Artichokes are hardly the most popular vegetable around. The spikey exterior may not be the most welcoming feature, but if you can get past that, artichokes are pretty amazing.
Here’s a fun little bit of trivia…An artichoke actually isn’t a vegetable, it’s the bud of a flowering thistle. The portion that you eat would otherwise turn into a purple flower if left alone.
These undeveloped buds are rich in nutrients, and while they may be challenging to prepare, the benefits of artichokes are definitely worth it.
For starters, artichokes are rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral found in over 300 enzymes produced in your body and it is estimated that up to 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium.
This mineral is essential for quite a few important biological processes, including the creation of ATP for cellular energy, the regulation of blood sugar, dilation of blood vessels, and the contractions of heart muscles.
One artichoke can contain about 25% of your daily value of magnesium to keep your body functioning optimally.
Delicious Benefits of Artichokes
Artichokes are also an excellent source of antioxidants. In fact, artichokes contain more antioxidants than blueberries, spinach, and broccoli. Antioxidants like luteolin may help lower your cholesterol levels; and anthocyanins like rutin, and gallic acid may help to ward off cancer and stop its growth. These antioxidants are essential for combatting free radicals, which can severely damage cells or destroy them completely.
Dietary fiber is another essential nutrient that’s important for digestive health. An artichoke can provide nearly half of your daily value of dietary fiber.
Artichokes also contain cynarin, a compound that prompts your body to produce more bile, which improves the efficiency of digestion.
The artichoke is also rich in a number of different vitamins, including:
- Vitamin C to support immunity, cellular repair and renewal
- Vitamin K for bone and brain health
- B-complex vitamins to promote proper cellular function
- Folic acid for the synthesis of DNA
Your Heart Loves Artichokes Too…
Your heart reaps the benefits of artichokes too. LDL cholesterol or the “bad” kind can clog up your arteries and put unnecessary strain on your heart.
Artichokes may help to reduce the level of LDL cholesterol and increase the level of HDL cholesterol, the good kind. This is good news for your heart, as it won’t have to work nearly as hard.
The potassium content of artichokes can also help out your heart. Potassium helps reverse the inflammatory effects of excess sodium by acting as a vasodilator and allowing the blood to flow more freely throughout your body.
If you are hypertensive, artichokes may be able to help your manage your high blood pressure.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: how am I supposed to eat that thing?
While the task may seem daunting, preparing an artichoke can be pretty simple. You can roast or grill them like you would most vegetables.
The easiest way to cook an artichoke:
I love to bake artichokes. I know most like to boil these thistly babies. But for me baking them concentrates the flavor and gives it an added depth of flavor.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set one oven rack in the middle.
- Cut off the tops and trim the petals
- Spread the petals and drizzle olive oil and sea sea salt
- Double wrap each artichoke (separately) with foil. Use two layers. Seal each packet well, by pinching and twisting them.
- Place foil wrapped artichokes onto oven rack directly.
- Bake for 60 minutes for medium sized artichokes or one hour and 20 minutes for jumbo sized one.
- Remove from oven and let cool, before unwrapping.
You can tell when an artichoke is fully cooked when a knife goes smoothly through it, like a baked potato. Serve with homemade mayonnaise and enjoy!
Try artichokes in a stew, a salad, or even a stir-fry. At most grocery stores you’ll be able to find fresh artichokes and canned artichoke hearts, both of which can be used in different recipes. You’ll just have to experiment and see what you like!
You really can’t go wrong with the benefits of artichokes. They are about as versatile and powerful a food as you could ask for. However, if you have allergies to other types of thistle you may want to steer clear of artichoke, as you could be allergic to that too.
Despite its rough exterior, the artichoke really is a superfood that you should consider. After all some of the best things in life are worth a little bit of work. Your body will thank you.