The artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a vegetable with an abundance of health benefits. Although it has only recently caught the attention of the scientific community, the artichoke is believed to be an incredibly healthy food which can support digestion processes and reduce cholesterol levels. The bitter taste of the vegetable is indicative of cynarine, a natural compound known to support gallbladder activity and stimulate the production of bile acids to improve digestion. Research shows silymarin, a compound in artichokes has hepatoprotective properties and exhibits anticancer activity in response to skin cancer cells.
Eating artichokes stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder which, in turn, helps break down fats, contributing to better digestion. In addition to this, the vegetable is an excellent source of fiber, providing 5.4 g of dietary fiber for every 100 g. Dietary fiber binds to fats and limits their absorption at the intestinal level. The less fats from food our intestines absorb, the lower the cholesterol. Moreover, fiber adds bulk to stools and stimulates intestinal motility, contributing to more regular and easy bowel movements and constipation relief.
Being a great source of fiber, the artichoke promotes colon health. Because it retains water and adds bulk to stools, fiber facilitates easy bowel movements, reducing the time our colon is exposed to the toxins in waste material. And the less your colon is exposed to waste, the healthier it is. Research indicates that a sufficient intake of fiber can lower the risks of developing colon cancer. Even more, by relieving constipation naturally, artichokes make a good food to eat for anyone with hemorrhoids. Lastly, because it limits the absorption of fats and satiates without providing calories, fiber promotes weight loss. Eating foods like artichoke can help reduce belly fat.
As of 2016, new dietary guidelines recommend getting 28 g of dietary fiber a day from food sources. At the same time, fiber comes with some side effects. For example, too much can prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals, potentially contributing to nutritional deficiencies. Moderation is the key so make sure you eat just enough fiber to help lower your cholesterol levels, ease and relieve constipation, manage hemorrhoids and weight and promote colon health.
According to the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:
100 g of artichoke has 5.4 g of dietary fiber
1 medium artichoke (less than 130 g) has 6.9 g of dietary fiber
1 large artichoke (a little over 160 g) has 8.7 g of fiber
Other macronutrients per 100 g of artichoke include: 47 kcal, 3.27 g of protein, 0.15 g of fat, 10.5 g of carbohydrates and 1 g of sugar. What this means is that artichokes are low in calories and make an ideal diet food. The fact that they have over 3 g of protein further recommends them for weight loss and as a healthy food. Protein is one of three major macro-nutrients that supply energy to the body. The amino acids that make up protein also help synthesize neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate sleep, appetite and mood and support cognitive functions, especially memory and learning. Lastly, artichokes have a high carbohydrate content and provide quick energy for the body.
Artichokes contain excellent amounts of vitamin B9 as well, providing approximately 68 mcg/100 g of fresh vegetable, which represents around 17% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin B9 (or folic acid) plays a crucial part in DNA synthesis. It prevents neural tube defects in newborns and helps make red blood cells, preventing anemia and counteracting fatigue. For this reason it is extremely important that women increase their vitamin B9 intake before conceiving and during pregnancy. Artichoke, lentils, spinach, cabbage, white, red and black beans are all wonderful, natural sources of vitamin B9.
The artichoke is an even more surprising vegetable: 100 g of artichoke contains 20% of the RDI of vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C boost immunity and help the body develop resistance against a variety of infectious agents naturally. In addition to this, vitamin C boasts incredible antioxidant properties, offering protection against free radical damage, with visible benefits on skin appearance. The nutrient stimulates collagen synthesis and has anti-aging benefits, counteracting wrinkles and other signs of old age. However, vitamin C is a highly sensitive nutrient, especially to cooking heat. If you want to enjoy the benefits of vitamin C in artichokes, then you should eat them raw.
Like most green leaf vegetables, artichokes are a good source of vitamin K, providing 14.8 micrograms/100 g. Meeting your daily requirements can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcification, poor blood coagulation and lower the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. Artichoke alongside other green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, turnip green, broccoli, romaine lettuce and parsley are great sources of vitamin K, but should be consumed in limited amounts or avoided if you are at risk of blood clots. Talk to your doctor about whether or not it is safe for you to eat artichokes and other green leaf vegetables if you are on anticoagulants.
The vegetable is rich in antioxidants such as silymarin, caffeic acid and ferulic acid. As antioxidants, these compounds protect against free radical damage and protects against oxidative stress-related chronic diseases such as stroke, cancer or Alzheimer’s. Silymarin, in particular, holds impressive benefits. Also found in milk thistle, silymarin boasts strong hepatoprotective properties and is used in liver diseases to promote liver cell regeneration, reduce inflammation and stop the proliferation of tumor cells. Artichokes appear to be a good substitute for silymarin supplements.
Artichokes further contain good amounts of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, making them a great addition to any diet. Artichokes are a moderate source of magnesium and phosphorus for bone health, copper and manganese with antioxidant properties and iron for preventing anemia and restoring vitality. Overall, they have a tonic effect. In addition to this, artichokes boasts benefits for digestion and energy metabolism as a result of a varied B vitamin profile. If you are contemplating making some new addition to your diet, artichokes are a great option.