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The Asparagus Aroma

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Woman Running

It’s not news to any asparagus-addicts (asparaguys, perhaps?) that the crunchy, fiber-loaded veggie has an odorous outcome: pungent pee.

Truthfully, I’m new-ish to this veg. My mom raised us to be open to everything – everything except for asparagus. We were anti-asparagus to be exact. So when one of my best dude friends and biggest nutrition-challengers asked me about the asparagus-stench, I was clueless. And oh my gosh do I love finding uncharted nutrition territory.

So what’s up with the asparagus aroma? Asparagus contains sulfate compounds called methyl-mercaptan. It’s also found in those pungent veggies like onions and garlic. Your shnoz may also recognize the potent compound from less appealing sources like rotten eggs and the incomparable stink of a skunk.

While statistics range drastically, it seems between 50-90% of people don’t have the enzymes to fully break down mercaptan – giving you some especially pungent pee. It can affect asparagus-eaters as quickly as 15 minutes after consumption.

But (aspara)guys, it doesn’t end there! A very small and super lucky percentage (estimated 8-25%) of the population doesn’t have the ability to smell the volatile compounds from mercaptin at all. If you’re part of this group, you may never know the odorous issue.

Unfortunately, if your pee (or nose) seems to be especially asparagus-sensitive, there’s not much you can do. But don’t quit the veggie; the woody stalks are loaded with antioxidants and fiber that make it worth what’s temporarily in the toilet.

So are you sensitive to the asparagus-aroma? Does it affect the amount you eat? Any other foods give you “pungent pee”?

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