Asparagus Nutrition Facts: Calories and Health Benefits

asparagus nutrition facts and health benefits

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman

Asparagus spears are both delicious and nutritious, so they're a perfect vegetable to add to your diet. You can find asparagus that is green, white, or purple. In the United States, the green variety is most common, while white asparagus is prevalent throughout Europe.

The great news is that you can enjoy asparagus all year long as it's a common fixture in produce markets.

Yet, the peak season for asparagus is in spring, so be sure to take advantage of the best spears of the year during that time.

Asparagus Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1/2 cup cooked, drained without salt (90 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 20 
Calories from Fat 2 
Total Fat 0.2g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 13mg1%
Potassium 201.6mg6%
Carbohydrates 3.7g1%
Dietary Fiber 1.8g7%
Sugars 1.2g 
Protein 2.2g 
Vitamin A 18% · Vitamin C 12%
Calcium 2% · Iron 5%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Asparagus is a low-calorie, low carbohydrate, and high fiber food choice. One-half cup contains only 20 calories and 3.7 grams carbohydrate. It also delivers seven percent of your daily fiber needs.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K. It's also a very good source of vitamin A, riboflavin (B2), folate, thiamin, and iron. A good amount of vitamin C can also be found in it.

It's important to note that if you take Warfarin (Coumadin), it's best to maintain consistent intakes of vitamin K. Try to eat the same amount of high vitamin K foods like asparagus and green leafy vegetables each day. 

Asparagus is a good source of many phytonutrients, including antioxidants which may help protect our cells from damage.

It also contains a fairly large amount of glutathione which may help to fight against cancer.

Asparagus is also a source of inulin, a type of fiber that supports healthy gut bacteria. This is an area of research that is now getting a great deal of attention. We are learning the value of gut health in disease prevention and health maintenance.

It's believed that asparagus is a natural diuretic and at least one recent animal study has backed up this claim. It can help reduce bloating due to a combination of minerals and the plant protein called asparagine.

Is There a Nutritional Difference Between White and Green Asparagus?

In comparison, both white and green asparagus contain roughly the same amount of calories, carbohydrates, and fiber in one serving. The difference is that white asparagus is grown underground. Because it is not exposed to light, it does not produce chlorophyll. Therefore white asparagus contains less chlorophyll than the green spears.

White asparagus contains marginally less vitamin C as well. White asparagus tends to be thicker than the green variety, so it tastes better when cooked through—it doesn't lend the crisp texture that green asparagus does. 

Why Does Asparagus Make Your Urine Smell?

There's nothing unusual about having a strange odor to your urine after eating asparagus.

The vegetable contains sulfurous amino acids that break down during digestion. This produces smelly chemical compounds that present themselves as you urinate. It's perfectly natural and not something to be alarmed about.

Picking and Storing Asparagus

When selecting fresh asparagus, choose stalks that have a tightly closed bud. The stalks should be rich in color, stand firm, and appear plump and straight. Avoid asparagus that is limp, mushy, or dull in color.

Asparagus can also be purchased frozen and canned. Avoid frozen asparagus that is packaged with cheese, butter, or other types of sauces. Instead, chose plain asparagus and add the toppings on your own.

Be sure to wash canned asparagus before use.

Fresh asparagus can dry out quickly, so it's important to store it properly to maintain freshness. To extend its shelf life and prevent food waste:

  1. Keep your asparagus in the rubber band and trim off the bottoms (about 1 inch).
  2. Wrap the ends in a moist paper towel.
  3. Stand them up in a small amount of water (about 1 inch) in the refrigerator.

The stalks should not be washed until just before you're ready to cook.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Asparagus

Asparagus is a great vegetable to use in a pinch because it can be cooked quickly. Make extra asparagus and add it to your morning meal or use it for hearty, healthy soups. Make a simple marinade and grill, roast, or saute your asparagus to pair with proteins for a balanced meal, or dress up your asparagus and eat it in or as a salad.

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Article Sources
  • Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: 11011, Asparagus, Raw. United States Department of Agriculture. 2016.
  • Kumar MC, et al. Acute Toxicity and Diuretic Studies of the Roots of Asparagus Racemosus Wiild in Rats. West Indian Medical Journal. 2010;59(1):3-6.
  • Labensky, SR, Hause, AM. On Cooking: A textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. 5th ed. Upper Sadle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010.
  • Martinez RCR, Bedani R, Isay Saad SM. Scientific Evidence for Health Effects Attributed to the Consumption of Probiotics and Prebiotics: An Update for Current Perspectives and Future Challenges. British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(12):1993-2015.