What is Artichoke?
Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a plant food cultivated as a vegetable for human consumption. The plant belongs to thistle species. The cluster of flower buds before blossoming alone is edible. It loses its edible character once bloomed.
Artichoke is a plant of Mediterranean origin. But it is now grown in many parts of the world like USA, France, China, Italy, Egypt, Spain etc.
The flowery bud is either green or purple in color growing from medium to big size.
Besides the culinary purpose for which it is grown, extracts from the leaf, root and stem of the plant contain high concentration of beneficial chemicals and is used in various medicines.
100 gm. of cooked artichoke with salt provides 50 calories energy, 11.39 gm. carbohydrates, 8.6 gm. dietary fiber, 2.89 gm. protein and a small amount of fat 0.34gm and sugar 0.99 gm.
It also provides lot of vitamins, vitamin A equivalent lutein and zeaxanthin 464 microgram, folate 89 microgram (22 % of Recommended Daily Amount- RDA) vitamin K 14.8 mg. (14% RDA), vitamin C 7.4 mg. (9% RDA), niacin 1.11 mg. (7% RDA), riboflavin 0.089 mg. (7% RDA) and much lesser quantities of vitamin B6, vitamin E, pantothenic acid and thiamine.
Artichoke of the same quantity also contain minerals, sodium 296 mg.(20%), magnesium 42 mg. (12%), manganese 0.225 mg (11%), phosphorous 73 mg (10%), Potassium 286 mg (6%), zinc 0.4 mg (4%), iron 0.61 mg (5%) and calcium 2% RDA.
Health benefits of Artichoke
Artichoke is a versatile vegetable food providing innumerable health benefits. Consumption of artichoke as a vegetable in cooked form provides amazing health benefits. It has high anti-oxidant and dietary fiber content. Compared with blueberries, grape juice, orange juice, kiwi fruit and broccoli, it has much more anti-oxidant contents. Likewise, dietary fiber content is significantly higher than that available from green peas, oats, broccoli, avocado and potato.
Significant and particular health benefits of artichoke are:
Artichoke lowers cholesterol level and blood pressure. High levels of potassium in artichokes neutralizes the effect of sodium present in it in addition to neutralizing the sodium in the body. Thereby lowering blood pressure. Artichokes leaf extract removes fatty deposits in blood vessels. Cynarin present in the leaves and heart of the plant, folate and vitamin K in the flowery bulb promote cardiovascular health.
The rich dietary fiber present in artichoke is beneficial in improving functioning of the digestive system. Dietary fiber facilitates easy bowel movement and prevents constipation, bloating and flatulence. Even as it relieves the discomfort in the stomach, it prevents intestinal cancers. Artichoke also soothes the gallbladder by reducing inflammations and removing any block in the duct.
Toxins in the blood due to consumption of heavy alcoholic drinks is mostly brought down by artichoke consumption. Due to this reason, artichoke chewing is recommended to people who have overnight hangover caused by drinking. Moreover cynarin and silymarin in artichoke are highly beneficial in protecting the liver from damage.
Minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous and manganese, essential for healthy bones are present in artichoke. These mineral increases bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin C present in artichoke boosts the immune system and help formation of collagen which is required for healthy bones and tissues.
Prevention of cancer
High level of anti-oxidants in artichoke plays a defensive role in preventing free radicals from damaging the immune system. Polyphenols present in good number in artichoke are chemo preventive which not only prevents but also cures cancer. Quercetin and rutin are the two anti-oxidants in artichoke which are capable of preventing development of cancer cells. In addition, vitamin C in it prevents breast cancer by reducing the chances of medical conditions called mucostis and fibrosis. Prostate cancer, leukemia and breast cancer are cured by extracts from artichoke leaves.
Protection during pregnancy
Folic acid present in high level in artichoke has the potential to prevent defects in the neural tubes in the newborn. Folate is vital for the health of the neural tubes. Folic acid is also helpful in enhancing the fertility of both the genders. Artichoke consumption benefits both pregnant women and nursing mothers to a great extent.
The extract of artichoke also finds its use as a flavoring agent in beverages. Cynarin and chlorogenic acid are sweeteners too. Use of artichoke as a cure for snakebite is also in vogue.
Always consume artichoke after cooking only. Before cooking, remove the little thorns at the tip of the leaves. You can the use it like any other vegetable and you can add it to various recipes. You can also add spices to taste and this does not reduce its nutritional value.
Being a thistle and not a vegetable, some people may be allergic to artichoke. Since artichoke increases urine, those suffering from liver or gallbladder disorders should not use artichoke as it may aggravate the problem. This is in spite of the fact that artichoke has properties preventing gallbladder disorders. Artichoke stimulates gall bladder contraction.