What Is Artichoke Good For?

Artichoke Attributes
Botanical name: Cynara scolymus

Artichoke Nutrition Facts

A member of the sunflower family of vegetables, the artichoke is actually a perennial thistle.1 First cultivated in the Mediterranean region, artichokes were popular among the Roman nobility. They were prepared in honey and vinegar, then seasoned with cumin, which resulted in a scrumptious treat all-year round.2

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Arabs cultivated the plant and took it to Spain. Another contributor to its popularity is Catherine de Medici, who took artichokes to France when she arrived from Florence to marry Henry II.3

Today, California provides virtually all of the artichokes in the U.S. The California Artichoke Advisory Board notes that it is a minor crop compared to wheat and rice, but still contributes more than $50 million to the economy.4 If left to grow wild, artichokes blossom into large purple flowers.

Health Benefits of Artichoke

A medium artichoke (128 grams) can supply 6.9 grams of fiber,5 which is important in promoting regular bowel movement as it adds bulk to your stools. Other benefits include easing symptoms associated with common digestive disorders such as diarrhea and constipation.6

Fiber can also help lower blood sugar7 and blood pressure levels,8 prevent inflammation9 and protect heart health,10 as well as reduce your bad cholesterol levels.11 The cynarin in artichokes (note the botanical name) increases bile production in your liver, which in turn rids cholesterol from your body.12

Another benefit of artichokes is its vitamin C content, also known as ascorbic acid.13 This nutrient provides antioxidant action to protect cells from damage from free radicals (such as air pollution),14 as well as reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.15 Vitamin C also supplies collagen to help wounds heal quickly and protects the body from disease by helping it absorb iron.16

Other extras in artichokes include vitamin K (another antioxidant) and folate. Minerals also are plentiful, serving up good amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium and phosphorus. 17

health benefits of artichoke

How to Grow Artichokes

The great thing about the artichoke is that it can grow practically anywhere, but the best locations are those with mild winters and cool summers.18 Furthermore, your garden should have full sun exposure and well-draining soil. Plenty of water is also key to growing high-quality artichokes.19

There are three ways to plant artichokes: seeds, roots or shoots. Beginners are generally recommended to employ the root method. Dig the artichokes deep into the soil and place a shovel-full of compost over them. Space them properly 3 to 5 feet apart since they will be taking up lots of space once they grow. Keep the soil mulched to conserve moisture.20

You may use organic mulch such as grass clippings, straw, aged manure or a mixture of all three to increase harvest quality. Artichokes generally bloom in the early summer, with each stem forming several flower buds.21

How to Pick Good Artichokes

The ideal time for harvesting artichokes begins around late July or early August until the frost arrives. Pick artichokes once they reach full size, but just before the bracts begin to open up.22 As an added tip, check if they are at least 3 inches in diameter — that is the opportune harvest moment. When cutting the artichoke, snip off 1 to 3 inches of the stem for easy handling.23

When storing artichokes, carve a thin slice off the stem. Then, sprinkle the leaves with water and place in an airtight container. This will last you up to a week.

Artichoke Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 47  
Calories from Fat 1  
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 0 g
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 94 mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 11 g 4%
Dietary Fiber 5 g 22%
Sugar 1 g  
Protein 3 g  
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 20%
Calcium 4% Iron 7%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Studies Done on Artichoke

Extracts from edible parts of artichokes were found to have negative effects on breast cancer cells in clinical trials conducted in 2011. Cancer cell movement and invasion were shown to be “remarkably inhibited,” indicating the cancer-fighting capabilities of artichokes.24 Other tests showed that not only did artichokes show significant antioxidative potential, but also slowed liver cancer cell activity.25

A flavonoid in artichoke called silymarin was found to be a skin cancer chemopreventive26 or anticarcinogenic agent in a university hospital study in Cleveland. Artichoke and green tea both were deemed by the study to be natural agents with the capability to lower and even prevent human skin cancers.

Artichoke Healthy Recipes:
Leek and Artichoke Soup

Artichoke Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon oil

2 artichokes

2 leeks, washed and sliced (white part only)

1 potato, quartered and thinly sliced

6 lettuce leaves, sliced into 1/4 inch strips

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 mint leaves, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

5 1/2 cups of water

1 pound fresh peas, washed

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Procedures:

  1. Prepare the artichokes by breaking off the tough outer leaves. Cut off the top 2/3 of the remaining inner leaves. Cut in quarters, remove the chokes and dice the trimmed hearts into small pieces.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the prepared leeks, artichokes, garlic, potato, lettuce, parsley and mint leaves. Add some salt for seasoning and 1/2 cup of water, stirring constantly until all the vegetables have softened — about five minutes.
  3. Add the fresh peas and remaining water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add salt to taste. Puree soup for a smoother texture if desired. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

(From Artichoke Recipes)

Artichoke Fun Facts

In 1947, California selected its first official Artichoke Queen: Marilyn Monroe.

Summary

While artichokes are not as well-known in America as other vegetables, it is every bit as table-worthy whether steamed, boiled, roasted, stuffed or breaded, and added to dips and soups. Nutritionally, they’re proven cancer inhibitors, supplying excellent amounts of vitamins C and K, as well as folate.

If you’ve never tried roasted artichokes, cut off the top third and the stem, making them look like a flower. Tuck a few garlic cloves inside, spritz with coconut oil and lemon juice and a shake of salt, and wrap tightly with foil. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour and 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, the leaves are wonderful peeled one by one, scraped and savored. Artichokes are good for your health — and for dinner.


References:

  • 1 The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Symposium Proceedings., 1996 Apr;1(2):209-14
  • 2 What’s Cooking America, “Artichokes History”
  • 3 National Geographic, November 12, 2014
  • 4 California Artichoke Advisory Board, “Artichoke Farms”
  • 5 USDA Agricultural Research Service, “Artichokes, (Globe or French), Raw”
  • 6 WebMD, “The Facts About Fiber”
  • 7 The Journal of Nutrition, 2008 Mar;138(3):439-42
  • 8 Food & Function, 2016 Apr;7(4):1864-71
  • 9 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006 Apr;83(4):760-766
  • 10 Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004 Feb 23;164(4):370-6
  • 11 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999 Jan 1;69(1):30-42
  • 12 Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2015 Dec;70(4):441-53
  • 13 SELFNutritionData, “Artichokes, (Globe or French), Raw”
  • 14 Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2003 Feb;22(1):18-35
  • 15 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004 Dec;80(6):1508-20
  • 16 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1977 Feb 1;30(2):235-241
  • 17 https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/30/2/235/4650136
  • 18 Vegetable Gardener, April 25, 2009
  • 19 Gardening Know How, “Artichokes Growing in Your Garden — Tips to Grow Artichoke Plants”
  • 20 Gardening Know How, “Artichokes Growing in Your Garden — Tips to Grow Artichoke Plants”
  • 21 Bonnie Plants, “Growing Artichokes”
  • 22 Gardening Know How, “Picking an Artichoke — When and How to Harvest Artichokes”
  • 23 Bonnie Plants, “Growing Artichokes”
  • 24 Journal of Cellular Physiology, 2012 Sep;227(9):3301-9
  • 25 Nutrition and Cancer, 2008;60(2):276-83
  • 26 The Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Symposium Proceedings., 1996 Apr;1(2):209-14