Artichokes are a staple of the Mediterranean, whose cuisine is often touted as the healthiest diet in the world. Artichokes are native to the region, and still today Italy, Spain, and Egypt are the top producers globally. The most popular part of the plant is the heart, but the bottoms of the leaves have fleshy edible areas as well.
Artichokes contain some of the highest amounts of antioxidant phytochemicals of any other plant. Artichoke leaf extract has been shown to help digestion in people with Irritable Bowl Syndrome and to lower cholesterol. Artichokes contain a high amount of inulin, a plant fiber that has been shown to feed beneficial gut microflora, help mineral absorption, lower blood lipid levels, and prevent colon cancer. Eating artichokes consistently over time could promote these healthful effects on the body.Foods like artichokes give you nutrients you can't get from a pill Click To Tweet
Along with a ton of phytochemicals and an especially healthy form of fiber, artichokes contain a good amount of vitamin K, folate and vitamin C. Eating a diet high in vitamin C has been shown to reduce cancer risk. However, this effect is not found with taking supplements, so it’s likely that fruits and vegetables with vitamin C also have other compounds that work jointly together to protect our body from cancer.
Artichokes status as a health food is uncontested, and it’s similarly appreciated in the culinary world for its buttery, mild, yet slightly tangy flavor. This healthy veggie tops pizzas and flatbreads, is a staple in salad bars, gets entangled in pasta dishes, and loves to be paired with spinach in dips. Its flavor lends itself to adding into dishes that normally aren’t so healthy, like pastas and pizza, because it’s mild and has a silky yet firm texture.
Artichokes can seem intimidating to prepare fresh, and of course canned, jarred, and frozen options are available. But it’s not as difficult as it may look.
How to prepare a whole artichoke
- Rinse the whole artichoke well under cold water, and scrub thoroughly with your hand or a vegetable brush to remove the potentially bitter film that naturally grows on the artichoke.
- Cut off about 1 inch from the top of the artichoke and about ½ inch off the stem.
- Rub lemon over the cut part to prevent from browning (optional).
- Put in a pan and fill water to halfway up.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
- Cook for 20-40 minutes.
- Eat by pulling leaves off and skimming inside bottom flesh off with your teeth, until you get to the heart.
Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Marakis G, Booth JC. Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: a subset analysis. J. Altern. Complement. Med. 2004; 10: 667-669
Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Wallis C, Simpson HCR. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: A randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2008; 15(9): 668-675
How to Prepare an Artichoke. Ocean Mist. Retrieved on 10/27/2015 from http://www.oceanmist.com/artichokes/prepare-artichoke/
Lattanzio V, Kroon PA, Linsalata V, Cardinali A. Globe artichoke: A functional food and source of nutraceutical ingredients. Journal of Functional Foods. 2009; 1(2): 131-144.
Artichoke production quantities by country, Average 2009-2013. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division. Retrieved on 10/27/2015 from http://faostat3.fao.org/browse/Q/QC/E