Artichokes: A Liver-Protecting Mediterranean Treat

Notable Personality Factors of Artichokes:

The personality and character of the artichoke is best explained by its origin: The vegetable comes from the majestic Mediterranean, primarily the south of Spain, France, and Italy.  These three great cultures represent the essence of the artichoke, which symbolizes warmth, relaxation, and luxury like that which is found along the Cote d’Azur.  With such an association, artichokes can’t help but bring pleasure to any meal.  In addition to their culinary qualities, they are also endowed with a unique set of nutritional and therapeutic benefits — particularly when it comes to the liver.

Therapeutic and Healing Properties of Artichokes:***

Folklore has it that the artichoke acts as a safety valve for the liver.  Physicians in ancient Mediterranean cultures alleged that the beloved vegetable buffered the liver against the ill effects of alcohol, and recommended that it always accompany the consumption of red wine.  It turns out that they were right!  In the 1970’s, scientists discovered that the active ingredient in the artichoke was cynarin, a caffeylquinic acid.  Cynarin has been shown to regulate the biliary “tree”— the network of ducts through which bile, after being excreted by the liver, flows into the gallbladder.  Because artichokes have a positive influence on the movement of bile, they do, in fact, shelter the liver from toxins, stress, damage, and aging.

It’s also important to point out that cynarin, along with other powerful phytonutrients found in artichokes, can be helpful in lowering cholesterol.  Not only do artichokes reduce the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver but they also increase the breakdown and excretion of cholesterol through the bile.  In this manner, artichokes have a two-pronged attack in helping the body manage excess cholesterol levels.

Additional Nutritional Benefits of Artichokes:

Artichokes are rich in a starchy carbohydrate called inulin, which has minimal impact on blood sugar and is therefore considered suitable for diabetics and others with blood sugar related illnesses.  Artichokes are also a good source of minerals—such as copper, potassium, calcium, iron, and manganese—and provide several important b-vitamins, such as folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.

Selection and Care of Artichokes:

Layers of dark green leaves and bracts (scales) encircle the soft, juicy heart at the center of the vegetable.  Look for consistently colored vegetables that have compact, tight-fitting bracts.  The best way to prepare an artichoke is to steam it.  The scales can then be plucked off and dipped into your spread or seasoning of choice.

Optimal Use and Combining of Artichokes:

Since artichokes are a starchy vegetable, they do not go well with other starches, such as bread, rice, or potatoes.  Instead, eat your steamed artichoke with other veggies, vegetable soup, and / or a fresh green salad.

***This article is not intended to treat or diagnose any type of health condition or disease. Any nutritional considerations for any health complication should be discussed with your physician or healthcare provider.