Knowing what foods benefit our health can be challenging with so many fad diets and conflicting nutrition information. One often overlooked vegetable that deserves more attention is the artichoke.
Not only are artichokes low in calories and high in nutrients, but they also offer a range of health benefits. In this article, we'll explore the science behind the many health benefits of artichokes and provide some easy and tasty ways to incorporate them into your diet.
Artichokes are packed with nutrients. According to the USDA, a medium raw artichoke (128 grams) contains:
Artichokes supply numerous essential vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories and contain several compounds with antioxidant properties, contributing to their health benefits.
Integrating artichokes into your diet offers a range of benefits, which include:
Artichoke may have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. An extensive review of over 700 people found that adding artichoke leaf extract to your diet daily for 5-13 weeks helped reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the subjects.
Similarly, a study involving 143 adults with high cholesterol showed that taking artichoke leaf extract every day for six weeks helped decrease total and LDL cholesterol. Further research also showed that eating artichoke extract can help boost “good” HDL cholesterol in adults.
These benefits are primarily because artichoke leaves help the body process cholesterol more efficiently. Artichoke also contains an antioxidant called luteolin, which prevents cholesterol formation.
Artichokes may also be great for people with high blood pressure. One study involving 98 men with high blood pressure found that consuming artichoke extract daily for 12 weeks reduced diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
Artichoke also stimulates the enzyme eNOS, which aids in blood vessel dilation. In addition, these plants are high in potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure.
Artichokes are high in fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system by feeding gut-friendly bacteria. These beneficial bacteria reduce your risk of bowel cancer and alleviate symptoms of constipation and diarrhea.
Artichokes also contain inulin, a fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
One study discovered that eating artichokes daily for three weeks improved the gut bacteria of 12 adults. Artichokes are also high in cynarin, a naturally occurring compound that stimulates bile production, accelerates gut movement and improves digestion.
Artichokes may help regulate blood glucose levels. One small study found that adding boiled artichokes to your meal reduces blood sugar and insulin levels 30 minutes after eating. This effect only occurred among healthy adults who did not have metabolic syndrome.
The beneficial effect of artichokes on blood sugar levels has been linked to alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme found in abundance in this vegetable. Alpha-glucosidase breaks down starch into glucose, impacting blood sugar levels. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of artichokes on blood sugar levels.
Artichokes may protect your liver from damage and aid new tissue growth. They also stimulate the production of bile, a fluid that helps your liver remove harmful toxins. In one animal study, researchers found that giving artichoke extract to rats helped prevent liver damage and improved liver function.
In a two-month study of obese adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, taking artichoke extract daily reduced liver inflammation and fat deposition. The presence of cynarin and silymarin in artichokes is thought to be responsible for these beneficial effects.
Here are a few suggestions on how to add artichokes to your diet:
Artichokes are a nutritional powerhouse that can provide numerous health benefits when included in your diet. They provide a variety of vitamins and minerals required for good health and contain unique compounds that can protect against diseases. You can easily incorporate artichokes into your daily meals and reap their many health benefits by trying new recipes and experimenting with different cooking methods.