Health Benefits of Artichoke

Health Benefits of Artichokes

Artichokes might not be quite the nutritional powerhouse that other vegetables are, such as spinach, asparagus, and carrots. But artichokes are far from empty calorie food. As a nice bonus to their impressive presentation and great flavor, every time you eat them, you are supplying your body with a healthy addition of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

General Health Benefits

• Artichokes are high in antioxidants

We are becoming increasingly aware of the important role antioxidants play in both maintaining overall health and reducing the likelihood of many debilitating diseases. That is not to say that a diet rich in antioxidants will prevent such diseases from developing with 100% certainty. But they will significantly limit the oxidation of harmful free radicals.  Antioxidants can boost the immune system and make the body less susceptible to the destructive cell activities that may lead to these conditions.

A survey of more than 1,000 popular foods indicated that artichokes ranked among the top 50 in terms of highest antioxidant content per 100 grams serving. Most of the foods ranking higher than artichokes were spices that are eaten in much smaller amounts at a time than 100 grams.

Another study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2004 measuring the antioxidant capabilities of more than 100 foods produced similar results. Artichokes ranked 7th out of the top 100 antioxidant containing foods. Artichokes beat out peppers, apples, blackberries, cherries, plums, and strawberries in antioxidant levels per serving.

Antioxidants are important because the oxidation of free radicals is linked not only to aging, but also to such conditions as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies further suggest that taking antioxidants in the form of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day is more effective in preventing these diseases than taking them in the form of a vitamin supplement.

• Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber

The fiber in the diet adds bulk to the stool and enables body wastes, toxins, and excess cholesterol to be excreted more quickly and efficiently. Fiber is also believed to be important in preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cancer, especially colon cancer.

A medium artichoke contains about 10 grams of fiber, which is more than a quarter of the DV. If you prefer the convenience of frozen artichoke hearts (without the leaves), the hearts also provide plenty of fiber. A half-cup of artichoke hearts contains about 5 grams of fiber, 20% of the DV.

• Artichokes protect digestive health

Artichokes help maintain a healthy gut. They also promote bowel regularity and alleviate upset stomach symptoms.  Specifically, the leaves and heart contain a photochemical called cynarin that stimulates the production of bile, helps digest fats and prevents indigestion. The plant fibers contained in the leaves and heart also include the prebiotic inulin that promotes healthy bacteria in the gut.

• Artichokes help keep blood sugar levels balanced

The inulin found in artichokes, besides helping to maintain a healthy gut, helps regulate blood sugar levels. Because inulin keeps glucose levels from spiking, inulin-rich foods like artichokes are a good choice for diabetics.

• Artichokes are an excellent diet food

Artichokes are surprisingly filling due to their high fiber content yet low in calories (only about 60 in each one), carbohydrates, and fats so they can easily fit into most diet plans. Just be careful about how much sauce you put on them!