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Artichokes are the immature flowers of the thistle plant, and are sometimes referred to as 'globe artichokes'. The leaves and flower buds are edible but the center isn't. Artichokes range in color from dark purple to pale green. The 'Jerusalem artichoke' is a nutritious tuber with a similar taste to the artichoke, but is not actually an artichoke- it is a member of the magnolia family.
Artichokes are a rich source of Vitamin C, folate, dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Artichokes contain the phytochemical cynarin, which aids in digestion by stimulating bile production and gives artichoke its detoxifying qualities.
Artichokes contain the flavanoid silymarin, thought to support the liver by preventing the build-up of toxins in it, and reducing the risk of gallstones. Their high levels of B-vitamins are beneficial for boosting energy and mental alertness, and play an important role in strengthening the immune system.
Both varieties of artichoke (globe and Jerusalem) contain little starch, and instead are rich in a substance known as inulin. The body deals with this in the same way it copes with fiber, as it isn't broken down during normal digestion but ends up in the large bowel where probiotic bacteria ferment the inulin. This chemical has all the benefits of fiber, but unfortunately, it can also be the cause of excessive wind. Its fiber-rich content can also reduce symptoms associated with indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome, such as abdominal pain, nausea, constipation and diarrhea.
In rat models, researchers have found that wild artichoke restored veins and arteries that did not have sufficient flow in them.
Studies conducted on guinea pigs have found that chemicals in artichokes can stop disturbances in the GI tract. The chemicals halt the intestines from spastic movement. Human studies have also found that artichoke leaf extract can significantly reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and dyspepsia (pain in the mid-abdominal area).
Tips for Using Artichokes
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