Super Food of the Week: Asparagus
The succulent and tender fleshy green spears of asparagus have been considered a delicacy since ancient times. Asparagus is a perennial, an almost leafless member of the lily family. The spears that are bought in stores are really the shoots from the underground crown. It may take up to 3 years for crowns to develop enough to begin producing shoots, but once they do they can produce for about 20 years. The nutrients found in asparagus have been known to have heart health benefits, as well as being a natural diuretic and a natural birth defect fighter.
Asparagus contains folate, a nutrient essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Folate is necessary for the conversion of homocystine into cysteine. When folate levels are low, the blood levels of homocystine rise, and as a result significantly increases the risk for heart disease. Homocystine promotes atherosclerosis by reducing the integrity of blood vessel walls and by interfering with the formation of college. Folate helps to keep homocystine levels low. Just one serving of asparagus supplies nearly 66% of the daily recommended intake of folate.
Asparagus is a very good source of potassium and quite low in sodium. Its mineral profile, combined with an active amino acid in asparagus, asparagine, produces a diuretic effect. In fact, historically asparagus has been used to treat problems involving swelling, such as PMS- related water retention. Some popular articles on asparagine link this amino acid to the distinct urinary odor that can follow long after consumption of asparagus. This odor comes from a variety of sulfur-containing compounds and contrary to popular belief, persons who experience a strong odor coming from their urine after eating asparagus are not in any danger from eating this vegetable.
If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant or are in the early stages of pregnancy, it is often recommended to make asparagus a frequent addition to your meals. A single cup of asparagus supplies about 263 mcg of folate, a B-vitamin essential for proper cellular division as it is necessary for DNA syntheses. Without folate, the fetus’ nervous system cells do not divide properly. Inadequate folate during pregnancy has been linked to several birth defects, including neural tube defects like spina bifida. Despite folate’s wide availability in food, folate deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world.
Asparagus is also a hair healthy food. The majority of the major vitamins and minerals found in most popular over the counter hair supplements can be found in asparagus in various amounts in a single serving. These vitamins and minerals help to promote a healthy scalp as well as healthy hair. There are many ways to serve asparagus. Some popular methods of serving include adding chopped asparagus to an egg white omelet or combining sautéed asparagus with garlic, shiitake mushrooms and tofu or chicken. Asparagus can be served hot or cold and in many creative varieties.
Fit Tip of The Week: Exercising with Health Challenges
Asthma has become an increasingly common lung disease in the U.S. Individuals who have asthma may have inflamed and highly irritable airways. When these airways are exposed to irritants, the airways narrow, making breathing more difficult. Common signs of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing (especially at night and early in the morning). Some common irritants include tobacco smoke, air pollution, viral infections and allergens. Vigorous exercise also can act like an irritant by triggering airway spasm and narrowing. This is referred to as exercise-induced asthma.
Exercise-induced asthma may start during exercise or shortly after exercise. Episodes tend to be shorter than attacks with other triggers. Most people with asthma avoid exercise, because they feel it will do more harm than good. The truth is that people with asthma can experience the same benefits from exercise as everyone else. With proper precautions, the risk can be significantly decreased.
First and foremost, if you suspect you have asthma or exercise-induced asthma, have a thorough medical evaluation to determine if indeed you have asthma and to obtain your doctor’s permission before beginning an exercise program. Your doctor may give you medications to help keep your airways open during exercise. Once you’ve receive permission from your doctor, here are some guidelines to consider and discuss with your doctor:
- Always have medication nearby for use in the event of an asthma attack and be aware of the early signs of an attack.
- Take extra time (around 15 minutes) to warm up before exercising.
- Prolong your cool-down.
- Be aware of your exercise environment. Avoid triggers such has pollen and pollution when exercising. A warm humid environment (like that in a pool) may help reduce attacks.
- Consider exercising at the lower end of your target heart-rate and incorporate intervals for high-intensity training to minimize your risk of attack.
- Maintain adequate hydration. This reduces the mucous accumulation in the airways, reducing the risk for an attack.
- Maximize air exchange with diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale deeply though your nose and exhale though your mouth (your belly should rise).
- Rest when necessary and listen to what your body is telling you.
Asthma does not equate to an inactive life. Most people are surprised to learn that six-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee has asthma. As long as you and your physician are comfortable with your level of activity, nothing should keep you from doing the activities that keep you happy and healthy. Most importantly, as with anyone starting or modifying a physical activity routine, check with your physician before starting a exercise regimen.
Until next week…