I never used to like asparagus. In fact, that’s putting it mildly – I hated asparagus. I liked a lot of other vegetables, such as lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, peas, potatoes, and corn, but asparagus made me shudder. I couldn’t understand why my mom got so excited when the first stalks came up in our garden. Why would anyone willingly eat that?
It seemed particularly ludicrous to me to have on Easter. I thought the holiday should be reserved for sweeter things – ham, pineapple, candy, and whatever other goodies my aunt put out.
Imagine, then, the shock my younger self would feel to fast-forward to 2017 and find myself volunteering to bring an asparagus dish to Easter dinner. What happened?
I first noticed my tastes changing in 2001, after I had started losing weight and eating more mindfully. I didn’t avoid all sugar or fat or processed foods, but I did cut back on them considerably, since I discovered that eating too much of them made me feel queasy and lethargic.
As if to balance that out, I started finding that I liked foods I had never even considered before. I started eating fish, which previously I avoided like the plague. I experimented with different vegetables, and while I’m still not a fan of some (fiddleheads, for instance, are not high on my list), I discovered that I really liked others, including Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
I was thinking about this recently when reading The Dorito Effect, since the book discusses how focused people are on flavors, and how inextricably entwined flavors are with nutrients. According to the research in the book, the things that make a food without added flavoring taste good are the same things that give it nutritional content. The book also talked about nutritional wisdom, which is the ability to recognize when our bodies tell us they crave certain foods because we need certain nutrients.
This seems to jibe with what I discovered for myself. I found that the more I avoided processed foods, the more I enjoyed whole foods that didn’t have any added flavorings. They tasted good to me in a way the processed foods didn’t – they tasted like they would do me good.
And certainly asparagus falls into the category of foods that will do you good. A quick search online brought up a lot of information about the health benefits of asparagus, including these five highlights:
It has a lot of nutrients, like fiber and vitamins A, C, E and K
It’s a good source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can break down carcinogens and help fight certain forms of cancer
It’s loaded with antioxidants
It provides folate, which works with vitamin B12 to help keep our brains healthy
It’s a natural diuretic
It seems, then, that I’ve learned to listen to my body’s nutritional wisdom, which makes me eager to try this new asparagus recipe.
But I am also looking forward to other favorite foods, like the ham and mashed potatoes and the sweet treats – I’ll just enjoy them with more balance and moderation.