The Advantages of Asparagus

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2015 | By Kiki Michelle


A baking sheet with asparagus. Photo Credit doji1989/iStock/Getty Images

Asparagus is a spring vegetable and member of the lily family. Also known as asparagus officinalis, it is a widely cultivated crop throughout Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It is one of the most nutritionally-rich vegetables available as it is rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6, thiamine and fiber.

Folic Acid
Asparagus is one of the leading vegetable sources of folic acid. Folic acid helps the body form red blood cells and genetic material. It also is necessary for protein metabolism, cell growth and division and the prevention of certain neural tube birth defects. A 1/2-cup serving of asparagus contains 132 mcg of folic acid, which is 33 percent of your daily folic acid needs.

Potassium and Vitamin C
Asparagus is a rich source of potassium. Six asparagus spears contain approximately 20 mg of potassium, which is half of the potassium you need in a day. Potassium is necessary for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves and digestive system. Richly-colored green asparagus spears are good sources of vitamin C, which is necessary for the formation of the body’s connective tissues.

Fiber, Thiamine and Vitamin B6
A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus has 3 grams of fiber, as well as 15 percent of the thiamine and 10 percent of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. Dietary fiber helps normalize bowel movements, lowers blood cholesterol levels, aids in weight loss and lowers blood sugar levels. Thiamine and vitamin B6 help the body convert carbohydrates into energy.

Other Nutritional Benefits
Asparagus is also a rich source of rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. Asparagus also contains glutathione, which is an antioxidant that can help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that may cause cancer. A 5.3-oz. serving of asparagus also contains 8 percent of the vitamin A you need each day. Vitamin A is necessary in cell growth and development and retina formation in the eyes.

 LIVESTRONG.COM: The Advantages of Asparagus

Sweet discovery in leafy greens holds key to gut health

Public Release: 15-FEB-2016


IMAGE: IMAGE: A critical discovery about how bacteria
feed on an unusual sugar molecule found in leafy green
vegetables could hold the key to explaining how ‘good’
bacteria protect our gut
Credit: Photo: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

A critical discovery about how bacteria feed on an unusual sugar molecule found in leafy green vegetables could hold the key to explaining how ‘good’ bacteria protect our gut and promote health.

The finding suggests that leafy greens are essential for feeding good gut bacteria, limiting the ability of bad bacteria to colonise the gut by shutting them out of the prime ‘real estate’.

Researchers from Melbourne and the UK identified a previously unknown enzyme used by bacteria, fungi and other organisms to feed on the unusual but abundant sugar sulfoquinovose – SQ for short – found in green vegetables.

Each year, leafy green vegetables – such as spinach – produce the sugar on an enormous scale globally, comparable to the world’s total annual iron ore production.

The research, published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, was led by Dr Ethan Goddard-Borger from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Spencer Williams from the Bio21 Institute and University of Melbourne, and Professor Gideon Davies from the University of York, UK.

Dr Goddard-Borger said the discovery could be exploited to cultivate the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria. “Every time we eat leafy green vegetables we consume significant amounts of SQ sugars, which are used as an energy source by good gut bacteria,” he said.

“Bacteria in the gut, such as crucial protective strains of E. coli, use SQ as a source of energy. E. coli provides a protective barrier that prevents growth and colonisation by bad bacteria, because the good bugs are taking up all the habitable real estate,” Dr Goddard-Borger said.

E. coli is a key bacterial coloniser needed by our gut. We speculate that consumption of this specific molecule within leafy greens will prove to be an important factor in improving and maintaining healthy gut bacteria and good digestive health.”

Professor Williams said the team had revealed how bacteria extract the sugar from plants in order to fuel their growth. “We discovered the enzyme YihQ, which is used by bacteria to absorb and metabolise these sulfur-containing sugars as food,” he said.

“Sulfur is critical for building proteins, the essential components of all living organisms. SQ is the only sugar molecule which contains sulfur, and ‘digestion’ of the molecule by bacteria releases sulfur into the environment, where it re-enters the global ‘sulfur cycle’ to be reused by other organisms.”

Professor Williams said that the pathway was unusual, but abundant in biological organisms.

“This work answers a 50-year mystery that has surrounded how sulfur – an element essential for life on Earth – was used and recycled by living organisms,” he said. “What is remarkable is that the YihQ enzyme was hiding in plain sight and is produced by the humble bacterium E. coli, present in nearly every biologist’s laboratory.”

