs folate for the cells to divide. It’s also a key player in heart health and even hair growth. Adults should be getting about 400 micrograms of folate a day (during pregnancy, that goes up to 600 micrograms); one cup of raw asparagus gets you to about 18 percent of your recommended daily allowance.
4. Asparagus can help you de-bloat
“Asparagus increases urine production, bringing water and waste out of the body,” says Lisa Hayim, RD, nutritionist and founder of The Well Necessities. Basically, the natural diuretic can help cut back on uncomfortable bloating.
5. Asparagus helps detox your body
More antioxidants are always a good idea—antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, which helps with heart health and fights against diseases like cancer. Luckily, asparagus is rich in them—particularly glutathione. “Glutathione is an important antioxidant that plays a pivotal role in the detox process,” says Hayim. It’s also linked with healthier skin and better liver function.
6. Asparagus helps with regular bowel movements
Struggling with constipation? It happens to the best of us. In addition to loading up on magnesium citrate, sipping on coffee and staying hydrated, try sautéing some asparagus and see if it get the job done. “Asparagus is rich in fiber,” says Hayim (about 3 grams per cup), “which makes it great for digestion and regular bowel movements,” says Hayim.