Beneficial properties of artichokes have been documented since ancient times, and recent scientific research confirms that artichokes may positively affect the body on many levels.
In past centuries the artichoke was used as a diuretic. It was even thought to have deodorizing properties and was considered an ideal breath freshener.
In Turkey artichoke decoctions are used as blood cleansers and for detoxing the liver which in turn cleanses the skin. That country also considers the artichoke to be the ideal remedy for hepatitis.
Detox helper? Artichokes increase bile production. Bile helps the intestines eliminate toxins from the body. They also contain a substance that helps the liver break down fatty acids.
Artichoke Nutrition & Health Benefits
Fiber is a prime feature of this vegetable with one medium artichoke supplying a hearty 6 grams. Dieters can also enjoy the artichoke for its low count of only 60 calories.
The artichoke is a heavyweight on the protein chart offering 4 grams.
The artichoke is a no-fat, no cholesterol treat that offers a host of vitamins and minerals. These include magnesium, chromium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. The vitamin A content soars to 212 IU. For the B vitamin, niacin, it supplies 1.20 mg while vitamin B6 offers .13 mg. All-important folic acid adds up 61.2 mcg and vitamin C provides 12 mg.
Artichokes are a good source of calcium measuring 54 mg. Iron supplies 1.5 mg. Magnesium climbs to 72 mg while potassium scores an impressive 425 mg. Even zinc makes an appearance with .6 mg for a medium sized artichoke.
Because artichokes are so well endowed with nutrients and phytochemicals, many health researchers believe eating them may contribute to the prevention of certain types of heart disease, cancer, and birth defects.
Phytochemicals in Artichokes
Today, vegetables are recognized as mini packages of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. The artichoke is being examined in research labs to explore its phytochemical contents.
Two of these compounds, cynarin and silymarin, possess powerful antioxidant properties that may be beneficial in helping the liver to regenerate tissue growth.
Research has found that the phytochemical cynarin truly does stimulate the taste buds. It's also responsible for bringing sweet flavors to any foods you eat immediately after eating the artichoke.
More research is needed in the future to determine all the phytochemicals in artichokes, and to define the specific roles they play in maintaining good health and preventing disease.
Artichokes and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a problem reported to affect up to 20 percent of the general population. Emerging research has shown artichoke leaf extracts may have the ability to reduce symptoms of IBS and improve perceived quality of life in otherwise healthy patients who suffer from indigestion.
The artichoke, according to mythology, originated when Zeus fell madly in love with - and was rejected by - a beautiful girl named Cynara. To punish her, he struck her with a thunderbolt and transformed her into the first artichoke!
The artichoke is an unopened edible bud of a perennial thistle plant native to the Mediterranean. The vegetable flourished in ancient Greece and Rome because of its flavor and perceived medicinal capabilities, but it remained relatively unknown in Europe until years later when Catherine de Medicis introduced the artichoke to France and made it a huge success. In the 19th century, European immigrants brought artichokes to the U.S.
Artichoke Tips and Suggestions:
You can purchase Tardin artichoke diet tea, which is rich in potassium and minerals, excellent for weight loss and fat burning. Plus, is thought to aid the prevention of kidney stones. The tea has an apple berry flavor, which tastes great. If you like your tea a little sweet add a 1/2 teaspoon honey or some sugar to taste.
- For easier eating, whole cooked artichokes can be halved lengthwise.
- Popular accompaniments for artichokes include lemon butter, mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, tomato sauce, and buttermilk based salad dressing(s).
Cooking With Artichokes
Artichokes can be steamed, boiled, baked, fried, and stuffed. Cooked, they are delicious served hot or cold. They can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, a featured ingredient in soup, or even as a main course. The marinated variety offers great flavor simply served as a party appetizer along with a dip.
When you haven't the time to cook artichokes from scratch, the water-packed canned ones are a delicious addition to any salad. You can add them whole or cut them into halves or quarters.
Canned, water-packed, cooked artichoke bottoms (or hearts) also make an ideal base for a party appetizer. Simply fill them with tabbouli, hummus, mock tuna salad (made from soy protein), guacamole, a finely minced marinated mushroom salad, or soy cream cheese sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
How to Cook Artichokes?
Here's how: Put an artichoke in a steamer basket set over 3 inches simmering water. Cover tightly and steam until a petal near the center pulls out easily, 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size of your artichoke. Enjoy hot or chilled.
Add a small amount of lemon juice to the artichoke cooking water to retain the color of the artichoke.
Eating the Cooked Artichoke!
Remove cooked outer petals one at a time with your fingers. To eat, squeeze each petal with lemon (or dip it in your favorite low fat dressing). Pull base of each petal through your teeth to eat the soft, pulpy portion. Discard remaining petal. Repeat until all petals are removed. Scoop out fuzzy center at base of artichoke with spoon; discard. Cut up remaining artichoke and enjoy with more lemon or dressing.
Stimulate Your Taste Buds
- Artichokes contain cynarin, which stimulates your tastebuds to make everything you eat and drink immediately afterward taste sweet.
- Canned artichokes packed in brine can be rinsed and drained before serving to reduce the sodium content.
- Many stores carry canned, jarred, and frozen artichokes that are ready to eat. This is a great way to enjoy the wonderful flavor of artichokes without much preparation.
- There are about 50 different varieties of artichokes, but only the Green Globe is grown commercially in the U.S.
Did you know?
The United States Department of Agriculture ranked artichokes as the number one vegetable in antioxidant count. Among the most powerful phytonutrients are Cynarin and Silymarin, which have strong positive effects on the liver. In fact, over the years, artichokes have been reputed to help in the cure of liver diseases, liver cancer and to cure hangovers!
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