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Asparagus 101

There are plenty of reasons to pile your plate with this leggy green vegetable

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Skip limp asparagus and opt for straight stalks with compact, bright green tips. Snip off the stalk ends of fresh asparagus with a pair of kitchen sheers, then stand them upright in a jar with about an inch of water in the bottom. Cover them with a plastic bag and they'll keep for up to two days. To maintain the spears' crispness, don't wash or soak them until just before preparing.

WHY YOU NEED IT:

* Like almost all vegetables, asparagus is low in calories and high in fiber. Just 12 cooked stalks supply your entire recommended daily dose of vitamin K, a nutrient that's essential for maintaining healthy bones as well as proper blood clotting and circulation.

* Asparagus is also one of the few stellar natural sources of glutathione, an antioxidant that defends your cells' DNA against damage, detoxifies pollutants, crushes carcinogens, and extinguishes inflammation.

* The folate in asparagus bolsters the production of red blood cells, the workforce that carries oxygen to working muscles. Folate also helps head off heart disease, as well as providing raw materials for the production of DNA.

* Asparagine, an amino acid in asparagus, prevents fluid retention, ensuring you look as buff as possible while also helping to lower your risk of high blood pressure.

* Those long green spears are packed with copper, a mineral critical for making connective tissue such as collagen. This precious metal also helps to keep your skin and muscles taut, and bones strong.

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