The artichoke is not only an exquisite and versatile vegetable in the kitchen but it is also a very important vegetable for the prevention of serious diseases. Its regular intake has several health benefits. Let’s see which ones
The artichoke, botanical name Cynara scolymus is a plant with particular properties belonging to the Asteraceae family. The plant is of Mediterranean origin, has a robust and branched stem that can reach one meter and twenty centimeters in height.
The artichoke is harvested from October to June and many species bloom several times during the year.
In Italy it is widespread, especially in the Mediterranean area. The largest crops are found in Liguria, Tuscany, Sardinia, Lazio and Puglia. Our country is currently the world’s largest producer of artichokes.
- Chemical Composition
- Benefits to the Liver
- Heart Benefits
- Birth Defects
- Blood Pressure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
On the market there are different qualities of artichokes , rounded or elongated, with thorns or without, in different shades of green and with purple hues. The varieties of artichoke grown in the world are around 90.
Its health benefits include heart and liver health, low blood sugar levels and better digestion.
The artichokes contain little fat and are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and folate. According to scientific research, these delicious vegetables are rich in compounds with antioxidant properties ( 1 )
The heart of the artichoke is the most used part of the plant but it is good to know that the nutrients with more properties are present in the leaves. As proof of this, the supplements that have become so popular in recent years thanks to their benefits on the heart, are derived from the leaves of the artichoke.
|Chemical composition for 100 gr of artichoke|
|Vitamin A, RAE||mcg||1|
The secret of its virtues lies in the cinarina, the aromatic substance that gives it its characteristic bitter taste and many of its beneficial and therapeutic properties.
The extract contains polyphenols, the main ones being chlorogenic acid, cinarin, inulin and luteolin.
- Luteolin: it is a powerful antioxidant which, according to various studies, helps prevent inflammation and tumors. ( 2 )
- Cinarina: another antioxidant that stimulates bile production, helps the intestine to digest fats and absorb vitamins.
- Inulin: it is a prebiotic, it can increase the amount of beneficial microorganisms in the intestine.
- Chlorogenic acid: it is an antioxidant that helps to form bonds with toxic compounds and therefore has detoxifying properties.
Every 100 grams of edible part has a calorie intake of 50 kcal.
Artichoke: Properties and Benefits
Rich in Antioxidants
This vegetable has a high antioxidant power and appears at N° 15 in the ORAC (Oxygen radicals absorption capacity) list. This measurement tests the ability a plant has to absorb free radicals.
Of all the vegetables, the artichokes have the highest level of antioxidants. According to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) out of 1.000 different types of vegetable foods, artichokes are in 7 th place for antioxidant content.
It contains many vital antioxidant and phytonutrient compounds. In addition to minerals and vitamins, in fact, in its chemical composition we find quercetin, rutin, cinarin and gallic acid. These compounds all have a powerful antioxidant activity.
In the heart of the artichoke there is also chlorogenic acid, a substance with strong antioxidant properties, which is able to prevent arteriosclerotic and cardiovascular diseases. One of the most important advantages of containing many antioxidants is its ability to prevent many forms of cancer.
According to the latest studies, artichokes, among all the vegetables, are the richest in antioxidants. ( 3 )
Protection Against Cancer
In laboratory studies, artichokes have shown their efficacy against tumors, in particular against breast cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. ( 4 ) A study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that the extract of artichoke induces death by apoptosis of cells of breast cancer. ( 5 )
In support of these plant properties there is also an Egyptian study conducted on rats. The research highlights how the fish oil and and artichoke have protective effects against hepatocellular carcinoma. ( 6 )
Another 2015 study showed that leaf extract induces apoptosis death in malignant pleural mesothelioma cells. ( 7 )
Animal studies and in vitro revealed a tumor of limited growth from extract of artichoke. ( 8, 9, 10 ) According to the researchers, the compounds responsible for these benefits are some antioxidants such as quercetin, gallic acid, silymarin and rutin.
