Ingredients Speed-dating: The A to Z of our Healthy Meals.

I was going through our ingredients list today as I worked on the nutrition of our new meals. It was then I realised that maybe not everybody knows about the different vegetables, fruits or protein sources and believe it or not every ingredient has a story to tell.

So I decided to do a Speed Dating our ingredients post and will do a few every week over the next 6 weeks or so!

So here are the rules…..

Each week I will pick 4 ingredients from the meals available on www.lifekitchen.ie. I will start at A and work my way through to Z.

I will get them to do some speed dating with you where the topic of conversation are:

My History.

My Nutrition.

How I will look after you.

One interesting fact.

And what I love to go with.

 

So there is no time better than now to get started.

A is for Asparagus.

 

asparagus1

My History

Asparagus is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas. The name “asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot” and it is a member of the lily family. Much like onions, garlic, leeks, turnips and gladioli. The ancient Greeks loved wild asparagus but it was the Romans who first cultivated it.

Widely cultivated for its tender, succulent, edible shoots, asparagus cultivation began more than 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region.  Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and alleged medicinal qualities. They ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.

In the 16th Century, asparagus gained popularity in France and England.  From there, the early colonists brought it to America.  Asparagus is often called the “Food of Kings.”  King Louis XIV of France was so fond of this delicacy that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus all year-round.

 

The asparagus growing beds in Northern Italy were famous during the Renaissance period. These graceful spears of the asparagus plant have always been a sign of elegance. In the past asparagus was deemed a delicacy only the wealthy could afford. Roman emperors were so fond of asparagus, that they kept a special asparagus fleet for the purpose of fetching it.

Today asparagus remains loved for its versatility, unique herbaceous flavour, distinctive shape and health giving properties and food lovers around the world – from Europe (where white asparagus is ‘king’) to North America, Asia and Australia – feast on asparagus when in season.

 

My Nutrition

Water makes up 93% of asparagus’s composition. Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium. It is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and K. As well as thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium. It is also a good source of chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus,.

 

How I will look after you?

It’s loaded with nutrients: Asparagus is a very good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.

  1. It can help fight cancer: Asparagus is a herbaceous plant—along with avocado, kale and Brussels sprouts—is a particularly rich source of glutathione. This is a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
  2. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants: It’s one of the top ranked fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the ageing process.
  3. Asparagus is a brain booster: Another anti-ageing property of this delicious spring veggie is that it may help our brains fight cognitive decline. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12—found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy—to help prevent cognitive impairment. In a study from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility.
  4. It’s a natural diuretic: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine. This serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.

 

One interesting fact

Everybody know about the effect that asparagus has on your pee! Basically this is caused by a compound by Asparagusic acid. This acid is only produced in Asparagus. There has always been the thought that only a certain percentage of the population made the sulphur (smelly) compounds from the Asparagusic acid. Recent research is saying that in fact everyone produces the smell but only 25% of the population have the gene that allows them to smell it!

 

asparagus Sound of music ingredients

And what I love to go with

Asparagus is one of these ingredients that needs to be treated with respect. One of the worst things you can do is overcook it so it is big and strong enough to be the main part of a dish. So my favourite asparagus dish is soft poached eggs with asparagus soldiers!

asparagus poached egg ingredients

Ingredients:

8 asparagus spear per person.

2 eggs.

2 teaspoons of vinegar.

Grated parmasean.

Instructions:

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Use tongs to transfer the asparagus to a plate. Cover to keep warm.

Add the vinegar to the water in pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl. Use a spoon to stir the water to make a whirlpool. Carefully pour the egg into the centre of the whirlpool. Cook for 4 minutes for a soft yolk or until cooked to your liking. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining eggs.

Divide the asparagus among serving plates. Top each with 2 eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan to serve.

Simple and perfect!

 

www.lifekitchen.ie use asparagus as one of the ingredients in their Classy Chicken meal and is one of the 7 different fruit and vegetables that gives you three of your 5-a-day. Check out www.lifekitchen.ie to see what other meals are on offer and how we can help you to meet your nutritional needs by providing delicious, healthy meals delivered to your door.

Next up: B is for…….

 

 

 

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