Giving credit to an overlooked vegetable – Artichokes are a healthy superfood
Artichokes are a healthy superfood that I have only recently started to add to my diet. I always go on an in-depth fact-finding journey before I write an article, and I have to admit that I’ve been falling in love with this vegetable during my research.
The artichoke has very interesting health benefits that affect almost all major body systems. The influence on the cardiovascular system is particularly noteworthy because the vegetables have a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
It also has an impressive influence on the metabolic processes of the liver. The phytonutrients Sylimarin and Cynarin protect the liver from damage and aid in detoxification and bile flow.
As a result, there are positive effects on the immune system, digestion and, thus, the appearance of the skin. Convince yourself. In this article, you will find all the valuable effects.
What are artichokes?
The best-known artichoke species goes under the botanical name Cynara cardunculus var. Scolymus. Thus, she belongs to the genus of the daisy family. Incidentally, there are now over 100 different variations of artichokes.
Artichokes are also referred to as flowering vegetables, which is not a botanical expression, but still a nice description. They originally cultivated the plant in the Mediterranean (Turkey, Persia, Spain). Meanwhile, we can find it in all zones with a Mediterranean climate.
Artichokes can carry beautiful flowers. For consumption purposes, however, they are harvested earlier. The plant is annual and ready for harvest between July and September.
I also find the following metaphor interesting: The edible part of the artichoke is called “artichoke heart” – a successful indication of the effect on our heart health. The leaves of the artichoke have long been used for medical purposes and for the production of artichoke extract.
Artichokes have a remarkable nutrient profile. The ingredients also explain the health effects that I will deal with later.
To emphasize is the high content of fiber, which is twice as high as with broccoli.
In addition, the flowering vegetable is rich in folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin C and magnesium.
It, furthermore, contains rarer minerals, such as manganese and potassium, in appreciable quantities.
On our website, we write about many misjudged and underestimated superfoods, because every power food has individual effects on health, which we shouldn’t ignore or disregard.
Artichoke has particularly impressed me because of its numerous effects on the cardiovascular system, and also because of the positive influence on liver function.
The artichoke has numerous health benefits
# 1 Artichokes have a positive effect on cholesterol levels
Artichokes can have a positive influence on your cholesterol level. Large-scale studies have shown that flowering vegetables can lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase good cholesterol (HDL).
One study found a reduction in LDL cholesterol of approximately 20% after several days of artichoke extract consumption.
Interesting is the mode of action, which is behind the benefits. On the one hand, the phytochemical luteolin is responsible for the decreased production of LDL cholesterol. The antioxidant has a direct effect on cholesterol metabolism, similar to statins.
On the other hand, the artichoke helps to eliminate excess cholesterol more efficiently. That’s because the body of cholesterol forms bile acids. This, in turn, reduces the total cholesterol level.
A diet that is rich in such healthy superfoods as artichokes can certainly help reduce the need for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Other examples include flaxseed, oatmeal and mushrooms.
# 2 Artichoke can reduce blood pressure
Green vegetables, such as broccoli or spinach, are effective for high blood pressure, as we already know. But also the flower vegetable artichoke can be helpful regarding this matter.
How it comes to the effects described in studies is not yet fully understood. In any case, one is able to explain the mechanisms of action about the ingredients.
For example, magnesium and potassium are two minerals that regulate blood pressure. Additionally, the antioxidants in this vegetable work in favor of lower blood pressure, as well.
Furthermore, artichokes also contain nitrate. The body reduces nitrate to NO, which in turn leads to the dilation of the vessels. The enlargement of the blood vessels reduces the total pressure in the system.
# 3 Effective for problems with blood sugar levels
The modern diet, which is rich in processed foods and simple sugars, is contributing toward many people developing problems with blood sugar regulation. Disturbed blood sugar balance can lead to obesity and energy fluctuations.
The artichoke can also be helpful here through various mechanisms.
On the one hand, dietary fiber helps buffer blood sugar levels and metabolizes glucose more slowly. On the other hand, the artichoke interferes with glucose metabolism.
