Food – Artichoke Health

The unique and lovely artichoke, even though it may look like a lobster, is very good for you and for your liver. This plant is a wonderful source of silymarin which is the active ingredient in the herb milk thistle. Silymarin has long been known to help protect and nourish the liver. There are at least four ways that silymarin benefits the liver:

  • it repairs damaged tissue,
  • it lowers bad enzymes,
  • it boosts good enzymes and
  • it protects the liver from further damage.

Artichokes have plenty of silymarin! And your liver will appreciate it.

While the heart of the artichoke is the favorite of many people the leaves also contain many of the artichoke’s powerful health benefits.

You can steam or simmer the entire baby artichoke (egg size), stem and all, which can then be eaten. However, eating just the meat of the leaves and the heart will provide health benefits.

An ABC News report states that in a recent study, USDA researchers found that artichokes have more disease-fighting antioxidants than any other vegetable they tested. And the egg-size baby version allows you to eat the entire artichoke—heart and leaves—as you would a piece of broccoli. Plus, artichokes are low in calories and high in belly-filling fiber.

Health Diaries state that studies done with artichoke leaf extract have found that they induce apoptosis (cell death) and reduce cell proliferation in many different forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer. An Italian study found that a diet rich in the flavanoids present in artichokes reduces the risk of breast cancer. Artichokes also help the digestive system. They are a natural diuretic. They aid digestion, improve gallbladder function and, as mentioned above, are of great benefit to the liver. One large artichoke contains a quarter of the recommended daily intake of fiber. A medium artichoke has more fiber than a cup of prunes.

Even though artichokes may look hard to handle, just follow a few easy steps and you will be able to enjoy them in no time. Pick artichokes that have a deep, green color and leaves that are close together. If you squeeze the artichoke and it squeaks, that is a sign it is ripe and ready for cooking.

Preparing Artichokes

  • Rinse the artichoke thoroughly before cooking
  • Remove the tough, lower petals
  • Slice off the stem and the top of the artichoke
  • Stand artichoke in a large saucepan, cover halfway with water and simmer, covered, for 30–40 minutes
  • Check for doneness by pulling on a center petal – if it removes easily the artichoke is done

That’s it! If it is not a baby and you can’t eat the entire plant, then take each leaf by the non-fleshy side, and pull the other side through your teeth to remove the tender flesh. Discard the rest of the petal. When you get to the heart, remove the hair and eat the tender part underneath. It is especially delicious when dipped in your favorite dressing.