Spring is here! And with it comes more affordable asparagus. This succulent vegetable has been prized since ancient times for its medicinal benefits as well as its terrific taste. It’s even been a staple in Ayurvedic medicine. Why has it been so popular through the years? Have people used asparagus for cancer? Indeed, asparagus is a potent cancer fighter on a par with broccoli, and many people think it tastes a whole lot better.
Asparagus contains the compounds that have made broccoli and the other cruciferous vegetables cancer-fighting superstars. These are isothiocyanates, indoles, and sulforaphane. Each of these have anti-cancer properties and the ability to rejuvenate cells. But there’s more.
1. Master Antioxidant
Asparagus has one of the highest concentrations of glutathione, one of the master antioxidants made in the body. As we begin to age, our ability to make glutathione needs to be bolstered by dietary intake. Glutathione appears to have a broad range of functions that reduce cancer risk, including detoxifying foreign substances that are carcinogenic, protecting from free radical damage, and boosting immunity by increasing lymphocytes such as T and B cells, and natural killer cells.
2. Inflammation Inhibitor
Inflammation has long been associated with the development of all disease, including cancer.of cancer. It is central to the development of the changes in cells that lead to tumor promotion and progression. This means that reducing inflammation is pivotal in avoiding cancer. Asparagus is rich in saponins, compounds that have hardcore anti-inflammatory actions in the body.
3. Plant Power
Asparagus is also an excellent source of polysaccharides, specialized plant carbohydrates that have actions against various cancers. As an example, the polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms are what have made them such notorious cancer fighters.
Further showcasing how to use asparagus for cancer, researchers from Shanghai Municipal Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine along with other affiliates have commented that the asparagus polysaccharides are some of the most active components of asparagus, displaying notable anti-tumor properties.
This group studied asparagus polysaccharides to determine their affect on liver cancer cells when used as an adjuvant to chemotherapy. They found improved inhibition of liver tumor growth and cell death, as well as inhibition of the ability of cells to set up a blood supply.
4. Asparagus for Cancer – Researching the Cancer Defeater
In other recent research, scientists in India found evidence that asparagus leaf extract produced anti-proliferative and apoptic effects against renal cell carcinoma cells. To achieve an apoptic effect is to return a cancerous cell to enough normality that it can be made to die as scheduled. Cancerous cells are only a threat when they refuse to die as the body has scheduled them to do.
In another study from China, researchers found that the saponins from asparagus stems exerted inhibitory activity on tumor growth and metastasis in breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer cells. Some of this was achieved through the ability of the stems to alter gene expression.
As is the case with these research examples, most of the work on the anti-cancer benefits of asparagus has been done on specific types of cancer cells, or with animals. For this reason, the non-profit George Mateljian Foundation says:
“We would describe asparagus cancer research as preliminary, and not yet validated by large-scale studies involving humans and dietary intake. But the trends in animal studies and cell studies are clear – asparagus and asparagus extracts can change the metabolic activity of cancer cell types, and these changes are protective in nature and related to better regulation of inflammation and oxidative stress. Cancer cells from the liver are best studied in this regard.”
What Else Can This Vegetable Do?
Asparagus is a terrific source of the B complex vitamins, with exceptional amounts of folic acid, choline, and biotin. These nutrients are essential for the proper metabolism of sugars and starches, and for the maintenance of blood sugar levels. B vitamins prevent overproduction of homocysteine, thereby helping to prevent heart disease.
Asparagus is rich in flavonoids, including quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol. Each of these adds additional anti-cancer activity and increases its ability to quell inflammation. Heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are powered by chronic inflammation along with cancer, making the exceptional anti-inflammatory and antioxidant profile of asparagus needed on the dining table.
One of the polysaccharides in asparagus, known as inulin, provides prebiotic action. Prebiotics are ideal food for the beneficial bacteria living in the digestive tract that go by such names as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. When these bacteria are well fed and happy they will provide the best in nutrient absorption, help keep up immunity, and lower the risk of allergies as well as colon cancer.
Don’t forget to pick up a bunch of asparagus when you shop. You can buy conventionally produced asparagus without worry, as so far asparagus has not been genetically modified and it ranks low in pesticide levels.