Have you ever wanted the joyful flavour of potatoes without the guilt? The solution is sunchokes!
Also called Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes are a root vegetable with a tough dark skin, white and starchy-tasting inside and a flavour that closely matches potato. Sunchokes are superstars when it comes to intestinal health. These little roots are packed with inulin, a non-digestible dietary fibre with strong prebiotic properties. Inulin contains fructans, which are food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. By feeding the good intestinal soldiers, it’s possible to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Sunchokes also play a role in the prevention of colon cancer. Studies show that the byproducts created during the fermentation process of the dietary fibre inulin, suppress and block cancerous tumour cell growth in the colon.
Part of the anti-cancer benefit of sunchokes could be that it promotes healthy and regular bowel activity. The high levels of non-digestible inulin creates bulk, and increases the water content in stool, keeping our bowels regular and healthy.
Here are five more reasons to fall in love with sunchokes:
1. Sunchokes can help to lower blood pressure. High levels of inulin bypasses digestion and reaches the lower gut to feed the good bacteria that resides there. Studies show that feeding the indigenous micro flora and warding off bad bacteria is an important part of the treatment and prevention of hypertension.
2. Sunchokes are high in potassium. A one cup serving of sunchokes contains 643 mg of potassium, which is essential for overall health and can help to reduce heart disease. Increasing your dietary potassium, in addition to reducing excess sodium, is especially beneficial for people at risk for high blood pressure.
3. Eating sunchokes can decrease blood cholesterol. Along with normalizing blood triglyceride levels, these small vegetables affect the way that the body metabolizes fats thanks to their high levels of probiotics.
4. One cup of sunchokes provides you with a quarter of your daily iron! You would have to eat three ounces of red meat to get the same amount of iron. The sunchoke is a great way to increase your iron intake especially since it has no fat and only 109 calories per cup. Iron is an essential component of the proteins involved in the delivery of oxygen to each and every cell in your body. A deficiency of iron limits the delivery of oxygen to the cells resulting in fatigue and decreased immunity.
5. Sunchokes are high in protein. Not only does this wonderful root contain more protein than most other root vegetables, it’s particularly high in the sulfur-containing essential amino acids taurine, methionine, homocysteine and cysteine. These sulfur-containing amino acids are essential for maintaining the flexibility of connective tissue as well as allowing the liver carry out detoxification. Try this homemade stew to add these healthy benefits of sunchokes to your life:
Hearty venison sunchoke stew recipe
This is one of my husband’s favourite recipes, as it reminds him of the stew his mother made on the chilly fall days of Northern Ontario. His mother was a teacher, and she would assemble these ingredients quickly in the morning and then place them in a slow cooker. When he arrived home, the house would smell simply delicious. Little did he know how good it was for him too!
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 cups (500 mL) red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (500 mL) sunchokes, chopped
2 cups (500 mL) carrots, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) pink rock or grey sea salt
1 lb (454 g) venison or beef stew meat
1 quart (1 L) vegetable broth
1 cup (250 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh rosemary, minced
1. Over medium-high heat, sauté oil, onion, garlic, sunchokes, carrots and salt for 5-7 minutes.
2. Add meat, broth, water and rosemary. Bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to low.
3. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or longer.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her first book, Meals that Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process. Check out more amazing recipes and nutrition tips at juliedaniluk.com.