Asparagus During Pregnancy: Safety and Benefits

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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A lot of women can be unsure if asparagus is okay to eat while they’re expecting due to its ability to cause gas and alter the smell of your pee. 

As long as asparagus has been thoroughly cleared properly, it’s perfectly safe and healthy during pregnancy. This applies whether the asparagus is canned or fresh, and if it’s green or white.

We’ll guide you through the benefits of asparagus during pregnancy and answer your burning questions about asparagus and pregnancy, including whether you can eat it raw, and what ‘that’ smell might mean!

Is Asparagus Good for Pregnant Women?

There are lots of different kinds of asparagus. What differentiates green and white asparagus is that white asparagus contains no chlorophyll. This is what gives plants their green pigment.

Chlorophyll has become something of a trendy food. Chlorophyll is said to have health benefits such as treating acne, reducing the risk of cancer and having anti-inflammatory properties. One study on rats found that chlorophyll reduced the risk of colon cancer (source: The Journal of Nutrition).

bundles of fresh green and white asparagus on a wooden board

Animal studies do not always yield the same results in humans. Another noted that chlorophyllin significantly delayed the progression of lung cancer. More research is needed on the purported benefits of chlorophyll (source: Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology).

Bear in mind that these studies usually refer to chlorophyll when taken in supplemental amounts, rather than the ordinary food amounts found when eating asparagus. Other than this, the nutritional profiles of green and white asparagus are pretty much identical. 

Canned asparagus contains the same vitamins and nutrients as fresh asparagus. The canning process does not alter the nutritional contents. 

The Benefits of Asparagus During Pregnancy

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K. Not having enough vitamin K in your diet has been associated with an increased risk of hemorrhages in newborn babies (source: Cochrane Library). This vitamin always plays a role in the development of protein in the liver and bones during pregnancy  (source: NHS).

There is a good amount of vitamin A in asparagus. While you’re pregnant, vitamin A helps to strengthen the immune system and protect the skin. It also plays a role in the development of normal teeth, hair, bones, and epithelial tissue. As well as this it plays a role in how reproductive organs function (source: Nutrients). 

A serving of asparagus will also provide some folate, which is vitamin B9. This vitamin helps to regulate cell function and tissue growth, Consuming enough folate has been linked with lowering the chances of preterm birth and fetal structural anomalies such as congenital heart defects (source: Obstetrics & Gynecology). 

caramelized asparagus with strawberry and sauce

Iron deficiency is not uncommon in pregnant and menstruating women. Asparagus is a source of plant-based iron. Iron plays a role in normal growth and development. Beyond this, it wards off anemia by helping to create hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.

Women need more iron when they’re pregnant. This is to compensate for blood loss that may occur when you give birth as well as helping to carry oxygen-rich blood to the baby and the placenta (source: Nutrition During Pregnancy).

Pregnant women also need thiamine too. Sometimes throwing up a lot during your pregnancy can cause thiamine deficiency. This vitamin plays a role in the development of your baby’s brain (source: Oxford Medicine).

Pregnant women also need more copper than usual. This mineral plays a role in the formation of connective tissue and disulfide bonding of keratin. Consuming too little of this mineral can impact the development of tissues and organ systems (source: Oxford Medicine).

Many pregnant women experience constipation during pregnancy. The fiber content in asparagus can help to alleviate this. However, this vegetable has been known to make people gassy! 

Is Asparagus Safe When Pregnant?

As long as asparagus is clean (i.e. thoroughly washed), it is safe during pregnancy. 

Asparagus is generally safe raw during pregnancy if these guidelines are followed. However, you need to be extra careful when you clean it. Lots of other vegetables are smooth the whole way around, so it’s not too difficult to rinse them under a tap.

Asparagus has lots of little ridges so if you miss a spot, there could be some bacteria lurking. Be sure to rinse every crevice of your asparagus thoroughly before eating it.

It’s recommended to rinse fruit and vegetables under running water for at least 30 seconds. We have a separate guide to prepping veg during pregnancy to help you make it the safest it can be.

Canned asparagus is a convenient and safe option while you’re expecting. Foods are heated during the canning process so they are commercially sterile. You shouldn’t have to worry about canned asparagus being contaminated by bacteria. However, canned foods should be stored correctly and eaten by their expiration date. 

Can I Eat Raw Asparagus During Pregnancy?

As mentioned above, asparagus is safe raw as long as it has been properly cleaned.

Raw or undercooked asparagus is common in salads or used in dips. Salads and dips should be approached with caution during pregnancy, depending on where and how they’re made.

In general, pre-made salads should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because of the risk of cross-contamination, and improper storage, leading to bacterial growth. Salads made at home are safe, as long as good food hygiene has been practiced. 

If you’re eating asparagus and dipping it, bear in mind that dips like tahini and hummus are not advised during pregnancy as they’re easily contaminated. Meanwhile, anything with an egg or milk base – like mayonnaise or sour cream – is safe if they have been pasteurized. 

asparagus with cooked prosciutto

Can Asparagus Affect a Pregnancy Test?

There are a lot of myths that consuming a large amount of asparagus can impact a pregnancy test and result in a false positive. However, there is no scientific research backing this up, so no, asparagus does not affect pregnancy tests. This rumor is believed to be because asparagus makes your pee smell different than usual. 

Some medications and medical conditions can affect how accurate a pregnancy test is, but eating lots of asparagus will not.

Why Would Pee Smell Like Asparagus During Pregnancy?

If you eat asparagus – whether you’re pregnant or not -you might notice your pee smells like it. Asparagus contains asparagusic acid. This is a compound containing sulfur which is believed to be one of the reasons why your pee smells like asparagus (source: Perspectives In Biology and Medicine

However, some people notice that their pee smells like asparagus despite not having eaten it! The smell might be caused by other foods. Onions and garlic can trigger this sulfur-like stench.

Eating large amounts of strong-smelling foods like onion or garlic can also make your pee smell strange. It’s particularly common when eating other sulphuric foods like eggs, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fish and meat. 

A lot of pregnant women notice their sense of smell changes and often gets stronger during pregnancy. So, it might be a case of you not noticing the asparagus-like smell beforehand. Either way, it’s normal and nothing to worry about when pregnant.

I hope this cleared up any concerns you have about eating asparagus during pregnancy!