Get Hangover Help from Asparagus
Asparagus contains compounds that may help cure alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.
Planning to imbibe this New Year’s Eve? Eat some asparagus before and after you drink, and you just might lessen the misery of a hangover.
Asparagus – genus Asparagus officinalis – is part of many cuisines. It is widely used by herbalists, who claim a range of benefits for the spear-like green vegetable, ranging from hangover cure to aphrodisiac to anticancer properties. Asparagus has been shown to have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties.
A research team led by B.Y. Kim from the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea set out to find out whether there is any truth to the claim that asparagus can prevent or cure hangover, or whether that claim should be relegated to the realm of folklore. Their research, published in 2009 in the Journal of Food Science, shows exactly how the vegetable might work its hangover magic.
Symptoms of a hangover – headache, fatigue, thirst, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms – are all too familiar to many New Year’s celebrators. Hangover symptoms occur when alcohol (ethanol) builds up in the body and produces toxic substances in the liver. The two troublemakers are ethanol itself and a byproduct of its breakdown called acetaldehyde.
Alcohol causes even more serious problems in people who use it frequently. Chronic alcohol use causes oxidative stress on the liver as well as unpleasant physical effects associated with a hangover.
For you to get over your hangover and eliminate toxic compounds from the liver, your body needs to clear out the ethanol and acetaldehyde, which it does by making two enzymes – alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ADH and ALDH work by breaking down ethanol and acetaldehyde into acetate, which you then excrete.
So, the researchers reasoned, a diet that could stimulate the production of ADH and ALDH – and thus increase the rate of breakdown of ethanol – would help minimize hangover symptoms. Chronic alcohol use causes oxidative stress on the liver as well as unpleasant physical effects associated with a hangover.Not only can it help with acute headache often associated with a hangover, some compounds in asparagus may help to reduce toxic effects of alcohol on the liver.
For the study, researchers analyzed the components of young asparagus shoots and leaves. They then developed an extract made from those leaves and shells and treated human and rat liver cells with the extract. The They determined that asparagus is high in amino acids and minerals that increase production of ADH and ALDH – thus accelerating the breakdown of alcohol and acetaldehyde.
“Cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots,” says Kim. “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.”
In other words, the asparagus extract contained amino acids – the building blocks of proteins -- and minerals that may help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells against toxins.
The research team found that the leaves of the plants, which are generally not eaten, contained higher amounts of amino acids and minerals than the shoots, said lead researcher B.Y. Kim. This suggests that potent extracts could be made from parts of the plant that are usually discarded.
The bottom line? It can’t hurt to add asparagus to your diet, and there might be room for asparagus extract in your medicine cabinet.
Hangovers and other claims aside, adding asparagus to your diet is a good idea. Asparagus is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, and more. One 5.3 ounce serving of the spear-like vegetable provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid. Folic acid is important to brain, nerve, and heart function and critical for healthy fetal development.
In addition, asparagus contains an anti-oxidant compound called glutathione, which appears to play an important role in detoxification and may have a role in helping to prevent and fight some cancers.
A side of fresh asparagus, lightly steamed with a squeeze of lemon, makes a lovely accompaniment to almost any main dish. Try one of our recipes below for a healthy way to add asparagus to your dinner or breakfast menus any time of the year.
Roasted Red Potatoes and Asparagus
This high-fiber, low-cholesterol dish in potassium, Vitamin C, and flavor, and contains healthy monounsaturated fats.
- 3 Tbsp good-quality olive oil
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup Dijon-style mustard
- ¼ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp dried marjoram
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
- 2 shallots
- 2 Cups asparagus, fresh or frozen, cut into 2” pieces
- 2 Cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
- ¼ cup shredded Romano cheese (optional)
Step by Step:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit ( degrees Celsius)
- Make marinade: Whisk olive oil, vinegar, mustard, herbs, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.
- In medium sized bowl, toss potatoes and shallots with ¼ cup marinade
- Spray 15” x 10” x 1” pan with cooking spray and arrange potatoes and shallots in pan.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are almost tender
- Add asparagus to the pan, spreading it evenly. Bake another 10-12 minutes, until asparagus is tender but still bright green.
- Remove from oven.
- Place roasted potato and asparagus mixture in serving bowl. Toss with remaining marinade and cherry tomatoes
- Garnish with grated Romano cheese.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutrition information per serving (281 g): 231 calories (93 calories from fat). 10.3 g total fat, 2.7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat. 10 mg cholesterol. 245 mg sodium, 29.2g carbohydrates, 7.8 g protein.
Asparagus, Mushroom, and Swiss Cheese Omelet
The morning after, skip the Bloody Mary and whip up this nutrient-filled omelette to fight the New Year’s hangover. Watching your cholesterol and calories? Use an egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters, instead of whole eggs, and use low-fat cheese.
- Cooking spray
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
- 3-4 Crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp low-fat milk
- Dash salt
- Fresh-ground pepper to taste
Step by Step:
- Spray a 6-inch skillet with cooking spray and place on medium heat.
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil in pan.
- Add mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes
- Add asparagus and sauté an additional 3-5 minutes, until asparagus is bright green but still crunchy. It should be slightly underdone.
- Remove vegetable mixture from skillet and set aside.
- Beat eggs with milk, salt, and pepper.
- Reduce heat to medium low and pour egg mixture into skillet, adding more cooking spray if necessary.
- Cook until eggs are set, lifting around the edges to allow uncooked egg mixture to run to the bottom of the skillet, tilting the pan if need be.
- When egg is set, add grated cheese and asparagus/mushroom mixture to skillet, sprinkling evenly over the egg mixture in pan.
- Fold omelette in half and slip onto pre-warmed plate.
- Garnish with fresh parsley.
Makes 1 serving
Nutrition information per serving (177 g): 300 calories (205 calories from fat). 22.8 g total fat, 8.9 g saturated fat, 359 mg cholesterol. 228 mg sodium, 3.2g carbohydrates, 21.0 g protein.
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