FoodArtichokes: The ancient superfood Americans are missing out on

Artichokes: The ancient superfood Americans are missing out on

Artichoke cut in half
Artichoke cut in half
Images source: © Adobe Stock | izaskun

1:34 PM EDT, June 13, 2024

In the US, artichokes have not yet become as widespread as in Southern countries, which is unfortunate because they are among the healthiest and oldest vegetables in the world. Artichoke extracts are often found in cosmetics and supplements that support digestive system function.

Due to the prevailing climate, the common artichoke is rarely cultivated in the US. However, it is popular in Mediterranean countries, the Canary Islands, Egypt, and many parts of Asia and South America. Interestingly, artichokes are considered one of the oldest vegetables cultivated by humans and one of the healthiest. See why it's worth getting to know them.

Why should you eat artichokes?

Artichokes are rich in antioxidants, such as cynarine and silymarin, which support liver health and may contribute to tissue regeneration. They also contain inulin, a fibre that acts as a prebiotic, supporting healthy gut flora. Research has shown that artichoke extracts can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL), which benefits cardiovascular health. Additionally, artichokes are a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.

Artichokes can support weight loss by accelerating metabolism, allowing for quicker shedding unwanted pounds. Artichoke extract is often included in various diet pills and weight loss supplements.

One of the most significant advantages of artichokes is their richness in antioxidants such as rutin, quercetin, gallic acid, luteolin, chlorogenic acid, anthocyanins, cynarine, and silymarin. Thanks to these compounds, artichokes can effectively help prevent the formation of cancers.

How to prepare artichokes for eating?

In the US, fresh artichokes are increasingly available for sale, especially in the spring and early summer. It's worth paying attention to the appearance of the leaves – they should be firm, sharp, and green. The artichoke flower bud is consumed, but the hardened scales should be removed before eating to reach the juicy flower base, known as the artichoke heart.

Artichokes are one of the healthiest vegetables in the world.
Artichokes are one of the healthiest vegetables in the world.© Pixabay

Preparing an artichoke for consumption requires a few steps. First, artichokes should be thoroughly washed. Then, the tough top should be cut off, and the woody outer leaves should be peeled away. After cutting, it's good to rub the artichoke with lemon juice to prevent oxidation and darkening of the vegetable.

Artichokes are a versatile culinary ingredient. They can be steamed, stewed, baked, and even pickled. Their delicate, slightly nutty flavor makes them a perfect match for various ingredients such as garlic, lemon, parsley, and olive oil. In Mediterranean cuisine, they are often served with mayonnaise or vinaigrette-based sauces.

Artichokes can be eaten raw or cooked. They are boiled for 30-40 minutes in salted water with a bay leaf, garlic, and lemon. Properly prepared artichokes are tasty without additional seasoning, but it's worth adding lemon juice, olive oil, and freshly ground pepper.

You can make a salad from raw young artichokes. The soft parts of the vegetable should be finely chopped and mixed with oil, garlic, pepper, salt, or vinaigrette sauce. Artichokes go well with aromatic herbs like basil, lemon, tomatoes, anchovies, and eggs.

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