Can You Eat Asparagus Raw?

Asparagus is a delicious and healthy vegetable; full of nutrients, vitamins and fiber, it makes the perfect addition to any dish! It is usually served cooked, which might make you think that it can’t be eaten raw.

However, just like any other vegetable, it is perfectly safe to consume raw, given that you follow the necessary steps for preparation.

First, let’s take a look at the risks and challenges that come with eating raw asparagus.

Raw asparagus has been noted to cause occupational asthma in some individuals (1). Occupational asthma refers to asthma which is triggered upon exposure to a certain substance, which is typically either an allergen or a toxin.

Not everyone is susceptible to occupational asthma from asparagus, but for those who are, cooking the vegetable will combat the issue as the allergens in asparagus are highly sensitive to heat denaturation.

Unless you are susceptible to occupational asthma from asparagus, it’s completely safe for you to consume it raw. However, you may notice that raw asparagus is tough and difficult to chew.

This is due to its high fiber content. Cooking asparagus can soften it, but there are other ways to prepare it raw that make it easier to eat and digest (2).

First, remove the woody ends of the spears, then use a sharp knife or grater to finely slice the spears.

Remember, the finer the slice, the easier it is to chew! Drizzle some olive oil and lemon juice over your raw asparagus slices to make them more tender and delicious.

Eating asparagus raw comes has its own unique benefits. This vegetable is jam-packed with nutrients, some of which may be broken down under heat when cooking.

For example, cooking asparagus can reduce its Vitamin C content by up to 52% (3). Plus, blanching asparagus in water can degrade the essential amino acids it contains (4).

However, cooking asparagus comes with its own set of benefits too. This vegetable is rich in polyphenols, which are well known for their antioxidant abilities. Cooking asparagus can increase the potency of asparagus by a hugely significant amount.

Cooked white asparagus can have antioxidant activity levels of up to three times as much as its raw counterparts (5). Cooking green asparagus can also boost its antioxidant abilities – specifically, the content of beta carotene and quercetin was noted to be boosted by 24% and 98% respectively (6).

These are both highly powerful antioxidants and can have a tremendously positive effect on your health.

In conclusion, asparagus is perfectly safe to consume raw unless you happen to be in the small proportion of individuals whose occupational asthma will be triggered by it.

Of course, you can still consume it after cooking it, plus, you’ll be able to enjoy the added health benefit of an increased amount of antioxidants.

Eating it raw also has health benefits, such as obtaining a higher level of Vitamin C and essential amino acids.

However, be sure to prepare raw asparagus appropriately so that it is easy for you to chew and digest.

References:

  1. Lopez‐Rubio, A., Rodriguez, J., Crespo, J.F., Vives, R., Daroca, P. and Reaño, M. (1998), Occupational asthma caused by exposure to asparagus: detection of allergens by immunoblotting. Allergy, 53, 1216-1220. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.1998.tb03845.x
  2. Miglio, C., Chiavaro, E., Visconti, A., Fogliano, V., Pellegrini, N. (2008), Effects of different cooking methods on nutritional and physicochemical characteristics of selected vegetables. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(1), 139-147. doi: 10.1021/jf072304b
  3. Papoulias, E., Siomos, A. S., Koukounaras, A., Gerasopoulos, D., & Kazakis, E. (2009). Effects of genetic, pre- and post-harvest factors on phenolic content and antioxidant capacity of white asparagus spears. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(12), 5370–5380. doi:10.3390/ijms10125370
  4. Zheng, H., Lu, H. (2011). Effect of microwave pretreatment on the kinetics of ascorbic acid degradation and peroxidase inactivation in different parts of green asparagus (Asparagus officinalis L.) during water blanching. Food Chemistry, 128(4), 1087-1093. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.03.130
  5. Papoulias, E., Siomos, A. S., Koukounaras, A., Gerasopoulos, D., & Kazakis, E. (2009). Effects of genetic, pre- and post-harvest factors on phenolic content and antioxidant capacity of white asparagus spears. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(12), 5370–5380. doi:10.3390/ijms10125370
  6. Fanasca, S., Rouphael, Y., Venneria, E., Azzini, E., Durazzo, A. and Maiani, G. (2009), Antioxidant properties of raw and cooked spears of green asparagus cultivars. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 44, 1017-1023. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2008.01871.x