updated 1/3/2013 4:20:37 PM ET 2013-01-03T21:20:37

Many of us ring in the New Year with a glass (or two) of champagne, but we would do well to pair that and other alcoholic beverages with a dish of asparagus. This veggie may alleviate hangovers and protect liver cells against toxins, a study finds.

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As a press release issued this week by the Institute of Food Technologists shared: "Asparagus may aid the body in accelerating the metabolism of alcohol."

The amino acids and minerals found in the vegetable hold the secret to this biochemical benefit.

Researchers at the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea figured this out after analyzing the components of young asparagus shoots and leaves. They studied how these components interacted with both rat and human liver cells made "toxic" by alcohol.

"Cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots," B.Y. Kim, lead author of the paper, said in the press release. "These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells."

"The amino acid and mineral contents were found to be much higher in the leaves than the shoots," Kim added.

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According to some sources, these leaves, along with berry-looking seed pods, are mildly toxic, so it's best to consume the typical asparagus stalks that you find in grocery stores and farmer's markets. A few companies also offer asparagus concentrate, which may be made from other parts of the asparagus plant.

If you are a teetotaler, you might as well still have that plate of asparagus. It's a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, folate and other beneficial compounds. It also has antifungal, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.

© 2012 Discovery Channel


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