The discovery also provides crucial insights that may one day be exploited to develop an entirely new class of antibiotics, Dr Goddard-Borger said. “New antimicrobial strategies are desperately needed as more and more bacteria acquire resistance to existing classes of antibiotics.”

“We think it will be possible to use these widespread enzymes to enable highly specific delivery of antibiotics to harmful forms of E. coli and other pathogens, such as Salmonella, responsible for food poisoning, while leaving the good gut bacteria untouched.”


The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council, Ramaciotti Foundation, veski, the Victorian Government Operational Infrastructure Support Program, UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the European Research Council.

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New Japan, Old Japan / A streetcar named ‘oden’

Posted on The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun on January 26, 2016


The Yomiuri Shimbun
While having oden and drinks, customers enjoy a ride on the Odensha special streetcar operated by Toyohashi Rail Road Co. in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture. Rail employees decorated the inside with red lanterns, a noren shop curtain and other ornaments.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun PhotographerTOYOHASHI, Aichi — Around the time when red lanterns long associated with drinking establishments glow at dusk, Toyohashi Rail Road Co. runs a special streetcar from Toyohashi Station in Aichi Prefecture. It’s a moving oden stall, aboard which passengers can enjoy oden (a hodgepodge of ingredients including fish cakes, eggs and vegetables stewed in broth) with drinks, so the streetcar is called Odensha, a pun on the word for the winter delicacy and densha (train).

The streetcar runs daily from November through February, except for the New Year’s holidays. About 150 services, including those in daytime, are offered for its ninth season, but the Odensha has now become so popular that on the first day reservations were accepted almost all seats were booked by not just customers living in the prefecture, but also those outside.

qq5The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vehicles wait for the Odensha as it turns at a crossing. The streetcar runs at a slow speed to prevent oden soup and drinks from spilling.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A handmade paper lantern is hung at the rear window of the Odensha as a marker for the tram, which is called a hitotsume (one-eye) car as it has only one light on each end.

qq7The Yomiuri Shimbun
Oden served on the Odensha is now prepared exclusively for the service by a local fish cake manufacturer. Ingredients include chikuwa tube-type fish cakes, a local specialty, and quail eggs, as Toyohashi serves as the nation’s top producer.

qq8The Yomiuri Shimbun
Local sake in a cup and a masu wooden sake drinking vessel are offered as souvenirs to passengers. The cup’s label features the Odensha character, with the design on the masu changing every season.

Up to 30 people can board per run, which starts from and returns to Toyohashi Station, traveling on a five-kilometer route each way. The journey takes about 80 minutes, including a short break along the way.

A special feature of the train is the handmade nature of the operation, with the involvement of railroad employees in the Odensha. When the service was inaugurated, for example, the staff bought all kinds of packaged retort oden products available at supermarkets to compare them before deciding which to offer onboard the streetcar.

The Odensha’s oden is served in a container that can warm the contents through a chemical reaction when an accompanying string is pulled. Employees have decided to use the container so that customers can enjoy hot food.

In addition, the Odensha has already been registered as a trademark to prevent the name from being used elsewhere.

The streetcar used for the special service was manufactured in 1955. The railroad company decorated the single car with illustrations of an Odensha character and various oden ingredients on its body, while red lanterns and a noren shop curtain are hung inside. The company’s female bus tour guides wait on customers, while ready-made long dining tables that can be brought into the car from its entrances are used.

Employees remove these decorations when the Odensha season is over to return the car as it originally was.

Toyohashi Rail Road started to offer streetcar services in 1925, which served as a main means of transportation for the city over the decades. However, the annual number of passengers dropped from 9.57 million in fiscal 1963 to 2.6 million in fiscal 2003, mainly due to the increased use of automobiles.

With an aim to boost demand among people who do not regularly use the streetcar, the operator first offered a “beer streetcar” service in the summer, which proved to be a hit. The company then started the Odensha in 2007 as a winter treat.

Including this season, 24,000 customers will have enjoyed the Odensha service since it was inaugurated. The Odensha also has helped increase the number of customers for the beer streetcar, according to the operator.

The Odensha is the brainchild of Masahiro Toda, now a deputy manager of the company’s general affairs department.

“We make almost no profit [from the Odensha],” he said. “However, it is now regarded as one of the winter attractions in Toyohashi, having become well-known nationwide.”

