Artichoke Benefits, Plus How to Cook and Eat - Dr. Axe

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Artichoke’s Profound Health Benefits, Plus How to Cook and Eat


Artichokes - Dr. Axe

Records of eating artichokes date back to Ancient Greece and the Roan Empire. There are texts indicating that these populations consumed the naturally occurring variant of the artichoke, the cardoon — especially for help managing rheumatism and gout — thanks to all artichoke nutrition has to offer.

Today, this native plant is still found in the same Mediterranean areas, where it continues to be a staple food in the healthy Mediterranean diet.

Artichokes should be a part of a healthy diet for many reasons. What are the benefits of eating artichokes? Believe it or not, artichokes are one of the top vegetables in terms of total antioxidant content — not to mention artichoke nutrition is high in vitamin C, A, K and more.

Artichoke extract supplements — which provide a concentrated dose of the veggie’s protective compounds, including chlorogenic acid, cynarin, luteolin and cymaroside — have also been shown to have cholesterol-lowering and disease-fighting effects.

Due to its high fiber quantity and phytonutrients, artichoke nutrition has a strong tie to preventing serious conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, as well as having positive effects on liver and digestive health. To top it off, artichokes also great taste and are versatile in recipes too, including both low-carb and keto recipes if  you’re watching your carb consumption.


What Is an Artichoke?

Did you know that there are actually about 140 different artichoke varieties in existence? Of these 140, only about 40 are grown commercially to be sold as food.

The globe artichoke, which has the species name Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, is one of the most popular types. This species is also known as the French artichoke or green artichoke.

The name artichoke comes from the  word articiocco, which is most likely influenced by the word ciocco, meaning “stump.” The globe artichoke — the kind most often eaten today — is from the thistle species, a group of flowering plants characterized by leaves with sharp prickles on their margins.

The edible portion of the artichoke, usually called the “artichoke heart,” is actually the bud of the artichoke flower, formed before the flower begins to bloom. The budding flower head is a cluster of many small budding flowers, along with the edible base of the plant.

An artichoke plant can grow to be six feet in diameter and three to four feet in height.

Some noteworthy artichoke health benefits include having a high antioxidant content that may help prevent cancer, manage weight, and control blood sugar and diabetes. While artichoke hearts are often the most widely available and consumed part of the artichoke plant, the leaves are actually where many of the most powerful nutrients in the artichoke are stored.

In fact, artichoke extract supplements, which have become more popular over recent years due to their various heart health-promoting benefits, are largely derived from antioxidants and phytonutrients found in the leaves of this vegetable. Leaf extracts of the artichoke plant are used for their liver (hepato) protectant properties and also have anti-carcinogenic, antioxidative, antiviral and antibacterial effects.

Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA’s info on artichoke nutrition data, one medium-sized, cooked, boiled artichoke (about 120 grams) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 63.6
  • Total Carbohydrates: 14.4 g
    • Fiber: 6.8 g
    • Sugar: 1.2 g
  • Total Fat: 0.4 g
    • Saturated Fat: 0.1 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2 g
    • Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 72 mg (3% DV*)
  • Folate: 107 mcg (27% DV*)
  • Vitamin K: 17.8 mcg (15% DV*)
  • Manganese: 0.3 mg (13% DV*)
  • Magnesium: 50.4 mg (12% DV*)
  • Vitamin C: 9 mg (10% DV*)
  • Niacin: 1.3 mg (8% DV*)
  • Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (8% DV*)
  • Phosphorus: 87.6 mg (7% DV*)
  • Potassium: 343 mg (7% DV*)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

Are there a lot of carbs in artichokes? Notice that this veggie is considered a high-fiber food, so while it contains 14 grams of carbohydrates, the 10 grams of fiber make the “net carbs” only four grams. This makes it a natural, rich-tasting vegetable for the keto diet.

The nutritional value of artichokes is also impressive considering one only provides about 60 calories but over 10 percent of your daily needs of five different essential nutrients. It’s particularly considered both a food high in folic acid and a food high in vitamin K.


1. Artichokes Have Antioxidant Power that May Help Prevent Cancer

Artichokes are packed with a number of vital antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as quercetin, rutin, gallic acid and cynarin. Artichokes are a high-antioxidant food and have a high ORAC score (oxygen radical absorption capacity), which tests the power of a plant to absorb and eliminate free radicals.

Diets high in antioxidants may help ward off various types of cancer, since antioxidants are exactly what our bodies require in order to combat free radicals and slow the onset on diseases that are often seen in aging populations. Compounds present in artichokes — specifically rutin, quercetin and gallic acid — have been shown in studies to reduce the growth of cancerous cells and therefore prevent cancerous tumors from proliferating.

