Many questions surround the artichoke. Such as what is so great about it? What is the difference between the leaf and the flower? Are there really benefits to eating this flower?
The greatness of the artichoke lies in its ability to aid the liver.
The history of the artichoke goes back to the 8th century when it was mentioned by Homer. At this time, artichokes were only thought of as a decoration. Shortly after this changed; the Greeks began eating the leaf and flower of the artichoke.
Fun fact: Artichokes can grow to be almost six and a half feet tall.
What’s the difference between the leaf and flower?
The part that is most commonly eaten in an artichoke is the flower—which is essentially unopened. The “heart” is what is in the middle of the flower. Other parts of this plant are also edible.
The stem, leaf, and plant are all consumable. Each can be made into a concentrated extract. This extract packs some interesting benefits due to the natural chemicals in the plant that have known medicinal properties.
What are the Benefits?
Artichokes have been linked to many—both proven and unproven—benefits. Some of the proven benefits include helping the heart, treating high cholesterol, kidney problems, arthritis, hepatitis C and liver problems.
Other remedies the artichoke have been used for include: snakebites, increasing the flow of urine, and the plant has been used as a stimulant.
Artichokes and the Liver
One of the most notable and proven benefits of artichokes are their effect on the liver. They are said to perform a natural liver cleanse.
This cleanse is due to two phytonutrients—natural chemicals found in fruits and vegetables—known as cynarine and silymarin. Cynarine helps out the liver in the production of necessary bile, which helps break down fats when digested and gets rid of toxins in the system. Silymarin joins the picture, aiding cynarine by protecting the cells of the liver. In turn, the two make a dynamic team in regenerating liver cells.
The best part is these finds have been backed by numerous studies. In fact, the extract from artichoke leaves is one of the only “herbal remedies which the clinical and experimental trials have complemented each other,” according to an article published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in December 2015. Of these finds, the “most significant appears to be its beneficial effect on the liver.”
Several other studies have found a positive correlation between the liver and artichokes. One article published in Biological Trace Element Research found the extract from the leaf of artichokes decreases the fat and cholesterol levels in the liver.
In Experimental and Toxicology Pathology, the research found that artichoke extract given before exposure to harmful liver toxins can prevent damage to the liver.
Researchers in Italy found that the artichoke extract can protect liver cells in humans. This study, published in Nutrition and Cancer found the antioxidants in artichokes protect the liver cells from damage. More remarkably, it also found that the extract can delay liver cancer.
Aside from cleansing the liver, artichokes pack a punch with many essential vitamins. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, B-vitamins, Vitamin K, potassium, and phosphorus.
All of these are great for you and help your eyes, brain, and keep your bones healthy.
How to Eat Artichokes
First, before eating artichokes, learn how to pick one out. If you can find fresh ones this is the best option. Make sure they are green and do not have any wilted leaves or brown spots. Next, you will need to learn how to cut artichokes.
Cut the tops off by roughly ¾ of an inch. After this cut some of the petals away at the base. Remember not to discard too many of these leaves as they are highly nutritious. Cut away the stem next. Make sure you rinse them off after this step.
There are many methods for preparing them such as steaming or boiling them. The cooking time varies on their size but the rule of thumb is about 25-45 minutes.
Artichokes should stay together once they are cooked.
In order to be heart healthy, consider omitting the traditional butter dipping sauce. Instead, opt for substituting a dipping sauce with a healthy unsaturated fat in it, such as an olive oil based sauce. Or you can use greek yogurt, lemon juice, and dijon mustard mixed together for a dipping sauce.