Artichokes: a tasty veggie with powerful nutrients

October 9, 2015

Artichokes may not look appetizing, but looks can be deceiving. This veggie has a powerful nutrient punch and a savory, delicious flavour—two reasons why you should add artichokes to your diet!

Artichokes: a tasty veggie with powerful nutrients

Why eat artichokes?

  • This respected vegetable contains several restorative nutrients.
  • Used since ancient times as a digestive aid and for poor liver function, research reveals that artichokes may also lower cholesterol.

What’s in them?

Cynarin: Cynarin is an organic acid found in artichokes that stimulates the sweetness receptors in the tastebuds of some people, causing the foods eaten afterwards to taste sweeter. This phytochemical may also offer antioxidant protection against carcinogenic and environmental toxins such as pollution and smoke. Additionally, cynarin may have a beneficial effect on the liver by helping to promote bile flow—which assists in the removal of toxic substances from the body—and by ­preventing fat accumulation in the liver.

Folate: In addition to preventing certain birth defects, this B vitamin—also known as folic acid—may help lower heart disease risk by reducing levels of homocysteine.  Homocysteinean is an amino acid that has been linked to atherosclerosis. Folate may also help prevent Cancer, since low levels of folate can be harmful to DNA. One artichoke provides 110 micrograms of folate.

Luteolin: With the potential to prevent LDL ("bad") cholesterol ­oxidation, this flavonoid may reduce the risk for heart disease. ­Preliminary studies suggest that luteolin may also block the release of histamines, which can trigger congestion and inflammation.

Maximizing the benefits

  • Frozen and canned "hearts" are the most available form of arti­chokes, but it's best to cook and eat fresh, whole artichokes as often as possible—to take advantage of the phytochemicals found in the leaves.
  • To preserve as much of the water-soluble folate as possible, steam rather than boil artichokes.

Health bites

  • Both the tender "heart" and the meaty leaves of the artichoke are edible.
  • The leaves contain many of the vegetable's phytochemicals.

Add more to your diet

  • When steaming whole artichokes, add a mixture of herbs—such as rosemary, tarragon and thyme—to the steaming water. This will add a subtle herb flavour to the artichokes themselves.
  • Instead of dipping artichoke leaves in melted butter, try this: make a puree of mashed roasted garlic, black pepper, soft silken tofu and lemon juice.
  • For a quick artichoke appetizer, puree jarred artichokes (rinsed and drained) with garlic, light mayonnaise and nonfat yogurt. Serve as a dip with crudités.
  • Fresh baby Italian artichokes, available seasonally, can be steamed or stewed and eaten whole with a drizzle of lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Make an artichoke relish. Steam whole artichokes, then coarsely chop the tender part of the leaves and the heart. Toss with olive oil and vinegar, and use on sandwiches or with grilled fish.
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