Thinking of enjoying a beer or two this St.Patrick’s Day? Then celebrate the fact that March is peak asparagus month, as new research suggests the popular spring vegetable offers some protection against the liver damage associated with alcohol consumption.

Exposure to alcohol can send liver toxicity markers soaring by 250%. But a recent lab study published in the Journal of Food Science found that asparagus extract reduced toxicity by 42%. Asparagus doesn’t completely neutralize the health threat but the vegetable appeared to turbocharge enzymes that process ethanol, a benefit not delivered even by commercially sold “hangover cures.”

Still, exercise moderation to avoid “holiday heart,” a dangerous disruption in heart rhythms caused by excess alcohol, which also raises the risk of stroke, brain damage, breast cancer and increased abdominal fat. Even teetotalers should embrace asparagus. Its prebiotic fiber helps feed the protective gastrointestinal bacteria which guards against foodborne viruses. The same fiber — also found in bananas, leeks, onions and artichokes — helps deter unwanted weight gain and boost bone strength. For a delicious way to enjoy this seasonal vegetable, try our previously featured Superfood Recipe: Broiled Asparagus with Sesame Sauce.

Bonus: If you’ve overindulged, then have a banana which helps rehydrate and rebalance your system.

Published March 1, 2010