Artichoke Nutritional Values
What Are The Nutritional Values Of An Artichoke ?
Just the sheer magnitude of nutrients, minerals, and phytochemicals found in this exceptional vegetable should make eating them a nutritional dietary requirement!
Packed with phytonutrients all working to protect against various health risks including heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, liver dysfunction, and diabetes, artichokes are a star in the vegetable kingdom. They also rank in the top four among vegetables high in antioxidant content.
Although my favorite part (as well as many others) of the artichoke is the heart, the leaves are actually the source of most of its health benefits. In fact, artichoke leaf extract has proven to be an extremely beneficial food, with a host of disease-fighting and age-extending functional properties.
Digestive Health- A good addition to any meal, because of the high concentration of cynarin known to stimulate the production of bile, which allows us to digest fats and absorb vitamins from our food, and as such contributes to our digestive health.
For people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and dyspepsia, or upset stomachs, studies have shown that artichoke leaf extract can also be very supportive.
Cholesterol Fighter-The high concentration of cynarin in Artichokes and artichoke leaf extract helps to reduce cholesterol levels.
Liver Function- Silymarin, a flavonoid and powerful liver protectant is contained in this star vegetable, making it an ideal food to help you obtain optimal liver function.
Cancer Prevention-Results from ongoing studies have shown that the antioxidants rutin, quercetin, and gallic acid found in artichoke leaf extract are able to induce apoptosis (cell death) and reduce the proliferation of cancer cells.
There are also many other powerful antioxidants found in artichokes that researchers believe can contribute to the prevention and management of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia.
What Is An Artichoke?
(Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a variety of a species of thistle in the sunflower family, cultivated as a food and known as the “globe artichoke”. It is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world.
The portion of the plant that is edible includes the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom, in other words, the immature flowers of a thistle plant. The artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many budding small flowers together with many bracts.
Once the buds bloom the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form. There are several varieties of artichokes known as Big Heart, Green Globe, Desert Globe, and Imperial Star, ranging in color from dark purple to pale green.
If you are not familiar with cooking and what parts of the artichoke to eat, here are a few suggestions so you can add this delicious, antioxidant-heavy vegetable to your diet. Growing up in an Italian family my mother made artichokes frequently. I will share with you today her delicious recipe which we all enjoyed.
- After picking out however many medium sized artichokes from the market, take them home, wash and cut off the stems (you can save maybe a two inch section closest to the choke and cook that up as well).
- Then trim off the very sharp leaf tips and use your fingers to slightly open up the leaves, allowing it to cook more effectively.
- Separately in a bowl, mix Italian bread crumbs, olive oil, parsley, and diced garlic-salt & pepper to taste.
- Take the artichokes and fill in between the leaves the mixture you just made-this requires a bit of patience.
- When done take a lemon and squeeze some juice on top as well.
- Depending on how many you are cooking take a large pot, insert a steamer basket and add the artichokes heart side down, leaves pointing up and add water.
- Cover and let steam. You will know it’s done when the petal near the center pulls out easily.
- To eat, just pull out the outer petals one at a time and pull the leaves through your teeth, removing the soft pulpy portion. Discard the remaining portion of the leaf.
- Continue this until all the petals have been removed. Use a spoon and remove the fuzzy center at the base of the artichoke and discard it. What remains is the heart of the artichoke and it is entirely edible and incredibly delicious. BON APPETIT!
Note* Artichokes are available in most farmers markets and grocery stores all year round.
If you would like more great artichoke recipes, I highly recommend a book by Judy Helm Wright aka “Auntie Artichoke”. She uses this vegetable as her analogy for life, which is a pleasant departure from traditional cookbooks, and it is chock full of delicious recipes. You can find it here at Amazon.com
The origin of the artichoke dates back to the time of the Greek philosopher and naturalist, Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.), who wrote of them being grown in Italy and Sicily. Artichokes have been identified in ancient Egyptian writings as symbols of sacrifice and fertility, however they most likely originated in the Mediterranean culture.
The Romans called the vegetable carduus (hence the name cardoon) and the Greeks ate the leaves and flower heads, which cultivation had already been enhanced from the wild form.
The Spanish Empire may have been the first to bring them to California in 1600, but they didn’t actually become popular with Americans until the early twentieth century. As of today California provides nearly 100 percent of the artichoke crop in the United States.
The Legend of the Artichoke
The Greeks associated the artichoke with the goddess Cynara.
“According to the story, Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon one day on a small Aegean island, when he came upon a stunningly beautiful young woman named Cynara. Falling head over heels as was his wont, he offered to transform her into a goddess so she could come live near him, and they could cavort whenever his wife Hera was out of town. Cynara consented but soon grew weary of Olympian life. She missed her mother and so, one night, she slipped away for a short visit back home. Soon after her return, Zeus discovered Cynara’s “betrayal” and, as was also his wont, he flew into a rage. He flung Cynara from the heavens, transforming her once again, this time from a goddess into an artichoke, one of the most stunningly beautiful flowers to grow in earthly fields.” story credit-Liz Fakazis
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To your good health,