All-in-one protector food
44 calories per cup (cooked)

It is not only a gourmet’s delight but also one of our most healthful foods. It’s a rare food that has so many protective nutrients with so few calories.

The three food-based nutrients that can help us defend ourselves against cancer agents.

The three, of course, include two vitamins – carotene (actually provitamin A) and vitamin C – and the mineral selenium.

Asparagus is chock – full of all three!

If you’re still not sold on asparagus, consider its benefits to your heart. With no fat, cholesterol, or sodium to speak of, as well as modest amounts of cholesterol-lowering fiber, asparagus is ideal for heart-healthy menus. Combine it with other vegetables, beans, and legumes.

At the market: Here are a few tips for choosing asparagus at its best.

. The tips should be tightly pointed and purplish in color. If they are starting to open or are soft, the asparagus is past its prime.
. The spear of the asparagus should be smooth and firm.
. Asparagus that has a strong odor is too old.
. Sand in the tips is difficult to wash out, so look for spears that don’t have sand clinging to them.
. The thickness of the asparagus does not affect its flavor.

Kitchen tips: Refrigerate asparagus as soon as you bring it home; keep it loosely wrapped in plastic or a paper bag.

To enjoy fresh asparagus year-round, blanch it immediately after buying it, then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or place it in an airtight container. It can then be frozen for up to 12 months.

To prepare asparagus, snap off, rather than cut away, the tough white section; it is usually hard to eat and lacking in flavor. Use a sharp paring knife to remove the points on the spears; sand usually lurks underneath. Next, steam the spears, starting with the thickest ones.

Thinner spears will need less cooking time. Because the tips cook more rapidly than the spears, a vertical asparagus cooker that keeps the tips above the bubbling water is a good idea. The stalks should be flexible but not limp.

Accent on enjoyment: Toss the cooked spears with
. A bit of soy sauce, minced garlic, and ginger.
. Lemon, tarragon, and olive oil.
. Pasta of your choice.
(By PH & JBH)*