Do you always rely on the familiar carrots or cabbage to meet your daily quota of vegetables? Perhaps it’s time you explored the slightly unusual – and if you’re game, artichokes make a perfect start! This thistle-like plant, found in parts of southern Europe, the Canary Islands, and North Africa, has long been prized for its medicinal properties. Here are the benefits the sumptuous artichoke has lined up for you:
1. Offers A Rich Dose Of Nutrients
Nutrient-dense foods nourish your body and are good for your health. And artichokes come out a winner here, with minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, sodium, and iron. They also provide a range of vitamins like vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B 6, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K. 1 So ditch foods high in unhealthy fats or empty calories in favor of this exotic veggie!
2. Protects Your Liver
Silymarin, a flavonoid found in artichoke, has a protective effect on your liver. This powerful antioxidant is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic activities. It can inhibit free radicals that are produced during the metabolism of toxic substances, remove toxins from liver cells, and even help damaged liver cells regenerate. Research also indicates it can improve life expectancy in people who have liver cirrhosis.2 3
id="helps-ward-off-cancer">3. Helps Ward Off Cancer
Some naturally occurring nutrients can be powerful allies in the fight against the big C – and silymarin is one of these anti-oxidants in artichokes. It regulates the balance between cell death and cell survival and has anti-metastatic and anti-inflammatory properties as well. Lab studies have demonstrated silymarin’s anti-cancer activity in human breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and lung cancer.4 So adding artichokes to a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables may afford some protection against cancer.
id="keeps-your-bowels-in-good-shape">4. Keeps Your Bowels In Good Shape
One medium artichoke of 128 gm contains 6.9 gm of dietary fiber.5 Both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber are present in artichokes. Insoluble fiber bulks up stool and helps it pass through the digestive system, thus encouraging your bowels to remain regular and preventing constipation. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, has been found to help lower blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels.6
But that’s not all. Studies have found that the fiber in artichokes has prebiotic activity – that is, they encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.7 These beneficial bacteria have been linked to a variety of health benefits such as improved digestion, better nutrient absorption by your body, and optimal functioning of your immune system.8 So up your fiber intake by noshing on artichokes. But remember, increase your fiber intake gradually to avoid gas and bloating from a sudden surge. Also, do drink plenty of fluids – fiber uses fluids as it passes through your digestive system.
5. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
We all know that having healthy cholesterol levels is important to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of strokes and heart attacks. But did you know that there are two kinds of cholesterol? LDL cholesterol – the bad kind – clogs up your arteries while HDL cholesterol – the good kind – works like a scavenger and carries the bad cholesterol away from your arteries.9 Artichokes can help you keep this balance intact. One study looked at the effect of artichoke leaf extract on overweight subjects who had mildly elevated levels of cholesterol. Over the course of 8 weeks, artichoke leaf extract was effective at increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL and total cholesterol. The chlorogenic acid present in artichokes could be responsible for these beneficial effects.10
6. Fights High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common problem that has been linked to serious medical issues like heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and stroke.11 Fortunately, it is responsive to dietary and lifestyle modifications. And it makes sense to add artichokes to your anti-BP arsenal.
7. Improves Your Bone Health
A medium-sized artichoke will give you 56 mg of calcium, adding over 5% to your RDA. And as you know, calcium is important for keeping your bones and teeth strong. But that’s not all. Prebiotic fiber present in artichokes can also enhance the absorption of calcium by your body.14 So including delicious artichokes in your food certainly seems like good news for your bones!
id="eases-indigestion">8. Eases Indigestion
Artichokes can stimulate the production of bile and help you deal with the uneasy pangs of indigestion. One study found that an extract of artichoke, which had cynarin as its main ingredient, increased bile secretion by 127.3% 30 minutes after it was administered and by 151.5% after 60 minutes. This makes it effective at treating indigestion especially if you’re suffering because you had a meal that was too high in fat.15 So there you go – artichokes may be able to rescue you from the after-effects of an indulgent fatty meal.
