Don’t let their tough-looking exterior – and history – scare you away! Artichokes are full of nutrients and antioxidants that provide many health benefits when added to your diet. Augusta Active has the story on the ancient artichoke, from famous celebrities to New York gangsters to powerful antioxidants.

facts about artichokes

The History

As one of the oldest foods known to humans, the artichoke’s origins are not exactly known. Historians estimate that artichokes made their appearance in the Mediterranean region as early as 500 B.C.

While the French are credited with bringing the first artichokes to America, the true U.S. growth of the artichoke didn’t begin until later in California. It was discovered that the California climate was great for growing artichokes, and now, the majority of the artichoke supply in the U.S. comes from California.

The artichoke may be the most famous thistle – it’s not a vegetable as many believe – in the U.S. In the 1920s, New York City gangster Ciro Terranova earned the nickname “The Artichoke King” by purchasing artichokes from California and selling them for a profit in New York. He frightened vegetable sellers into buying his product and even had fields in California destroyed in the middle of the night to scare any farmers or distributors that wouldn’t cooperate.

The most significant moment for the artichoke may be in 1948, when the young Marilyn Monroe was crowned the first “Artichoke Queen” at the Artichoke Festival in Castroville, California. This crown gave Marilyn the boost she needed to begin her career, and the festival is still held to this day.

 

Nutrition

One medium artichoke contains 60 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein. It’s also full of a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin K
  • B-complex vitamins
  • Iron

Rated number 7 on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list, the artichoke has the following antioxidants:

  • Quercetin
  • Rutin
  • Anthocyanins
  • Gallic Acid
  • Luteolin and Cyanarin
  • Caffeic Acid and Chlorogenic Acid
  • Silymarin

 

Health Benefits

Treating Cholesterol Problems and Improving Heart Health

Artichokes contain high amounts of luteolin, which has been known to play a role in lowering cholesterol. Research has shown that consuming artichokes can help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. This benefit helps support heart health. The high level of potassium also supports heart health by helping to maintain a normal heart rhythm and healthy blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke.

Defenders Against Cancer

We’ve already established that artichokes are chock-full of antioxidants, and those are definitely key to defending against free radicals in the body. Artichokes have high levels of quercetin and rutin, antioxidants proven to reduce the risk of cancer. Many of the antioxidant properties of artichokes come from polyphenols – chlorogenic acid, cyanarin, luteolin, and rutin – which can slow down, stop or reverse the effects of cancer.

Aids Digestion

As a major source of dietary fiber, artichokes are beneficial for improving and supporting the functionality of digestive systems. Fiber keeps you full longer, balanced your digestion, decreases the chances of constipation, and reduce the risk of stomach and intestinal cancers. Fiber also helps clean out excess bad cholesterol, which means artichokes are doing double duty to make sure your cholesterol levels stay in check.

Supports Liver Health

Cynarin and silymarin are two antioxidants found in artichokes that have proven to improve liver health by reducing toxins and assisting with elimination of toxins from the body. Some research also shows these antioxidants help to promote repair and regrowth of damaged liver cells.

 

Recipe: Lemon-Garlic Grilled Artichoke

Now that you’re more familiar with this formidable looking thistle, it’s time to try your hand at preparing it! Try this lemon-garlic grilled artichoke recipe, or any of these 3 easy artichoke recipes from Men’s Fitness.

 

Ingredients

4 artichokes

2 lemons

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp rosemary

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Steps

  1. Add juice from 1 lemon, and oregano, thyme, and rosemary to a large pot of water.
  2. Prepare the artichokes by removing any small thorns on the ends of the leaves. Remove about 3/4 inch from the tip of the artichoke and any excess stem, and wash the artichoke.
  3. Place artichokes in the pot and cover.
  4. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the stem is tender. Drain the water.
  5. Allow the artichokes to cool, then slice in half length-wise and scoop out the choke.
  6. Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and parsley in a bowl and add the sliced artichokes.
  7. Grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until artichokes are lightly charred.
  8. Sprinkle with salt and juice from leftover lemon.

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