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Artichoke

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A globe-shaped thistle-like plant, the artichoke is considered a delicacy of sorts amongst vegetabls and is generally consumed on special occasions. Hailing from the composite flower family, the artichoke grows wild in southern Europe. It is also cultivated in areas with Mediterranean climate. Its stem grows up to 1 metre in length and then it branches out into large heads with thistle like flowers. The thickened receptacle (heart) and soft base of the immature flower is usually consumed. Artichokes are known to be very rich in potassium, cynarinand and phytonutrients. Scientists believe that the latter helps in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides. Artichoked are low in calories.

Contents

[edit] Nutrients

100 gms of raw artichoke consumed nourishes the body with 360 gm of potassium, 21 mcg of folate, 41 mcg of calcium and 39 mcg of beta carotene. 100 gms of artichoke contains only 18 calories.

[edit] Traditional Uses

Traditionally the artichoke and other members of the thistle family were prescribed for curing liver related problems. They were also consumed to alleviate problems in blood, thus acting as a purifying or detoxifying tonic and for regulating the flow of bile from the gall bladder. The latter, sped up the breakdown and metabolism of dietary fats. Artichokes also strengthen the kidneys.

[edit] Benefits and Medicinal Properties

High Blood Cholesterol -- Recent research conducted shows that the globe artichoke has substances that appear to substantially reduce cholesterol levels within human blood. The phytonutrient cynarin which is active constituent of the vegetable helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Continued research also indicates that another artichoke extract known as monocaffeoylquinic acid is also found effective in reducing blood cholesterol levels.

High Blood Triglycerides -- Artichoke extract cynarin and monocaffeoylquinic acid have shown to reduce high levels of triglycerides in the blood in lab tests.

Liver Disease -- Cynarin and another substance known as caffeic acid, that are found in artichokes are said to prevent the liver from getting infected by hepatitis infection within lab tests. These phytonutrients also appear to help the liver regenerate if damaged.

Bowel and Skin Cancer -- Artichokes are also rich in Insulin that has been found to increase the beneficial bifidobacteria in stools as well reduce levels of the harmful enterobacteria and enterococci thus promoting a healthier environments within the bowels and reducing the chances of cancer. Also in experimental conditions antioxidants that are found within artichokes have been shown to protect the skin against cancer.

[edit] Consumption and Storage

When buying, choose heavy plump globe artichokes which have compact leaves and move when pressed. Artichokes can generally be stored for up to seven days in a fridge. While preparing, trim the vegetable and then soak it upside down in a bowl of salted water up to an hour so as to remove dirt lodged in between the leaves. Coat with lime juice and then steam, microwave or bake before eating. Smaller artichokes can be consumed whole or sliced. With larger artichokes, consume only the heart and the soft part of the leaves.

[edit] References

  • The Complete Guide, Healing Foods, Amanda Ursell, published by Dorling Kindersley
  • About Artichokes