Asparagus for Breakfast? Yes, Please

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You may recall that last week I wrote about lovely lemon-scented roasted asparagus, which I then paired with a piece of herb-roasted salmon and parship purée for dinner. I’m going to keep to my asparagus theme for a few more articles before turning to something new. This spring favorite only recently reached Boston, after all, so it deserves a bit more attention.

Today’s post features one of my favorite seasonal breakfasts and also serves as a reminder that these stately spears aren’t just for supper.

Indeed, most of us don’t consume nearly enough produce, and including vegetables in your breakfast is a super way to give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, and valuable phytonutrients (plant chemicals) your body needs for optimum health and disease prevention. Asparagus is particularly high in vitamin K and also contains vitamins B1and C and minerals such as iron and copper. Its key phytonutrients are saponins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It’s also ridiculously low in energy with just 26 calories in one cup of raw stalks. Finally, most veggies tend to be high in water and fiber (asparagus in particular includes inulin) that help us feel full—something we want in our first meal of the day to keep us satiated throughout the morning.

There are certainly many ways to enjoy asparagus at breakfast. It can be a simple side dish, for starters, or can be included in egg dishes like benedicts, omelets, or frittatas. In fact, after posting a photo of this meal on Facebook last week a friend commented she had recently enjoyed a lobster, goat cheese, and asparagus omelet while dining out, which sounds heavenly. My dish is much simpler than that. Probably less tasty, too, but, hey, it was a Tuesday.

Simply roast some asparagus (or reheat leftovers from a previous evening’s dinner), fry an egg, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done. Fresh herbs or microgreens always add color, nutrients, and flavor: I used pretty micro peppercress—one of my local farmers grows it— but you can substitute chopped parsley or another plant of your choosing.

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein, which contributes to its satiety thus helps you eat less food and manage your weight. Its yolk in particular has lots of harder-to-come by nutrients like choline. We now know that moderate egg consumption doesn’t have a deleterious effect on blood cholesterol—many things are much worse, like trans fats—or increase risk of heart disease for most people, so enjoying eggs can be part of a healthful diet if you choose to consume them. (More here and here.) If you are able, selecting organic eggs that come from farmers who employ sustainable practices and treat their chickens humanely is a terrific way to support local businesses, the environment, and animal welfare.

You might be surprised at how filling this dish is and, while it may not be an everyday breakfast, it’s a great one to include in your “first meal of the day” repertoire when asparagus is in season. If you desire a few more calories or bite, or just feel like mixing it up a bit, throw the whole thing on a piece of whole grain toast for an open-faced egg sandwich; a touch of grated parmigiana and drizzle of olive oil adds even more flavor.

And, just for the record, this meal makes a great lunch, too.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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