Artichokes are not a vegetable that many people include on their weekly grocery lists. However, you many want to think twice next time you are in the produce aisle of your local grocer. Artichokes have a variety of incredible health benefits – including the ability to help prevent cancer and also protect your liver from damage.
Artichoke nutrition is comprised of a range of minerals, nutrients and valuable phytochemicals that can help to support the liver and prevent cancer. They take a little effort to eat when preparing them fresh, but both the artichoke heart and especially the outside leaves offer tremendous nutritional support.
A 2004 USDA study about antioxidant content in a range of foods found that artichokes were among the top four of all vegetables tested. Their phytonutrient content makes them valuable in protecting against health issues like liver problems and cancer. They were also shown to be highly effective against heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.
How do artichokes help to prevent cancer?
Artichokes are rich in polyphenol-type antioxidants that can help to prevent numerous types of cancers, including breast cancer, prostate cancer and leukemia. Research conducted at the Comenius University in Slovakia found that key antioxidants in artichoke leaf extract helped induce cell death (apoptosis) and slow cancer cell growth.
German researchers at University of Georg-August concurred, finding that artichoke phytochemicals were helpful in blocking cancer agent proliferation.
Improve liver health and function by eating artichokes
Artichokes also have a number of amazing benefits for the liver. They contain silymarin, a flavonoid known for protecting the liver by optimizing cell function. Consuming artichokes also results in an increase in bile production, which is associated with cynarin, a very beneficial compound for liver health.
Interesting to note, bile secretions from the liver help to clear out harmful toxins while also aiding in the digestion of fats. These health qualities make artichokes extremely valuable for supporting liver health.
The best way to add artichokes to your diet
Artichoke hearts can be bought canned or in jars, but fresh artichokes have the most nutritional value. When preparing a fresh artichoke, cut off the stem and trim away the very sharpest leaf tips. Pry open the leaves a bit so that it will cook more evenly. You can steam or boil it, and you’ll be able to tell it’s ready when you can pull out the central petal with ease.
Serve cooked artichokes cold or warm. Eat each leaf by pulling it through the teeth to draw out the softened portion then, discard the rest.
Consider preparing your favorite dipping sauces, then pull off the petals one by one and enjoy. The heart will eventually be left at the center, and it is 100% edible. Try cutting it into pieces and serving it in salads, on sandwiches or on a veggie pizza.
The state of California provides 100% of the artichokes consumed in the U.S., with a small city called Castroville at the heart of the farming country. You can buy artichokes year-round in the produce departments of most grocery stores. Enjoy!
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