In some test-tube studies silymarin has proven effective in the prevention and treatment of skin cancer. ( 11 )
Benefits to the Liver
The organ that derives the greatest benefits from the properties of the artichoke is the liver. This property is attributable to cinarin, an acid also present in the leaves. Its active ingredients are deactivated by cooking (for this reason it is better to consume raw artichoke ).
The cinarina has been shown to stimulate the production of bile, a compound essential for the digestive process that is produced by the liver. ( 12 ) Studies confirm that without adequate bile production, no diet can be effective for health. This is because many of the essential nutrients would not be adequately absorbed by the body. ( 13 )
Other studies have shown that artichoke leaf extract is effective in alleviating the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (SII). The symptoms of this disorder are often painful and include stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal swelling. ( 14 )
A study conducted in Iran on 90 people with nonalcoholic liver steatosis gave good results. After two months of daily intake of 600 mg of artichoke extract, patients’ liver function improved. ( 17 )
A study conducted in Ukraine on obese people with nonalcoholic liver steatosis has given similar results to the previous one. After two months of daily intake of its extract, inflammation of the liver has improved and fat storage has also decreased. ( 18 )
According to scientific research a very important property of the vegetable is based on the ability that cinarina has to lower the level of cholesterol bad LDL in the blood. In this way, this vegetable protects the body from hypertension, arteriosclerosis, heart attack and stroke. ( 19 )
A German study of 143 high cholesterol people gave positive results. After six weeks of daily intake of artichoke extract, patients had a 22,9 % reduction in LDL cholesterol. ( 22 )
A recent review of studies has confirmed that the artichoke extract taken daily leads to a reduction in bad LDL cholesterol. ( 23 ) According to the researchers one of the most beneficial compounds from this point of view is luteolin. It is an antioxidant compound that prevents cholesterol formation. ( 24 )
In addition to the ability to lower cholesterol, this precious vegetable also has a lipid and glycemic function. All these properties according to the studies exercise a protective function against the heart and the cardiovascular system. ( 25 )
Help for Diabetics
Scientific studies show that it helps to balance blood sugar levels ( 26 ). Tests have currently been performed on rats. However, the results suggest that the ethanol extract of Cynara scolymus leaves has anti-hyperglycemic properties. This bodes well for future application on humans. ( 27 )
A study by the University of Pavia on obese people found that the artichoke has beneficial effects in reducing blood sugar. ( 28 )
Another study of healthy people has shown that the consumption of boiled artichokes during a meal reduces blood sugar and insulin 30 minutes after eating. ( 29 )
Prevents birth defects
These vegetables are also valuable allies of pregnant women. The high levels of folic acid in fact, according to studies, can prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects in the offspring. ( 30 )
The artichokes provide about 12% of the recommended dose of vitamin K. There are studies showing that this vitamin offers protection against neuronal damage and brain degeneration. It therefore represents a preventive method for Alzheimer’s and dementia in the elderly.
In addition to this, their vasodilating properties allow a greater supply of oxygen to the brain. The artichoke also contains good amounts of phosphorus. Its deficiency , according to recent studies, is connected to a serious decline in cognitive abilities. ( 31 )
So what better way to keep your brain in shape than to eat artichokes ?
Always the Vitamin K plays an important role in bone formation and maintenance of their health. In addition to this they are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
Scientific research suggests that these nutrients are essential for bone health and maintenance. Among the benefits of its intake there is therefore also the prevention of osteoporosis. ( 32 )
An Iranian study of people with high blood pressure found that daily consumption of artichoke extract for 12 weeks reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. ( 33 ) These vegetables are also a good source of potassium which, thanks to its vasodilating properties, helps regulate the blood pressure. ( 34 )
There are also some animal studies that show that the vegetable is able to promote the formation of eNOS, an enzyme that intervenes in the vasodilation process. ( 35 )
The artichoke is a good source of fiber that promotes digestive health by nourishing the good bacteria of the intestine. This reduces the risk of intestinal cancers and shelters you from constipation and diarrhea. ( 36 )
One of the compounds present in the artichoke that has prebiotic properties is inulin. An English study found that inulin-containing artichoke extract taken daily for 3 weeks increases intestinal bacteria.