This happens due to reducing the activity of alpha-glucosidase and, thus, buffering the breakdown of starch into glucose, for example.
# 4 Fiber supports digestion
A fiber-rich diet is important for a healthy intestinal system. Artichoke contains the fiber Inulin, which is prebiotically active. That is, the substance serves as food for your intestinal bacteria.
Studies in humans show that the consumption of artichokes, or its extract, leads to a significant improvement of the intestinal flora. As the green tuber stimulates the formation of bile acids, this enhances the digestion of fat and, therefore, the reduction of symptoms irritable bowel syndrome.
To top it off, artichoke can aid in problems with the digestive system. The vegetables have a preventive effect against diarrhea, bloating and/or nausea. The reason for this is, inter alia, the phytochemical cynarin, which improves the production of bile.
# 5 Assistance in losing weight
Due to the high content of dietary fiber, artichoke is especially filling. In addition, the ability to bind water also helps to make it feel like the stomach is satiated faster.
Due to the positive effect on the blood sugar level, one can expect an equally positive influence on cravings. When blood sugar stays stable, such hunger attacks become rarer. Both of these factors help reduce your overall calorie intake.
In general, always a large portion of vegetables on the plate is recommended. Most varieties have similar effects.
# 6 Artichokes can optimize the function of the liver
Artichokes contain two phytochemicals that can help the liver in its work: cynarin and silymarin.
Cynarin belongs to the flavonoids. The substance stimulates the production of bile in the liver and can increase the absorption of nutrients from the diet. It is normal for us not to be able to absorb 100% of the nutrients in our food, but with the artichoke, you can at least improve the intake.
Silymarin is such an interesting plant compound because it can protect the structures of the liver and even help with its regeneration. This has been shown in studies in patients whose liver was damaged after many years of alcohol consumption. Silymarin stimulates the liver cells for regeneration.
In addition, the plant extract increases the content of antioxidants in the liver: superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione. These substances are particularly crucial for the detoxification processes of the liver.
# 7 Effective against the metabolic syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is a civilization disease that is increasingly on the rise and is caused by a poor lifestyle. Above all, poor nutrition contributes to the fact that those affected develop the so-called deadly quartet:
High blood pressure
Diabetes Type II
Because artichoke, via the ways described above, has a positive effect on these four factors, one can also use the flowering vegetables in the metabolic syndrome as a natural remedy.
Artichoke and other healthy vegetables contribute to a balanced diet. Thus, the recommendation “Eat more vegetables – Five a day” is not a simple rule of thumb, but a scientifically sound health tip!
# 8 Artichokes may work against some cancers
There is even more potential in the artichoke because the plant substances are thought to be effective against certain cancers, such as liver and breast cancer.
This is due to the numerous antioxidants in the plant: rutin, quercetin, Sylimarin, Cynarin and Luteolin. Artichokes are characterized by a high ORAC value, which is a measure of the ability to buffer free radicals. Free radicals can lead to cell damage and degeneration, thus favoring cancer growth.
100 g of artichoke have an ORAC value of 6550. By comparison, apples can have “only” 2800.
It has been shown that artichokes can be a helpful companion in breast cancer. Regular consumption of the green tuber has led to the death of cancer cells.
Animal studies have, furthermore, shown that the plant substances can have positive effects on skin cancer patients.
# 9 Flowering vegetables for a better skin appearance
Artichoke can lead to better skin appearance in many ways.
Through its ingredients, the vegetables effectively affect the collagen synthesis. The high content of folic acid ensures the build-up and regeneration of the collagenous structures of the skin. Also, the content of vitamin C and E promote this process.
Together with the positive influence on the intestine and immune system, one can, furthermore, expect an improvement of the skin’s overall appearance. A functioning intestine helps to eliminate toxins more efficiently.
As a result, there is less discharged through the skin. In addition, a weakened immune system can barely fight off blemishes and inflammation of the skin. Artichoke strengthens the immune system, and, thus, your complexion gets a boost.
Now it’s your turn. What are your experiences with artichokes? Have you already found out for yourself that artichokes are a healthy superfood? Let us know your stories, thoughts, ideas and suggestions below in a comment.
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