Artichokes have displayed their cancer-fighting abilities on two cancers in particular: breast cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. Research published in both the Journal of Cellular Physiology and Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found that polyphenolic extracts from the edible parts of artichokes “induce apoptosis and decrease the invasive potential of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB231.”

Another study conducted by the National Research Centre’s Medicinal Chemistry Department in Dokki Giza, Egypt, looked at the protective effects of fish oil and artichokes on hepatocellular carcinoma in rats. The researchers concluded after dividing the rats into eight groups, “the results pointed that 10% fish oil and 1 g% leaves of artichoke succeeded to protect from hepatocellular carcinoma to a certain degree. In addition, they may be considered as protective foods against angiogenesis.”


2. Fights Cardiovascular Disease

Consuming artichokes and artichoke extract has been correlated with reductions in unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Artichoke nutrition may also help calm inflammation in the body and improve blood flow.

People with higher levels of cholesterol are more at risk for developing heart disease and experiencing cardiac arrest or stroke. Luckily the powerful substance cynarin found in artichoke nutrition is one of the best natural remedies for bringing cholesterol back to a healthy level.

Research shows that the lipidic- and glycemic-reducing action of artichokes also help them prevent coronary heart disease and metabolic disorders. The cholesterol-lowering effects of artichoke hearts attributed mainly to its soluble fibers, particularly the kind called inulin.

One double-blind, randomized controlled trial also found that supplementing with artichoke leaf extract reduced total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations.

Artichoke extract and juice have also been shown to fight high blood pressure/hypertension. Additionally this veggie provides nutrients like magnesium and potassium that are important for healthy blood pressure.

3. Detoxes the Liver and Digestive System

Because of their ability to boost the production of digestive bile and to detox the body, artichokes are included on the GAPS diet plan protocol, which is a diet that was specifically created to nourish the digestive tract and restore proper gut health. Eating GAPS diet-approved foods like artichokes is correlated with improving gut flora, reducing symptoms related to digestive disease and boosting immunity — since much of the immune system is actually held within the gut.

Why are artichokes good for your liver? They contain a powerful antioxidant flavonoid called silymarin, which is an effective liver protectant.

Artichokes may even be able to help liver cells regenerate. A 2018 study found that artichoke extract supplementation increases antioxidant status in the liver, including levels of superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione and glutathione peroxidase.

Another substance in artichoke nutrition called cynarin has also been shown to positively stimulate the production of bile, which is produced by the liver and ultimately responsible for enabling digestion and helping with the absorption of nutrients. Without proper bile production, a good diet cannot be used to foster health because many of the essential nutrients and fatty acids are not properly absorbed.

Do artichokes help you poop? It’s believed that the artichoke benefits IBS and other digestive disorders because of its high fiber content, ability to reduce inflammation, and artichoke’s nourishing effect on the gut lining and liver.

One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine also found that artichoke leaf extract can be very helpful in relieving symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), one of the leading digestive disorders in the world. IBS is a condition that often causes painful IBS symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, an upset stomach and more.

4. Excellent Source of Fiber, Which May Help with Weight Loss

Artichokes are very high in fiber, which is crucial for numerous functions in the body.

Fiber keeps the digestive system running smoothly and relieves conditions like constipation and diarrhea. It has the important role of helping the body detox itself of waste, extra cholesterol, sugar and toxins — plus fiber acts to facilitate liver function and make us feel full after eating.

Is eating artichokes good for losing weight? Studies have shown that consuming plenty of soluble fiber, like the kind found in artichoke nutrition, is a great way to keep off dangerous visceral fat — the kind that accumulates around your organs and can lead to various diseases. A diet high in fiber is correlated with maintaining a healthy weight and also reducing the risk for serious conditions, including colon cancer, heart disease and more.

Fiber is technically the part of any plant food that cannot be digested — therefore it must make its way through your digestive system and then out of your body. Essentially fiber is the substance that pulls food through your intestines, and without it you may suffer from issues like feeling overly hungry, constipation, energy spikes and dips, mood swings, weight gain, and bloating.

Artichokes nutrition may help with weight loss because it has the ability to swell and expand in your stomach and intestines, soaking up fluid and giving you the feeling of being full. This makes it harder for you to overeat, and it also helps balance cravings due to fiber’s ability to stabilize blood sugar.

5. Helps Control Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

The high amount of fiber found in artichoke nutrition means artichokes can help normalize blood sugar levels , avoiding spikes and dips in insulin that can lead to serious problems for diabetics. The fiber in artichoke nutrition allows glucose to be absorbed in the blood more slowly, and because fiber is a substance that can be digested and does not require insulin, fiber does not count toward the amount of carbohydrates or glucose you consume.

Artichoke compounds also have anti-inflammatory effects. One animal study found that supplementation with artichoke extract helped prevent adiposity and related metabolic disorders, such as dyslipidemia, hepatic steatosis, insulin resistance and inflammation.

6. Good Source of Iron, Which Prevents Anemia

While many people think of animal products, like beef and eggs, as the only and best sources of iron, artichokes are also a good source, especially for plant-based eaters who need to make sure they consume enough of the vital mineral.

An iron deficiency is most common among women, especially premenopausal women, and children. Low levels of iron can result in fatigue, a weakened immune system, poor concentration and ability to focus, as well as digestive disorders like leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel disease.

Even more serious is a condition that occurs when iron levels are low for an ongoing time called anemia. Anemia occurs when the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, and therefore red blood cells are not able to properly distribute oxygen throughout the body.

Consuming iron-rich foods is a great way to prevent anemia and negative symptoms associated with iron deficiency.

7. Improves Skin Health and Appearance

Not eating enough foods that contain vitamins like vitamin C and E, plus other nutrients, often results in low collagen production and other skin-related conditions that age the skin prematurely. Artichoke benefits for skin include supporting your immune system and supplying antioxidants that fight free radicals.

Immunity is largely based upon the health of the gut wall and the amount of nutrients coming into your body and properly being absorbed, so your immune system is partially in charge of dictating how well your body is able to protect your skin from infection and unhealthy bacterial buildup.

Artichokes’ positive effects on the digestive tract and liver mean that your immune system is well-equipped to quickly heal your skin once damaged, burned, or when it comes into contact with common toxins and pollutants.

How to Select

In grocery stores you’ll find several types of artichokes available, including fresh artichokes, canned artichoke hearts and frozen artichokes. A medium-sized artichoke is about the size of a tennis ball, while a small “baby artichoke” is roughly the size of a golf ball.

How do you buy fresh artichokes?

When selecting artichokes, the heaviest and firmest artichokes are best. If you press the leaves against themselves, it will create a slight squeaking sound, and this is a good indicator of an artichoke being fresh.

How do you tell if an artichoke is good?

The artichoke should be a healthy green color, and it should look fresh, not dehydrated.

Are artichokes still good if they are closed?

Yes, the petals should still be closed. This means that the artichoke is fresh, and it will be tender when eating.

How long do fresh artichokes last?

In order to keep your artichoke fresh, it needs to be stored properly. Keep the artichoke in an airtight plastic bag, and cut off the edge of the stem to keep it from spoiling while it’s being stored.

It’s best to cook the artichoke within a week of buying it if possible. If not you can freeze the artichoke to use at a later time.

What if an artichoke is purple inside?

The flower itself is purple, so this is normal. Before eating an artichoke, remove the purple part using a knife, since under the purple leaves is the fuzzy, grayish-brown choke that is edible.

Are jarred artichoke hearts healthy?

These are a healthy addition to your diet but have a higher sodium content than fresh artichokes, as do canned hearts. You can rinse them to remove some of the sodium.

How to Cook and Eat

Artichokes can be eaten raw but may be hard to digest, so they are typically cooked in order to take advantage of artichoke nutrition benefits.

What does an artichoke taste like?

People describe artichokes’ taste as light, crunchy, nutty and not bitter, unlike some green vegetables. Some compare the taste to asparagus, although artichokes are said to be sweeter and nuttier.

The taste seems to depend on how you cook artichokes and the specific type.

What do you eat artichokes with?

The most complementary ingredients for an artichoke include olive oil, lemon, parsley, rosemary, high-quality cheeses, red onion, arugula, salt and pepper.

Artichokes can be steamed, boiled and baked. When cooked perfectly, artichokes will be silky and creamy and should hold together well.

Keep in mind that the larger the artichoke, the longer it needs to cook.

Start by rinsing the artichoke well under cold water. There may be a light film on the artichoke, which happens while it’s growing, so rinse it well or scrub it with a kitchen brush or towel in order to clean it.

Cut an inch off the top of the artichoke and trim the stem. Then pull the petals apart slightly.

This will allow you to season the entire artichoke. You can also squeeze some lemon juice on it so it won’t brown easily while cooking.

How to steam artichokes

If you want to know how to cook artichokes fast, steaming is a good option. To steam artichokes, place them in a steaming basket with the stem facing up, and when the water is boiling, leave them in for about 30 minutes (when steaming a medium-sized artichoke).

You can even add a clove of garlic and some lemon into the steamer to add flavor. Steaming the artichoke is an excellent way to preserve its nutrients, since it doesn’t destroy some of the delicate nutrients and antioxidants.

How to boil artichokes

To boil an artichoke, submerge the artichoke in boiling water, then keep the water at a high simmer for about 30 minutes.

