Does asparagus make your pee smell funny? Here’s what that means for your health

By | March 19, 2024

When asparagus is in season, dietitians get excited.

Asparagus is low in calories and fat yet high in fiber and vitamins, making it the perfect, easy side dish when roasted or grilled. But you can also get the many nutritional benefits of asparagus in a salad or quiche.

And for a vegetable with such a unique, earthy flavor, asparagus is also surprisingly versatile. “I love asparagus,” dietitian Grace Derocha tells TODAY.com. “I love them in quiche, I love them in soups and stews, and I love them in risotto,” says Derocha, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Nutrition of asparagus

In a cup of raw asparagus you get:

  • 27 calories

  • 3 grams of protein

  • 0.2 grams of fat

  • 5 grams of carbohydrates

  • 2.8 grams of fiber

Benefits of asparagus

A serving of asparagus comes with “almost 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein,” says Derocha, which helps balance the carbs.

The fiber in asparagus helps you stay regular and helps control blood sugar levels, as TODAY.com previously explained.

And asparagus is one of the few vegetables that contain inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber, Debbie Petitpain, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells TODAY.com. This helps feed the beneficial bacteria in the intestines and promotes better digestion overall.

Petitpain notes that asparagus contains antioxidants, including glutathione, “which may help fight free radicals,” she says, possibly reducing the risk of cancer.

Asparagus is also secretly a great source of vitamins and minerals, says Derocha. “A lot of people don’t realize that it is quite rich in vitamin C, and that it also contains some iron,” she says. This vegetable also provides a decent amount of B vitamins and magnesium. “Most people don’t get enough magnesium, so you like to see it,” Derocha adds.

You can also reap some of the heart health benefits of asparagus, as it contains asparaptin, a compound that can improve blood flow and even help lower blood pressure, Derocha explains.

Can you eat the whole stem of asparagus?

The entire asparagus stem is edible, the experts say. But some people may not like eating the thicker, harder end because it has a woodier texture.

You can try chopping the asparagus while roasting, Derocha says, and just leaving the thicker ends in longer to soften them. Or, if you just don’t like thicker asparagus, you can look for the pencil-thin varieties. These contain similar amounts of nutrients but have different textures, says Petitpain.

The thinner asparagus are the same plant, but “they have just been picked earlier, so they are young,” Derocha explains. We have baby kale and baby spinach, and you can think of these as “toddler asparagus,” she says.

Thin asparagus “tends to be more tender and can cook more quickly,” Petitpain explains, making them ideal for steaming or eating raw. Thicker asparagus has a “meatier texture,” she adds, making them better suited for grilling or roasting. Some people even peel fat asparagus, she notes.

Try white asparagus for a milder flavor

White asparagus is grown without exposure to sunlight, which prevents the plant from developing chlorophyll, Petitpain explains.

“White asparagus has a milder, more delicate flavor and is typically thicker and more tender than green asparagus,” she says. “It is considered a delicacy in many parts of Europe and requires more labor to grow, which can make it more expensive.”

White asparagus contains similar nutritional benefits as green asparagus, but the green version has slightly more vitamins and fiber due to the presence of chlorophyll, Petitpain adds.

Why does my pee smell funny after I eat asparagus?

If you’ve ever noticed that your urine smells a little funny after eating asparagus, you’re not imagining it.

What you smell is actually the result of asparagus acid, a substance unique to asparagus, says Derocha. When your body breaks down asparagus acid, it creates a number of sulfur-containing byproducts that cause the strange pee smell.

However, not everyone notices that their urine smells different after eating asparagus.

In some cases, that’s because they don’t have the genetic variation that allows them to enjoy smelling asparagus pee, Petitpain says. For others, it may be that their body simply breaks down asparagus acid more efficiently, causing less odor, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Try these great asparagus recipes:

Asparagus can be eaten cooked, raw and as an additional ingredient in quiches, casseroles, soups, salads and more.

Both experts say that roasting or grilling asparagus is their favorite way to enjoy this vegetable. Petitpain prefers to keep it simple: roast or grill asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper “for a simple, flavorful side,” she says. “You can easily puree leftovers with stock and a dash of cream for a nice soup.”

Another of Derocha’s favorite ways to use asparagus is in a quiche, where the thicker parts can be fully cooked, or chopped into an egg scramble. She also likes to use it in a spring vegetable soup, a creamy risotto or in a salad, cut into visually impressive ribbons.

Spring Asparagus Salad with Parmesan Cheese and Mustard Vinaigrette by Amanda Freitag

Cheesy Orzo with Asparagus and Black Truffle Butter by Amanda Freitag

Spring Asparagus Breakfast Pie by Casey Barber

Grilled asparagus with Meyer lemon vinaigrette from Ayesha Nurdjaja

Asparagus and spinach frittata by Katie Lee Biegel

Spring Vegetable Pasta Casserole by Casey Barber

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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