by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN
Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are not a type of artichoke but rather a species of sunflower. They are a great source of iron and potassium. They are also a good source of phosphorus, vitamin C, and certain B vitamins including thiamin and niacin. One cup of sunchokes has about 109 calories, 14 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 8 g protein, and 0 g fat [i].
All About Inulin
Sunchokes contain a type of soluble fiber and prebiotic called inulin. Inulin is not digested by the enzymes in our small intestine, but is fermented by microflora (bacteria) in the large intestine. Because it is not digested by our intestinal enzymes, inulin may provide a benefit in chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes and obesity, as it regulates blood sugar [ii].
Inulin may promote frequency of bowel movements, especially in those individuals prone to IBS-like (irritable bowel syndrome-like) symptoms including bloating, gas, and a mixture of constipation and diarrhea. Because of this, if you are prone to these symptoms, be mindful of cooking your sunchokes rather than eating them raw, as well as controlling portion size.
Research finds that inulin may play a role in the prevention of certain cancers including colorectal, colon, and breast cancers [iii], [iv], [v].
Ways to Eat
Try sunchokes roasted, in salads, soups, on pizza, or thinly sliced and baked as chips. Don’t miss our recipe of the month, next week on our blog!
[i] Jerusalem artichokes, raw. Retrieved from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2005/2.
[ii] Nair KK, Kharb S, and Thompkinson DK. (2010). Inulin dietary fiber with functional and health attributes—a review. Food Reviews International 26(2):189-203. Doi: 10.1080/87559121003590664
[iii] Cited in Nair KK, Kharb S, and Thompkinson DK. (2010). Clark MJ, Robien K, and Slavin JL (2012). Effect of prebiotics on biomarkers of colorectal cancer in humans: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews 70(8):436-443. Doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00495.x
[iv] Cited in Nair KK, Kharb S, and Thompkinson DK. (2010). Schaafsma G, Miller Jones J, Asp NG, and van der Kamp JW, eds. Dietary Fibre. Wageningen Academic Publishers, 2004. Doi: 10.3920/978-90-8686-662-5
[v] Cited in Nair KK, Kharb S, and Thompkinson DK. (2010). Taper HS and Roberfroid M. (1999). Influence of inulin and oligofructose on breast cancer and tumor growth.” The Journal of Nutrition 129(7):1488S-1491S. Doi: 10.1093/jn/129.7.1488S