Toyohashi Rail Road has also found the number of streetcar users recovering, with the figure exceeding 3 million in the fiscal year ended March 2015.

Hiroshi Miyachi, who organized a New Year’s party aboard the Odensha on a recent evening, said, “It was quite hard to make a reservation” because he, along with five others, spent 40 minutes trying to get through to the company on the phone.

Miyachi, who has ridden the beer streetcar and the Odensha six times put together, added: “We can feel closer together in a narrow space like this, while eating tasty oden at the same time

Watch: Barley can help improve blood sugar levels and reduce appetite

Public Release: 23-Dec-2015

qq3IMAGE: Lead author and researcher Anne Nilsson from Lund University cuts up bread made out of 85% barley kernel. Photo: Kennet Ruona / Lund University. view more
Credit: Photo: Kennet Ruona / Lund University


A recent study from Lund University in Sweden shows that barley can rapidly improve people’s health by reducing blood sugar levels and risk for diabetes. The secret lies in the special mixture of dietary fibres found in barley, which can also help reduce people’s appetite and risk for cardiovascular disease.

“It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibres can — in a short period of time — generate such remarkable health benefits”, says Anne Nilsson, Associate Professor at the Food for Health Science Centre and one of the researchers behind the study.

The study was conducted with healthy middle-aged participants who were asked to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels (up to 85%) for three days — at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Approximately 11-14 hours after their final meal of the day participants were examined for risk indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that the participants’ metabolism improved for up to 14 hours, with additional benefits such as decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels, increases in insulin sensitivity and improved appetite control. The effects arise when the special mixture of dietary fibres in barley kernel reaches the gut, stimulating the increase of good bacteria and the release of important hormones.

“After eating the bread made out of barley kernel, we saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite, and an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic low-grade inflammation, among the participants. In time this could help prevent the occurrence of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes”, says Anne Nilsson.

In a previous related study conducted with a team from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden researchers also found that dietary fibres from barley kernel generate an increase of the gut bacteria Prevotella copri, which have a direct regulatory effect on blood sugar levels and help decrease the proportion of a type of gut bacteria that is considered unhealthy.

The effects from barley kernel are influenced by the composition of the individual’s gut microbiota, meaning people with low concentrations of the Prevotella copri bacteria experienced less effect from their intake of barley products. Eating more barley could, however, help stimulate growth of the bacteria.

The results are timely as rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have significantly increased in the past few years. Researchers hope that more knowledge about the impact of specific dietary fibres on people’s health will result in stores keeping more food products with healthy properties such as barley kernels. The ambition is also to get more people to use barley in meals, for example in salads, soups, stews, or as an alternative to rice or potatoes.

The researchers’ advice for how to maintain a healthy blood sugar level:

    Choose bread with as much whole grains as possible. Feel free to mix with other grains, for example rye

    Avoid white flour

    Add barley kernel grains in soups and stews

    Replace for example white rice with cooked barley

    Eat beans and chickpeas with your meal as they too have a good blend of dietary fibres and like barley kernels a low glycaemic index with positive health effects.

The bread used in the study was 85% made out of barley grains, which had been boiled and mixed with wheat flour. If you want to reduce the amount of barley grains, you can replace some of it with whole grains.

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Town of dolls

Posted on THE HINDU on February 21, 2016


Japanese ornamental dolls, known as hina dolls, are displayed on a seven-metre high pyramid-shaped tiered stand at a shopping mall in front of Konosu Station at Konosu in Saitama prefecture in Japan. More than 1,830 hina dolls donated from across the country are on display to promote the city known as a town of the dolls until March 6.— Photo: AFP

* * * * * * * * * *

In Japan, March 3rd is one of the most noted annual events known as “Hinamatsuri,” the Girl”s Day.  It is the day when families wish for the good health and happiness of their daughters.  What makes Hinamatsuri so special and attracts people worldwide is the ornamental Hina doll set that each family decorates for their daughters. 

A typical hina doll set has seven platforms with specific items on each, a pair of the Emperor and Empress on the very top, three court ladies on the second, five male musicians on the third, and ministers, helpers, furuniture, carriage, cart, flowers, and many others.  The seven platform is considered as the full set of hina dolls, but there are five, three, or even the one platform with the Empere and Empress only.

We can tell from this article cited from THE HINDU, a local newslaper in India that Hinamatsuri has now attained global recognition.