9. Lowers Blood Glucose
High blood sugar is another common problem that can be managed to some extent through diet and exercise. And artichokes have been found to be helpful in dealing with this condition. According to an animal study, when diabetic rats were treated with a leaf extract of artichoke their blood glucose levels decreased significantly returning to near normal levels. 16 Experts suggest that fiber contained in artichokes can help in keeping your blood sugar under control.17
id="delicious-ideas-for-serving-artichokes">Delicious Ideas For Serving Artichokes
Wondering how to add healthy artichokes to your diet? Here are a few ideas that you can try out:
How to prepare: Artichokes can be steamed, baked, or boiled.
Here’s one common way of preparing them. Wash the artichokes and trim the stems. Now cover them with water in a pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the water boils, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
How to serve: Artichoke hearts are great in salads, pastas, dips, or even by themselves. All you need to do is drizzle a little olive oil, salt, and cracked pepper over the steamed hearts. You can also enjoy the cooked leaf with mayonnaise or a simple dip of olive oil, salt, and pepper.18
|↑1||Basic Report: 11007, Artichokes, (globe or french), raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Vargas-Mendoza, Nancy, Eduardo Madrigal-Santillán, Ángel Morales-González, Jaime Esquivel-Soto, Cesar Esquivel-Chirino, Manuel García-Luna y González-Rubio, Juan A. Gayosso-de-Lucio, and José A. Morales-González. “Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin.” World journal of hepatology 6, no. 3 (2014): 144.|
|↑3||American Institute for Cancer Research. Dietary Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.|
|↑4||Ramasamy, Kumaraguruparan, and Rajesh Agarwal. “Multitargeted therapy of cancer by silymarin.” Cancer letters 269, no. 2 (2008): 352-362.|
|↑5||Basic Report: 11007, Artichokes, (globe or french), raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑6||Fiber. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.|
|↑7||Fissore, Eliana N., Cinthia Santo Domingo, Lía N. Gerschenson, and Leda Giannuzzi. “A study of the effect of dietary fiber fractions obtained from artichoke (Cynara cardunculus L. var. scolymus) on the growth of intestinal bacteria associated with health.” Food & function 6, no. 5 (2015): 1667-1674.|
|↑8||High fibre, high prebiotic diet for healthy individuals.
|↑9||HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides.
|↑10||Rondanelli, Mariangela, Attilio Giacosa, Annalisa Opizzi, Milena Anna Faliva, Patrizio Sala, Simone Perna, Antonella Riva, Paolo Morazzoni, and Ezio Bombardelli. “Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolaemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 64, no. 1 (2013): 7-15.|
|↑11||High Blood Pressure. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑12||Roghani-Dehkordi, Farshad, and Amir-Farhad Kamkhah. “Artichoke leaf juice contains antihypertensive effect in patients with mild hypertension.” Journal of dietary supplements 6, no. 4 (2009): 328-341.|
|↑13||Suzuki, Atsushi, Naoki Yamamoto, Hiroko Jokura, Masaki Yamamoto, Akihiko Fujii, Ichiro Tokimitsu, and Ikuo Saito. “Chlorogenic acid attenuates hypertension and improves endothelial function in spontaneously hypertensive rats.” Journal of hypertension 24, no. 6 (2006): 1065-1073.|
|↑14||Coxam, Véronique. “Inulin-type fructans and bone health: state of the art and perspectives in the management of osteoporosis.” British Journal of Nutrition 93, no. S1 (2005): S111-S123.|
|↑15||Kirchhoff, R., C. H. Beckers, G. M. Kirchhoff, H. Trinczek-Gärtner, O. Petrowicz, and H. J. Reimann. “Increase in choleresis by means of artichoke extract.” Phytomedicine 1, no. 2 (1994): 107-115.|
|↑16||Soofiniya, Yadollah. “Hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effects of aerial part of Cynara scolymus in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5, no. 13 (2011): 2717-2723.|
|↑17||Collins, Elise Marie. An AZ Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Reference. Conari Press, 2010.|
|↑18||Grotto, David. 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. Random House, 2011.|