Editor’s note: Phyt Back! is a new series by Kim Jordan, Medical Nutrition Therapy Manager at SCCA, that focuses on the cancer-fighting properties of phytonutrients, including healthy recipes that feature phytonutrient-rich ingredients. Produced by plants as protection against a variety of threats, phytonutrients play a significant role in maintaining normal cell growth signals and optimizing natural anti-cancer mechanisms. Thousands of phytonutrients have been identified so far, each with unique health benefits. Kim kicks off Phyt Back! with a look at asparagus.
One of the first signs that spring has arrived is arrival of asparagus at your local farmer’s market. This vegetable, a member of the lily family, is packed with phytonutrients. One of these, diosgenin, a plant steroid, offers substantial cancer-fighting benefits. Studies have shown that diosgenin does this by supporting chemical anticancer signals within the cell. These signals influence:
- Cell growth and apoptosis (cell death). Diosgenin promotes normal cell growth and death cycles, which prevents cancer from starting.
- The migration of cancer cells and their ability to invade other parts of the body, which helps to prevent metastases.
Whether you want to prevent cancer or support treatment, asparagus can really be a potent cancer-fighting weapon. So cook up some of these tender spears and phyt back! The recipe below can get you started.
Pan Roasted Asparagus
Asparagus cooked in this style is more flavorful, and keeps more of the valuable nutrients—and no need to blanch first! This recipe makes four servings.
- 1 pound fresh asparagus, bottoms trimmed
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1 Tb water
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Shaved parmesan or pecorino cheese
- Heat olive oil, water, and garlic in a large sauté pan, on high heat for 1 minute.
- Add asparagus and cook for about 2 minutes uncovered, or until the water has almost evaporated. Toss the asparagus with tongs, cover the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the lid and toss the asparagus again. Put the lid back on and repeat until the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. The asparagus may brown slightly in spots, which adds to the pan-roasted flavor.
- Add the lemon juice and toss to combine. Remove the garlic, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with a small amount of shaved parmesan or pecorino cheese. Serve hot.