Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits of Artichokes
Artichoke (or globe artichoke) is a type of a species of thistle which we cultivated for food. We eat its flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. Artichoke is a perennial plant (it lives more than two years), and it can grow up to 2 meters in height. Buds can grow up to 15 cm in diameter and have numerous triangular scales of which are lower edible while the bud is young. They become inedible as bud matures.
Artichokes were used as food since the ancient times. They are native to Mediterranean area and were used by Ancient Greeks and Romans. In time, they were cultivated to be more edible after which they spread to the north arriving in France in 1th century and introduced by Dutch to England in the 16th century. They were brought to America in the 19th century. French brought them to Louisiana while the Spaniards brought them to California, which today a provides nearly 100% of the US crop of artichokes.
Artichoke can be prepared in many ways. Out of large globe artichokes, often are used only 5 to 10 mm of the stem and around a quarter of each scale is cut off to remove the thorn. They are boiled or steamed and often eaten with a variety of sauces like hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, and even lemon juice. In Italy, artichokes are prepared in oil or deep-fried whole. They can also be stuffed with bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, parsley, grated cheese, and prosciutto. In Spain, artichokes are baked by sprinkling them with olive oil and leaving the in hot ashes in a barbecue.
Artichokes can also be prepared as an herbal tea. There is also Italian liqueur Cynar, made of artichoke with 33-proof (16.5%-alcohol) and a slightly bitter taste.
Artichoke flower is a vegetable (well it's used like a vegetable) with one of the highest levels of antioxidants. Some of them are quercertin, rutin, anthocyanins, cynarin, luteolin, and silymarin. These antioxidants neutralize free radicals that damage healthy cells of our organism. One medium artichoke has 15% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C – one of the antioxidants. Vitamin C also strengthens the immunity of the body.
Folate in artichoke prevents birth defects if eaten by pregnant mothers.
Artichokes also have a high amount of fiber which prevents constipation and clean bowels also preventing cancer of the colon. Fiber lowers the sugar in blood because it prolongs digestion and slows the absorption of sugar. Fiber Inulin can also stabilize blood sugar levels in people that suffer from diabetes. Insulin also stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the colon helping intestinal health.
Potassium in artichoke helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium.
Copper and iron help production and formation of red blood cells.
Artichoke extract can help with pain caused by indigestion or acid reflux. It can also help with bloating, lack of appetite, nausea, and diarrhea.
Cynarine in the artichoke helps the body to get rid of bad cholesterol and, by doing that, balance cholesterol levels which help people with high cholesterol.
Properties of artichoke help liver get rid of toxins. Some even use it as a hangover cure for the same reasons.
One artichoke of medium size has around 40 calories and has very small amount of fat (0.34g of fat on 100 g of artichoke).
Vitamin K in artichoke helps bone formation and. also limits neuronal damage in the brain helping those that suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
Vitamins of B-complex that artichoke has (like pyridoxine, thiamin, and pantothenic acid) maintain optimum cellular metabolic functions.
Artichoke also contains small amounts of antioxidant flavonoid compounds like carotene-beta, lutein, and zeaxanthin.