Last night I lightly roasted some beautiful fresh asparagus in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. It was so good, I ate it straight from the baking dish. Two hours later, a trip to the bathroom was not a pleasant experience. And it got me wondering….what is it about asparagus that makes urine smell so strange?
Now I’ve discovered the Australian Asparagus Council, I’m a little wiser. In particular, a fact sheet by Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist Glenn Cardwell has been very enlightening. I’m inclined to like the guy depsite never having met him, given his belief that that,
‘chocolate and red wine are essential food groups.’
Glenn says its a compound in asparagus called asparagusic acid which when metabolised by your body ends up as sulfur-based molecules in urine which create that characteristic odour.
Interestingly, a little further searching led me to a well-referenced webpage describing how there is quite a bit of variation across populations regarding whether you experience stinky wee or not after eating asparagus. Some people will sense a nasty odour, and some won’t. This boils down to differences in key genes: those linked to breaking down the asparagusic acid, and those which determine which molecules your nose detects.
Perhaps you’re lucky enough to never have experienced a nasty post-asparagus trip to the toilet? In which case, get roasting. Family members with more sensitive noses may suffer, but you’ll be happy and healthy. Asparagus is a great health food, having the following characteristics (from Glenn’s fact sheet):
- Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, while providing fibre;
- Asparagus provides the essential B group vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and biotin;
- Asparagus is a great source of folate, with a serve giving us over 20% of our daily needs;
- A serve of asparagus provides about a quarter of our daily needs of vitamin C;
- Asparagus has a brilliant range of bio-active compounds, such as antioxidants like rutin and beta-carotene; and
- Asparagus has potassium to help keep our blood pressure healthy.
[Photo thanks to La Grande Famers Market on flickr]