Nutrition News to Help You Be Well and Live Well
Spring is for new beginnings. One of the things I love about being a dietitian is being able to point out that all foods have value. Some more than others, yes, but all foods have some sort of unique nutritional offering. The seasonality of different foods is especially fascinating to me. For example, is it a coincidence that watermelon comes in season during the peak of summertime heat when we need that refreshing, sweet hydration the most? I love thinking about food in that way. I’m just a bit of a food nerd, I guess you could say! But thinking about it in that way can help us find a new appreciation for different foods. In this issue, we’ll explore asparagus, which is at its best in early to mid- spring. Don’t miss out!
Get a Taste of Spring with Asparagus
by Sally Stegemann MS, RD, LD
Asparagus is a perennial flowering vegetable that has been consumed by humans for at least the past 2,000 years beginning in the eastern Mediterranean region. Asparagus contains a wide range of nutrients compared to other vegetables, including folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. It has long been recognized as a healthy food for pregnant women, now credited to the high folate content which aids fetal development. Also, asparagus’ combination of calcium and vitamin K (which aids in the absorption of calcium) makes it a powerhouse for bone health. In fact, a one-cup serving of asparagus provides about half of an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin K!
With its mild, sweet flavor, asparagus can appeal to even the most staunch vegetable skeptic. It can be served raw, such as in a salad, or lightly cooked. Asparagus is a very fast-cooking vegetable and is definitely best slightly under-cooked rather than over-cooked when it can take on a rather mushy and stringy texture. It is delicious grilled, roasted, sauteed or steamed. When shopping for asparagus, look for stalks that are dry and tight-tipped, not limp stalks that are flowering at the tips. Thickness of the stalks is usually a personal preference, but slightly thicker stalks are tastier and more tender, in my opinion.
Thicker stalks will need to be trimmed at the bottoms to avoid a woody texture. After you purchase asparagus, store it in the refrigerator with the ends submerged in a cup of water (like a bouquet of flowers in a vase) to preserve the freshness.
Creamy Fettuccine with Peas, Ham, and Asparagus
1 (9 oz) package fresh fettuccine noodles
1 cup fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen baby sweet peas
⅔ cup half-and-half
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 oz) thinly sliced ham, cut into ¼-inch wide strips
1. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding asparagus for final 2-3 minutes of cooking time. Drain.
2. While pasta cooks, melt butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add peas, pepper, half-and-half, cheese and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently (do not allow mixture to boil). Stir in pasta with asparagus, and ham. Yield: 4 servings (1 ¼ cups each) Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
For more delicious asparagus recipes such as
-Asparagus Soup with Lemon and Parmesan
-Pancetta Wrapped Asparagus
-Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Peas
-Raw Asparagus Salad with Almonds and Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette
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