The artichokes can be useful for relieving indigestion symptoms such as nausea, bloating and heartburn. ( 37 )
A German study confirmed the digestive properties of the artichoke. After 6 weeks of taking artichoke leaf extract will reduce symptoms such as flatulence and a feeling of fullness. ( 38 )
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disease that affects the digestive system. The symptoms are abdominal bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and flatulence. In a study of people with IBS, this vegetable gave positive results. In fact, 96% of the study participants reported that the artichoke extract is just as effective as the drugs for diarrhea and constipation. ( 39 )
Artichoke and Tips
The great demand for artichokes on the market leads large producers to use substances that are not really beneficial, not to say toxic. It is therefore necessary, even at the expense of a higher cost, to purchase products of safe biological origin.
Finally, a recommendation to mothers who are breastfeeding or about to do so. Better to refrain from consuming artichokes during this period, as they reduce milk production.
Do you want to know how to recognize the freshness of an artichoke ? Grab them with your index and thumb and press. If the artichoke is hard and compact, it is fresh if it tends to flatten but it is not.
A fresh artichoke must have the tips still well closed and if the stem has anchors of the leaves attached, these must not be withered, but on the contrary very fresh.
The artichoke is closely related to daisy, calendula and chrysanthemum, therefore to flowers. People who are therefore allergic to these flowers can also be allergic to artichokes.
Those with liver or gallbladder problems should not consume these vegetables as they may amplify the effects of symptoms. Their consumption is in fact recommended as a protective method and preventive for liver and gallbladder but not like cure.
Finally, artichokes have diuretic properties, so if you suffer from an overactive bladder, avoid consuming them.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that the stem of the most tender artichokes, once deprived of its external peel, can be eaten raw in salad or in pinzimonio. Even eaten alone, raw and without seasoning, it has a really appreciable taste.
A study at the Comenius University in Slovakia has in-depth research on ability extract of artichoke leaves to prevent the growth of leukemic cells.
Thanks to its diuretic properties, the artichoke is used in the preparation of slimming products while, thanks to its purifying and detoxifying action of the liver, it can be used in cases of mild poisoning.
For this purpose an infusion is prepared with two teaspoons of dried leaves and half a liter of water which will be drunk three times a day in the measure of half a glass at a time.
Much of the artichoke’s active ingredients are contained in its leaves which are normally not consumed. Well, preparing an infusion with its leaves, you will get a very bitter drink that will be able to reduce the percentage of cholesterol in the blood.
If you cook artichokes, do not throw away the cooking water , as it is very rich in minerals and can be added to soups with consequent beneficial effects.
In confirmation of this it is important to note that even in the herbal and medicinal use of the artichoke the part that is used is the actual leaf.
The artichoke is a well-known and consumed vegetable since ancient times. It was already used as food by the Egyptian people and later by the Greeks and Romans.
Maybe not Everyone Knows That
A great way to consume raw artichokes is to season them with oil, lemon, salt and garlic. For those who love its taste, even a little bottarga is fine. If you want to prepare this tasty salad remember that the internal part of the artichoke, once cut and in contact with the air, oxidizes immediately assuming an unpleasant dark color. To avoid it, every time you cut a piece of it, soak it in lemon juice.
In the United States, California produces almost 100% of the entire production of American artichokes, with the city of Castroville becoming very famous for the annual artichoke festival.
If you want to keep the artichokes in the refrigerator for 6-7 days without their appearance and properties altering, follow this simple procedure: take the artichoke, remove the harder external leaves, cut away the stem leaving only about 5 cm, wash it and dry it.
Once this is done, take a tea towel, wrap the previously prepared artichokes and put everything in a plastic bag that you will leave open. Store in the refrigerator and consume them within 6-7 days.
Artichoke: Properties and Benefits
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