Artichoke - the Super Food

Almost any holiday or social gathering in our family is accompanied with Spinach Artichoke Dip. Okay - I know this isn't the healthy version of a recipe I'm about to give you, but it does show that we love artichokes. Another day, we'll talk about a healthier version of the Spinach Artichoke Dip. I do have to admit though - I have never, ever cooked a raw artichoke and as many times as I've seen it demonstrated, I just haven't felt motivated to do it. So, this would be one of the only vegetables I can think of that I prefer canned - unless or until I try cooking the raw one. Usually, and maybe always, the canned artichokes are artichoke hearts, which is what we are discussing here.

How healthy is the artichoke?

Not only does it contain an amazing array of "good for you" benefits detailed below, but some new studies have shown that artichokes also have an unusual amount of antioxidants in the form of phytonutrients. Apparently, one study done by the United States Department of Agriculture gave artichokes top rating for being the highest rated vegetable in anti-oxidant count. I have to admit - I didn't know that. Two of the powerful phytonutrients include Cynarin and Silymarin. You have probably read about Silymarin and its liver strengthening benefits. Silymarin is why Milk Thistle is considered to be a liver tonic, sold as supplements and included in herbal teas. Historically, it has been said that artichokes can cure liver diseases and liver cancer. Read more to find out why.

What is Cynarin?

Studies show and nutrition classes teach that Cynarin can reduce cholesterol production in the liver and "expel sluggish cholesterol" out of the liver and gallbladder. This, therefore, stimulates bile production and flow - a good thing. It is said to lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides while at the same time raising the HDL cholesterol - the good guy.  It protects the liver and enhances liver function.  And I even read in one or two places that Cynarin is said to be a "powerful aphrodisiac" - just repeating what I read and making no promises!

What is Silymarin?

Most of us have heard about Silymarin by reading about Milk Thistle and the liver benefits derived from this herb. Many supplements are now available with Silymarin. To simply quote Wikipedia concerning Silibinin, a major active constituent of Silymarin: "Both in vitro and animal research suggest that silibinin has hepatoprotective (antihepatotoxic) properties that protect liver cells against toxins. Silibinin has also demonstrated anti-cancer effects against human prostate adenocarcinoma cells, estrogen-dependent and -independent human breast carcinoma cells, human ectocervical carcinoma cells, human colon cancer cells, and both small and nonsmall human lung carcinoma cells." 

Pretty impressive I'm thinking.

What else is so healthy about the artichoke?

Depending on which source you choose, below are some really amazing benefits for just one artichoke:

  • High in dietary fiber, which we all need (6.9 to 10 grams!)
  • High in iron
  • High in manganese
  • Very high in magnesium
  • High in niacin
  • High in folate
  • High in phosphorus
  • Very high in potassium!
  • High in Vitamin B6 (a very important one)
  • Very high in Vitamin C
  • Contains 4.2 grams of protein! 

Seriously! This is a powerhouse of nutrition with only around 60 calories (or less) for one medium artichoke. The amount of fiber and protein will vary also with the fiber obviously being higher in a raw artichoke. We used a great website called for some of this information. Of course the problem can be how do we use this incredibly healthy vegetable without adding dressings full of fat or resorting to the marinated ones. I think you'll like this recipe that we've adapted from one on the AICR website and can be found in our blog - Artichoke and Bean Medly.

I'd love to hear your recipes for artichokes and if you use raw ones rather than cooked ones. And for the raw fooders out there, I don't see raw artichokes mentioned too much. Do any of you eat them uncooked and if so, how do you do that?

Thanks for listening!




A few other good sources for additional information about artichokes: