Asparagus has been prized as an epicurean delight and for its medicinal properties for almost 2000 years. For good reason, it boasts an impressive nutritional profile which can really benefit you during and after pregnancy.
How can it benefit us?
If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant or you are in the early stages of pregnancy, make asparagus a frequent addition to your meals. An 100g serving provides nearly 30% of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, a B-vitamin essential for proper cellular division because it is necessary in DNA synthesis. 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 and is linked to a number of health conditions.
If that wasn’t enough, eaten regularly, asparagus packs an almighty punch to diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as boosting your immune system.
It’s estimated that 4 out of 10 of us (Cancer Research Campaign) will get cancer at some point in our lives and that about 30 per cent of all cancers may be the result of our diet. Asparagus contains high levels of vitamin A, folic acid and dietary fibre all believed to play an important role in the fight against cancer. Vitamin A (an antioxidant vitamin) may help prevent cancer by protecting body cells from damage caused by free radicals. Folic acid is thought to have a role in preventing certain types of cancer and dietary fibre keeps the bowel working normally and helps protect bowel cells from cancer-causing damage. Recent research has shown that a diet high in fibre is linked with a lower incidence of bowel cancer.
Protecting you Immune System
Asparagus is one of the richest sources of rutin (a natural substance found in plants) which, together with vitamin C, can help to energise and protect the body from infections. Asparagus is also a source of iron, which boosts the immune system and prevents anaemia, after childbirth women naturally become lower in iron so an increase in this mineral is very important to avoid becoming anaemic which can leave you feeling tired and low in energy.
Food for Healthy Gut Flora
Asparagus contains a special kind of carbohydrate called inulin (a prebiotic) that we don’t digest, but the health promoting friendly bacteria in our large intestine, such as Bidobacteria and Lactobacilli, do. When our diet contains good amounts of inulin, the growth and activity of these friendly bacteria increase. And when populations of health-promoting bacteria are large, it is much more difficult for unfriendly bacteria to gain a foothold in our intestinal tract. This promotes a healthy digestive tract that has been shown to contribute to a healthy immune system and stop you getting a build up of acid and heartburn which is common during pregnancy.
Women might also be keen to learn that the levels of vitamin C and E present in this miracle vegetable make it great for skin, nails and hair!
If you would like an individual tailored nutritional plan to support you during and after pregnancy, please contact Stuart Mclean, Nutritionist and Herbalist
To book a consultation contact the clinic on 0208 399 0262.
Written by Stuart Mclean, Nutritionist and Herbalist