When making a list of the top food to include in a healthy diet, consider adding artichokes to the top. The big, juicy buds of the artichoke plant are so great that they’re considered one of nature’s superfoods. Here’s why!
Artichokes Are Nutritional Powerhouses
Originating in the Mediterranean region, artichokes have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries (did you know that artichokes are a kind of thistle?). While they aren’t prescribed for specific ailments anymore, medieval doctors were on to something: these thistles pack a powerful, nutritional punch!
A medium-sized artichoke (roughly 128 grams before cooking, 120 grams after) is rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One contains more than 25% of your reference daily intake for fibre, and research shows that not enough people are getting fibre in their diets. One type of fibre in artichokes is inulin, a prebiotic fibre that strengthens the “good” bacteria in your gut while staving off “bad” bacteria that cause digestive issues and long-term negative health effects.
Artichokes are especially high in folate and vitamins C and K, and they also include magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. For those of us with plant-heavy diets, artichokes have higher-than-average protein levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.
Artichokes Are Great Additions To Any Weight-Loss Strategy
On top of the nutritional plusses, artichokes are very filling and low on fat and carbs! A medium artichoke has only 60 calories and contains high levels of an antioxidant known as cynarine. This nutrient has been shown to help burn fat and stop the body from retaining fluids.
A healthy diet that includes artichokes also helps curb some of the side effects of obesity. Studies have shown that eating artichokes or an artichoke extract may reduce levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and boost levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol in adults. They also contain luteolin, an antioxidant that research shows stop cholesterol formation; artichoke leaf extract can also encourage the body to process cholesterol, leading to lower levels.
How Should I Prepare And Eat Artichokes?
While they sound intimidating – any member of the thistle family sounds like an odd addition to a diet – preparing and cooking artichokes is very easy! You can steam, boil, grill, roast, or sautée them like you would any of your favourite vegetables, and both the leaves and the “meat” (called the heart) can be eaten!
Steaming is the most popular preparation, and it takes about 20 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the artichoke). Baking is one of the easiest methods: cut off the tips, brush the artichoke with oil, season with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven for 40 minutes at 350°F. Once you’ve cooked them, pull the heart through the leaves with your teeth, then pull off the leaves and dip them in herb butter or aioli. The hearts make for great pizza toppings and leftovers, too.