Stinky Pee and Other Good Reasons to Eat Asparagus


Yum! One of my favorite vegetable seasons is underway, which means asparagus abounds. Sure, these days you can find it in the grocery store pretty much all year long, but that doesn’t mean it’s always worth eating. Asparagus isn’t like the grape tomato, which has a flavor that seems to hold up no matter when you grab a pint. Asparagus definitely has a small window of true yumminess that makes us crave it even more. Clever asparagus.

Let’s tackle the elephant in the room right off the bat: what’s the deal with asparagus and stinky pee? When I dug into this question, I was surprised to learn that this phenomenon doesn’t strike everyone who gobbles up a few stalks. According to WebMD, only between 22 to 50 percent of us notice the odd odor when nature calls. Maybe there’s no elephant at all. But either way, just because a person doesn’t detect the odor doesn’t mean the body isn’t producing it.

You see, asparagus contains a unique chemical called asparagusic acid. As your body digests asparagus, this acid converts into various substances containing sulfur. Since these substances are volatile—meaning they have a low boiling point and vaporize into a gaseous state at room temperature—they can quickly travel from your toilet bowl to your nose when you relieve yourself. But why doesn’t asparagus itself stink? Because the asparagusic acid isn’t volatile, only the sulfur-containing byproduct. That means the intact stalks don’t emit the odor.

Ideally, you’d smell the affects of your asparagus consumption during your first or second trip to the lavatory, which would  mean your liver is doing a bang-up job at converting fat-soluble toxins (zenobiotics) into water-soluble toxins for easy elimination. Nice going, liver! On the other hand, if it takes longer than that to catch a whiff of asparagus, your liver may need a little support. Standard Process Livaplex and Cruciferous Complete to the rescue! In addition to supporting your liver, they provide your body with the enzymes it needs.

Now, getting back to why some folks notice the scent of those sulfur-containing substances and some don’t. Obviously, the asparagus we all eat is exactly the same, and all asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which the body breaks down. So why doesn’t everyone notice the smell? Because some people simply can’t smell sulfur—their olfactory sense has no sense of it. We certainly are complex beings.

Now that we got this fascinating tidbit out of the way, here are some reasons why you need to hop on the bus for asparagus:

  • Asparagus is mega-nutritious, containing vitamins A, C, E and K, fiber, folate, glutathione, and the amino acid asparagine.
  • Along with onions and garlic—fellow nutritional authorities—asparagus comes from the lily family of plants.
  • Asparagus is delicious raw, roasted, grilled, sautéed, on a pizza, in your eggs, and even dipped in chocolate. Well, I don’t know about that last one, but it’s scrumptious every other way, so why not? If you happen to give the chocolate a try, let me know what you think.
  • Asparagus is one of the few perennial vegetables, and a properly cared for bed can produce for 15–20 years. So if you’re interested in growing your own asparagus, now is a good time to start. You’ll need to wait 3 years before you can eat what you grow, but you won’t be sorry.

As you can see, the asparagus bus is totally worth a ticket. It’s a short ride, but it’s the perfect kick-off for the welcoming bounty of summer.

SRP’s Briana Nervig, CPC, has many asparagus recipes that are worth giving a try. Funny, none of them include chocolate…

Spring Cabbage-Asparagus Sauté

Buttered Cabbage with Asparagus and Fresh Herbs

Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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