They’re commonly thought of as a vegetable, but artichokes (also known as globe artichokes) are actually a flower bud. A relative of the famous milk thistle, they stimulate bile flow, which helps to carry toxins from your liver out of your body. Artichokes have been used as an indigestion remedy in Europe for more than a century.
Many liver tonics are bitter, but artichokes are as delicate as asparagus and a great finger food. You pull each leaf off the flower bud, plunk it in some healthy dip and then pull it between your teeth to enjoy the soft green flesh on the inside. When I can’t buy them fresh in the produce aisle, I enjoy their hearts packed in a glass jar with water, not oil, so they boast only 25 calories each! One artichoke contains about 25 percent of our daily fibre needs and 16 essential nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, folic acid and magnesium.
Five amazing reasons to eat more artichokes:
1. Prevent stomach ulcers: Recent research indicates that the extracts in artichokes can be isolated and used to increase the amount of mucous created by the stomach lining. This mucous protects the stomach lining from the acids that break down our food and prevents the creation of holes (ulcers) in the stomach lining.
2. Antispasmodic effects: Muscle relaxers are often suggested to relieve muscle aches and pain caused by tension and muscle spasm. Artichoke extracts have been shown to be as powerful antispasmodic agents as the often-prescribed papaverine drug.
3. Potential as an alternative cancer treatment: Artichokes have been shown to have potent anti-angiogenesis properties (prevent the development of new blood vessels). These techniques are often used in cancer patients to stop circulation to tumours, ultimately starving them to death.
4. Help prevent cardiovascular disease: The high amounts of antioxidants in artichokes prevent the damage to arterial walls that initiates the build-up of cholesterol. Artichokes have also been shown to have blood-lipid lowering capabilities, which make them the ultimate prevention food for cardiovascular disease.
5. Support healthy eyesight: Artichokes are high in lutein, a powerful carotinoid antioxidant that has been shown to prevent the devastating effects of macular degeneration as we age.
Garlic steamed artichokes
The garlic will scent the artichokes and add extra flavour. Classically, artichokes are served with melted butter. Try this heart-healthy dipping sauce as a replacement and be happily surprised that you don’t miss the saturated fat. Olive oil is rich in omega-9 fats, which may help balance cholesterol.
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves
Sea salt for cooking water
1. Cut off some of the stem and tips of the artichokes.
2. In a pot, bring salted water (enough to cover) to a boil and add articokes.
3. Add lemon juice and whole garlic cloves to water, and simmer artichokes for 15 minutes, or until tender (the older the artichoke, the longer it may take to cook).
4. Test to see if the artichokes are cooked by pulling off a leaf; it should pull away easily.
5. Drain well and squeeze dry gently in a clean towel.
6. Enjoy pulling off the leaves one at a time and dip them in the sauce. Remove chokes (hairy centre) and discard. Marinate the hearts in the rest of sauce or add to your next salad.
Heart-healthy dipping sauce
1/3 cup (85 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp apple juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp sea salt
Add all ingredients to a blender and whip until emulsified.
Makes 4 servings.
Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet (OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network), a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation (Random House) is now available and will help people enjoy allergy-free foods that taste great and assist the body in the healing process.