Artichokes versatile food, and although some would consider them a vegetable, they are actually an unusual variety of thistle! For nutritional purposes, they are primarily consumed due their associated benefits of protecting against various forms of cancer, bolstering immune system strength, lowering cholesterol, and protect against diseases such as diabetes, artherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke. Artichokes have also long been famous for detoxifying the body and improving the health of the liver, and aiding in digestive issues like indigestion, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and diarrhea. Furthermore, this miraculous little thistle can reduce blood pressure, eliminate hangovers, and stimulate urination.
The Top Thirteen Health Benefits of Artichokes
- Rich in Antioxidants: Artichokes are filled with phytonutrients with antioxidant benefits that help with everything from killing off cancer to enhancing your immune system. Artichokes are even higher in antioxidants than dark chocolate, blueberries, and red wine as having the most antioxidants per serving, and they’re number 7 of 20 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.
- High in Fiber: Artichoke have the highest natural fiber content of any vegetable and over most grains. 120 grams of artichoke has over 10 grams of fiber, or nearly half of your daily requirement.
- Lowers Cholesterol: Artichokes have demonstrated that they are effective at lowering cholesterol. In two placebo controlled tests, the antioxidants in Artichoke leaf extract lowered patient cholesterol levels 4.2% and 18.5%.
- Hangover Cure: As mentioned earlier, artichokes can be a great salve to the liver, and can reduce any blockage, as well as reduce the levels of toxins in the blood by eliminating them quickly from the body. Therefore, artichokes make for a perfect hangover cure, and some people choose to chew on a few artichoke leaves after a night of heavy drinking!
- Birth Defects: As if all of these other health benefits weren’t enough, artichokes even help pregnant women have healthy, normally-formed children. The high levels of folic acid found in artichokes can prevent neural tube defects from occurring in newborns. The neural tube closure process in vitro requires a certain amount of folate to occur properly, so folic acid is an essential part of a pregnancy diet.
- Liver Function: Your liver produces bile to eliminate dangerous toxins and digestive fats. Artichokes help immensely with the process of eliminating toxins and digestive fats. They have shown to boost bile as a result of the phytonutrient cynarin, which is found in artichokes. Artichokes are also filled with the flavonoid silymarin which hinders the process of lipid per oxidation from occurring in the cell membranes of liver tissues.
- Improved Digestion: The cynarin and fiber in artichokes make them great in maintaining a healthy digestive system. The bile-producing cynarin alleviates bloating and other digestive pain. Fiber helps break down food and keep the digestive system moving. Inulin, one of the major sources of fiber in artichokes, is a prebiotic. Prebiotic increases the amount of probiotic bacteria in your stomach.
- Brain Function: There are a number of aspects of artichokes that make them beneficial for brain health, including their quality as a vasodilator that allows more oxygen to reach the brain for elevated cognitive function, for phosphorous an essential mineral that is found in artichokes and is also packed into brain cells. Phosphorous deficiencies have been associated with a serious decline in cognitive ability, so if you want to keep your brain healthy and firing on all cylinders, eat the next artichoke you see!
- Lowers Blood Pressure: Artichokes are high in potassium resulting in lower blood pressure.
- Builds Strong Bones: Artichokes are rich in vitamin K, and play a crucial role in ongoing bone health. They also have vitamin C, which is involved in the formation of collagen. Collagen is, among other things, essential for bone health.
- Low Calorie: Artichoke makes a great snack because it is very low in calories and fat, yet is high in fiber which makes you feel full. In addition, the time-consuming process of eating each individual artichoke leaf will psychologically make you feel like you had a large snack.
- Boosts Immunity Artichokes are high in vitamin C which is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Folate Health Fresh artichokes contain plenty of folic acid, which is involved with enzymes in the synthesis of DNA. Eating artichoke and getting your recommended amount of folic acid can alter your genes.
One medium sized artichoke contains (based on daily percentage value):
- 60 calories
- 28% dietary fiber
- 25% Vitamin C
- 19% Magnesium
- 13% Potassium
- 8% Iron
- 7% Copper
- 5% Sodium
- 5% Calcium
- 5% of Vitamin B-6
- 0% saturated fat
The edible part of the artichokes is buds that form within the flower head, before it fully blooms. Timing is key in cultivating artichokes, as they turn hard and nearly inedible once the flower has fully bloomed. Also, one of the most sought after parts of the thistle is the “heart”, which is the base from which the other buds spring. It is often considered a delicacy, or at least the most delicious part of the plant, and is typically more expensive.