What Are Artichokes?
Artichokes are known in their natural form as cardoon, and their scientific classification is Cynara cardunculus.
They are a native to the Mediterranean region, which is primarily why they play such a major part in their cuisine.
Artichokes can be found throughout Europe, the Middle Eastern countries, and America, but they are less frequently encountered in Asian nations.
The edible part of an artichoke is the bud within the flower head before it fully blooms. Timing is key in cultivating them, as they turn hard and nearly inedible once the flower has fully bloomed.
Also, one of the most sought-after parts of the thistle is the “heart”, which is the base from which the other buds spring.
It is often considered a delicacy or at least the most delicious part of the plant and is generally more expensive.
Health Benefits Of Artichokes
Magnesium and manganese are essential parts of the body’s metabolic processes and they are found in a significant amount in artichokes.
Magnesium is an important part of protein synthesis throughout the body. As well as optimizing the intake of calcium by the body, further strengthening the bones.
Manganese is slightly more involved than magnesium, and it impacts the metabolic rates of cholesterol, amino acids, and carbohydrates.
Regulated Blood Pressure
On a related note, artichokes are rich sources of potassium, the essential mineral that has an impact on numerous organ systems throughout the body.
Potassium helps to neutralize the effects of excess sodium, which is notorious for increasing blood pressure.
Artichokes, therefore, act as a vasodilator and are particularly useful for those already taking hypertension medicine to prevent the effects of potassium deficiency.
Diabetics are also encouraged to eat artichokes to prevent the complications associated with blood pressure and that disease.
Finally, a reduction in blood pressure can reduce the chances of heart attacks and coronary heart diseases.
Improved Liver Health
Artichokes were used as liver tonics for centuries. But the exact mechanism of their impact was never fully understood until modern science could properly research this versatile plant.
Two antioxidants found in artichokes, cynarin, and silymarin. Have been shown to improve the overall health of the liver by reducing the presence of toxins and facilitating their elimination from the liver and the body.
Some studies have even shown these antioxidants to actively promote regrowth and repair of damaged liver cells.
Artichoke makes a great snack because it is very low in calories and fat. Yet is high in fiber which makes you feel full.
In addition, the time-consuming process of eating each individual artichoke leaf will psychologically make you feel like you had a large snack.
As mentioned earlier, artichokes can be a great salve to the liver and can reduce any blockage, as well as reduce the levels of toxins in the blood by eliminating them quickly.
Therefore, artichokes make a perfect hangover cure. Some people choose to chew on a few artichoke leaves after a night of heavy drinking.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
We all know that having healthy cholesterol levels is important to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
But did you know that there are two kinds of cholesterol?
LDL cholesterol – the bad kind – clogs up your arteries while HDL cholesterol – the good kind – works like a scavenger and carries the bad cholesterol away from your arteries.
Artichokes can help you keep this balance intact. One study looked at the effect of artichoke leaf extract on overweight subjects who had mildly elevated levels of cholesterol.
Over the course of 8 weeks, artichoke leaf extract was effective at increasing HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL and total cholesterol.
The chlorogenic acid present in artichokes could be responsible for these beneficial effects.
Helps Control Diabetes
The high amount of fiber found in artichokes has the ability to help keep blood sugar levels stable, avoiding spikes and dips in insulin that can lead to serious problems for diabetics.
The fiber in artichokes allows glucose to be absorbed in the blood more slowly, and because fiber is a substance that can be digested and does not require insulin.
Fiber does not count toward the amount of carbohydrates or glucose you consume.
Jerusalem artichoke has even been shown to improve insulin secretion and sensitivity in diabetic rats, which shows promise for diabetic humans as well.
Artichokes can stimulate the production of bile and help you deal with the uneasy pangs of indigestion. One study found that an extract of artichoke.
Which had cynarin as its main ingredient, increased bile secretion by 127.3% 30 minutes after it was administered and by 151.5% after 60 minutes.
This makes it effective at treating indigestion especially if you’re suffering because you had a meal that was too high in fat.
So there you go – artichokes may be able to rescue you from the after-effects of an indulgent fatty meal.
Delicious Ideas For Serving Artichokes
Wondering how to add healthy artichokes to your diet? Here are a few ideas that you can try out:
How to prepare: Artichokes can be steamed, baked, or boiled.
Here’s one common way of preparing them. Wash the artichokes and trim the stems. Now cover them with water in a pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil.
When the water boils, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
How to serve: Artichoke hearts are great in salads, pastas, dips, or even by themselves. All you need to do is drizzle a little olive oil, salt, and cracked pepper over the steamed hearts.
You can also enjoy the cooked leaf with mayonnaise or a simple dip of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
What Is The History Of Artichokes?
The name artichoke is believed to have originated from the word ‘articiocco’ (ciocco means stump).
Records of artichoke consumption date back to ancient Greece and Roman empires. Today, this plant can be found in the Mediterranean region and is a part of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
Artichokes were introduced to England by the Dutch around 1530. In 1850, a French physician had used artichoke leaf extract to treat jaundice that wasn’t improving with drugs – and this led to an increase in the studies.
It was in the 19thcentury that the health benefits of artichokes started getting circulated in the United States.
And today, California produces almost all of the artichokes in the US.
Some of the other varieties of artichokes include Green Globe, Big Heart, Desert Globe, and Imperial star – the colors of which range from dark purple to pale green.
That’s a little about the history. But the nutritional profile of artichokes is far more interesting.
How To Select And Store Artichokes
- When shopping for artichokes, pick vegetables with firm globes that are compact, solid, and heavy.
- The artichoke should have tightly packed large leaves.
- The best artichokes to pick are those with firm heads.
- The stem should be fleshy.
- Brown stems are fine as long as they are turgid and not wilted, slimy or dry.
- Store the artichokes in the refrigerator. This vegetable should be loosely wrapped in a plastic or aluminum film. Fresh vegetables last up to a week, but it is better to consume them as quickly as possible.
- Cooked artichokes should be cooled completely before storing in the refrigerator if they are kept for more than a day or two.
- Do not place washed artichokes in the refrigerator for storage as the moisture causes the vegetable to spoil.
- Ensure raw or cooked artichokes are dry before storing in the refrigerator.
To keep it fresh
After you buy your artichoke, you’ll want to prolong freshness by storing it in an airtight plastic container, and cutting off the edge of the stem.
To get the best flavor and nutrients out of the vegetable, cook it within a week of buying.