Whether you have never tried an artichoke before or you have already enjoyed its taste many times, this article will help you know more about this wonderful vegetable. Having been around for several thousands of years, artichoke is a delicious and nutritious vegetable that still continues to attract people all over the world. Although the physical appearance of this vegetable may seem a little bit daunting and intricate, once you have tried it you will want to make it a regular part of your diet. With its mild nutty taste, artichoke has become a culinary delight in many restaurants and homes alike.
Nutritional value of artichoke
Artichoke is actually the edible flower bud of a plant that belongs to the thistle species. It is a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, folate, and also potent antioxidants. Artichoke happens to be low in cholesterol, low in saturated fat and high in dietary fiber. It is a rich source of vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Artichoke also provides moderate amounts of B complex vitamins like niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. It is also an excellent source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. Most important of all, artichoke is high in powerful antioxidants like cynarin, caffeic acid, silymarin, ferulic acid and moderate amounts of flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin, rutin, carotene-beta, lutein, and zea-xanthin. These antioxidants protect your body from the harmful effects of free radicals.
Health Benefits of Artichoke
A native to the Mediterranean region, artichoke has been popular ever since ancient times for its medicinal and health promoting qualities. Let us understand various health benefits of artichoke
Artichoke is good for your skin
Artichoke contains important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that replenish and rejuvenate your skin. The high levels of antioxidants found in artichokes helps you look younger and have glowing skin. These antioxidants improve the texture of your skin, nourish it, and eliminate signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and blemishes by fighting off the free radicals that cause damage to your cells. Because of its anti-aging properties, artichoke is used in making skin creams, lotions, potions and gels.
Drinking artichoke tea has been found to improve the health and beauty of your skin. Here is how you make the drink – Take an artichoke, wash it well and chop off its base. Boil it in water for about an hour. After an hour reduce the heat and let the artichoke simmer for another 30 minutes. Drinking this juice can help you achieve clear skin and also other health benefits too. You can add honey to the drink for taste.
Hair benefits of artichoke
Artichoke is an excellent source of Vitamins A, vitamin C, B complex vitamins and also minerals like calcium and phosphorus. These nutrients play a key role in replenishing hair that is dry, dull and damaged and make it soft, smooth and lustrous. The above mentioned artichoke juice when applied on your scalp can help in improving hair growth and in preventing hair fall. Massage the liquid on to your scalp and leave it overnight. Wash your hair with lukewarm water and shampoo in the morning. This liquid is excellent in restoring damaged hair and also in preventing dandruff and other infections.
Artichoke promotes weight loss
Low in fat and high in dietary fiber, artichoke is a dieter’s best friend. The high levels of fiber in artichoke helps in curbing your hunger and making you feel satisfied for a longer period of time after eating. Another reason why the dietary fiber keeps you feeling fuller for longer hours is because it is not easily digested by your body. Artichokes have to be eaten at a leisurely pace since they are not easily chewable and this gives time for your body to tell your brain that the stomach is full. As a result you refrain from overeating and frequent snacking.
Artichoke improves digestive health
One of the popular uses of artichoke since olden times has been in treating indigestion and improper liver function. Studies suggest that artichoke is best for your digestive system as it improves digestion and helps in treating digestive disorders. The extract obtained from artichoke leaves have been found to be beneficial for your gastrointestinal system as it promotes the flow of bile, increases the digestion of fat and protects the mucous membranes. Good bile flow promotes detoxification of your body by removing the toxic substances and also cholesterol. Bile also promotes intestinal peristalsis, which aids in proper digestion. The high amounts of dietary fiber in artichoke helps in making your bowel movements regular and hence in preventing constipation and other digestive issues.
Artichoke for treating high cholesterol
Too much of cholesterol in your blood can lead to conditions like stroke, atherosclerosis and heart attack. Artichoke leaf extract have been touted as a remedy for lowering cholesterol. Artichoke contains good amounts of luteolin, a flavonoid that is known to help in lowering cholesterol. According to clinical studies, the consumption of artichoke increases the breaking down of cholesterol to bile salt. This helps in increasing the production and flow of bile and in the removal of cholesterol by the liver.
Artichoke lowers blood pressure
Artichoke has anti-hypertensive effects due to the high levels of potassium in it. Potassium helps in balancing the effects of sodium and hence aids in lowering high blood pressure.
Artichoke and cancer prevention
Researchers believe that the various power antioxidants in artichoke can aid in the prevention and controlling of different types of cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancer. Studies indicate that the antioxidants quercetin, rutin, and gallic acid contained in artichoke leaf extract have the ability to induce cell death (apoptosis) and hence decrease the growth and proliferation of cancer cells. These antioxidants can also contribute to the prevention of cancer by neutralizing the oxidation damage caused to cells by the free radicals.
Artichoke improves immunity
Artichoke is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that help in boosting your immune system and fight off disease causing microbes. The abundance of vitamin C in this vegetable also improves your immunity and promotes overall health.
Artichoke is an ideal diabetic food
With a very low glycemic index of 15, artichoke is one of the healthiest and nutritious foods that are safe for people with diabetes. Since it does not have a major impact on your blood sugar levels, artichoke is ideal for managing your diabetes.
Artichoke and eye health
Artichoke is a good source of vitamin A, which is associated with your eye health. This vegetable is a rich source of phytochemical antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that help in protecting your eyes from the damages caused by free radicals. It also helps in preventing eye disorders like cataract and age related macular degeneration. Moreover, artichoke also contains high amounts of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant that helps in improving your vision as well as in preventing cataract.
Artichoke for bone health
Artichoke is one of the best sources of minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium that play an important role in increasing bone density and also in improving the health of your bones. Therefore the regular intake of this vegetable can keep your bones strong and healthy and reduce your risks of conditions like osteoporosis.
Artichoke prevents birth defects
Eating artichoke helps pregnant women have healthy babies without any kind of birth defects. Artichoke contains high levels of folic acid that helps in preventing the occurrence of neural tube defects in newborn babies.
Artichoke has diuretic properties
Artichoke is found to have good diuretic properties, which increases the production of urine and helps in flushing out harmful toxins and bacteria. This property makes artichoke effective in preventing urinary tract infections.
Artichoke for Alzheimer’s patients
The high content of vitamin K in artichoke helps in controlling neural damage that may occur in the brain and hence this vegetable may be beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Possible side effects of artichoke
Artichoke is a tasty and nutritious vegetable that is generally very safe to eat. However, like most other foods, some people may experience allergic reactions and intestinal gas. People having bile duct obstruction and gallstones should consult their doctor before consuming artichoke since it may increase the flow of bile and worsen the condition.
How to select best quality artichoke?
For selecting the best artichoke, first check the leaves. If the leaves cling together, then they are considered to be good. Artichokes with their leaves open are past their date and should be avoided. Also if the stem appears to be black or dark brown, then it is old and not fresh. Do not buy artichoke that has dark spots on it. It’s best to use the artichoke on the day of the purchase itself. If fresh artichokes are kept in a plastic bag unwashed and refrigerated, they will keep for up to a week. Cooked artichoke will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator. Do not freeze the artichokes without cooking. If done so, they will turn brown and lack in taste.
Although artichoke is most appreciated for its heart, the other parts of the vegetable also hold immense health benefits. In spite of the fact that you may need to put in some effort to cook this vegetable because of its intimidating and tough exterior, its well worth the effort considering the abundance of nutrients it contains and the health benefits it offers.
Best way to cook Artichoke – Artichoke is best eaten boiled and grilled along with suitable flavor dip. Find some healthy artichoke recipes:Image Credits: Pops & Mojo photos