How to bake an artichoke

Pull apart the pedals and season well with heart-healthy olive oil and spices. Then wrap it with two layers of foil and put it on a baking sheet, baking at 425 degrees for about an hour.

Be careful of under- or over-cooking artichokes. When undercooked they can be tough and chewy, and overcooked they can get slimy and mushy.

How to eat

It’s easy to eat an artichoke to take advantage of artichoke nutrition.

Start by pulling off a petal from the cooked inside part of the artichoke. Then pull off the soft and delicious flesh with your clenched teeth.

Once you consume all of the petals, remove the fuzzy layer that’s covering the heart of the artichoke. Then eat the heart, which most of us find to be the tastiest part.

Recipe Ideas

Artichokes can be served as an appetizer or a side dish, while stuffed artichokes can even be a delicious plant-based meal. Artichoke hearts can be added to salads, pizzas and pastas.

A popular and tasty way to use these veggies is to make a hot artichoke dip. Try this healthy Goat Cheese & Artichoke Dip Recipe.

You can also try this Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe or Baked Italian Spinach Artichoke Chicken Recipe.

Here are other healthy artichoke recipes to try to take advantage of artichoke nutrition:

  • Roasted artichoke hearts with potatoes. Toss in olive oil and roast for 30–35 minutes at 425 degrees.
  • Italian roasted artichokes with olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Broiled artichokes with parmesan cheese and red pepper.
  • Grilled artichokes with grilled calamari or broiled fish and lemon juice.
  • Instant pot artichoke risotto made with ricotta, spinach, onion and water chestnuts.
  • Artichoke and feta omelet.
  • Pureed artichoke soup with cauliflower.
  • Artichoke salad made with mustard greens and homemade dressing of shallots, olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Artichoke pizza with arugula, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

How to Grow

The artichoke plant is a herbaceious perennial plant that is related to thistles, dandelions and sunflowers.

Nearly 100 percent of the artichokes grown commercially in the United States today are grown in California. They’re available 12 months a year, with the peak artichoke season being the spring and the fall, roughly from March to May.

Artichokes are also grown in the Mediterranean region commonly, as well as other parts of the world, where they’re frequently used in different types of healthy cuisines.

An artichoke plant can grow to be six feet in diameter and three to four feet in height. When the plant flowers, it’s about seven inches in diameter, and it has a vibrant violet-blue color.

When the plant blooms, it’s no longer edible, and it becomes coarse. This is why artichokes are harvested and eaten before reaching this mature stage.

Here are some tips for growing artichokes:

  • Artichokes can be planted in either the spring or fall. They can take up to two years to fully mature.
  • Give artichokes plenty of space since they are large plants. Mature plants will be three to six feet in height and four to five feet wide.
  • The plants need full sun exposure and light, fertile, well-drained soil. Slightly sandy soil is ideal.
  • Feed the plants vegetable plant food every two weeks or so.
  • Harvest the buds before they develop into full flowers. Remember that after your grow artichokes you’ll only eat the base, which is edible food part, but not the flower bud.

Risks and Side Effects

What part of the artichoke is poisonous?

It’s a misconception that artichokes are poisonous or dangerous to eat. Both the outer leaves and heart are edible and safe for most people to consume.

Is too much artichoke bad for you?

For a small percentage of people, artichokes can cause some side effects, such as intestinal gas and allergic reactions. Those who are allergic to plants like marigolds, daisies and other similar herbs are at the greatest risk of having an allergic reaction.

Are artichokes bad for you if you have allergies to similar veggies?

Artichokes may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae families of plants. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies and many others, so if you have allergies to any of these, such as a ragweed allergy, be sure to check with your health care provider before taking artichoke extract or eating artichokes.

There’s also concern that artichokes could possibly worsen bile duct obstruction by increasing bile flow, which is the liquid naturally released by the liver. If you have this condition, don’t use artichoke extract or consume artichokes without first discussing your decision with your doctor.

By increasing the bile flow in the body, gallstones may become worse, so if you suffer from gallstones, use precaution when consuming artichokes.

Final Thoughts

  • Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) are a group of vegetables that have edible leaves and hearts.
  • Artichoke nutrition benefits include their high antioxidant power that may help prevent cancer, fight cardiovascular diseases, detox the liver, support the digestive system, provide fiber, help manage weight, help control blood sugar and diabetes, provide a good source iron to combat anemia, and improve skin health and appearance.
  • How do you buy fresh artichokes? When selecting artichokes, the heaviest and firmest artichokes are best.
  • Artichokes can be eaten raw but may be hard to digest, so they are typically cooked. They can be steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted, baked and more in order to enjoy the benefits of artichoke nutrition.

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