Although often considered a vegetable, artichokes are a type of thistle. This plant originated in the Mediterranean and has been used for centuries for its potential medicinal properties. Its alleged health benefits include lower blood sugar levels and improved digestion, heart health, and liver health. Artichoke extract, which contains high concentrations of compounds found in the plant, is also increasingly popular as a supplement.
Here are some of the top health benefits of artichokes:
They can help lower body fat
Artichokes are low in fat while rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Particularly high in folate and vitamins C and K, they also supply important minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.
One medium artichoke contains almost 7 grams of fibre, which is a whopping 23–28% of the reference daily intake (RDI). These delicious thistles come with only 60 calories per medium artichoke and around 4 grams of protein — above average for plant-based food. To top it off, artichokes rank among the most antioxidant-rich of all vegetables.
May Improve Liver Health
Artichoke leaf extract may protect your liver from damage and promote the growth of new tissue. It also increases the production of bile, which helps remove harmful toxins from your liver. Studies in humans also show positive effects on liver health. For example, one trial in 90 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease revealed that consuming 600 mg of artichoke extract daily for two months led to improved liver function. In another study in obese adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, taking artichoke extract daily for two months resulted in reduced liver inflammation and less fat deposition than not consuming artichoke extract.
May help reduce the risk of Cancer
In that same vein, reducing inflammation also helps reduce the potential for cancer cell growth. Artichokes have been shown to help fight a number of specific cancers, too: Their flavonoid content helps kill pancreatic cancer cells. And since artichokes are among the highest sources of the flavonoid apigenin (a type of plant nutrient), they can help fight breast cancer.
While no food item can single-handedly make you drop pounds, a recent study found that artichokes are certainly helpful in maintaining healthy body weight. "An artichoke has about 25 calories, so it easily fits into a menu that supports healthy weight management."
May Improve Digestive Health
Artichokes are a great source of fibre, which can help keep your digestive system healthy by promoting friendly gut bacteria, reducing your risk of certain bowel cancers, and alleviating constipation and diarrhoea. Artichokes contain inulin, a type of fibre which acts as a prebiotic. In one study, 12 adults experienced an improvement in gut bacteria when they consumed an artichoke extract containing inulin each day for three weeks. Artichoke extract may also provide relief from symptoms of indigestion, such as bloating, nausea, and heartburn.
A study in 247 people with indigestion determined that consuming artichoke leaf extract daily for six weeks reduced symptoms, such as flatulence and uncomfortable feelings of fullness, compared to not taking artichoke leaf extract.
They’re high in polyphenols
Speaking of a healthy immune system, it is said that artichokes are naturally high in polyphenols, which can repair damaged cells that impair your immune function. Polyphenols are a group of phytochemicals found largely in plant foods that contribute to their color, says Kirchherr. And research from the Journal of Cell Physiology found that they help protect against disease.
They can help treat allergies
A diet rich in vegetables, like artichokes, has the potential to suppress inflammation.
Artichokes are an excellent source of folate, which is a B vitamin that researchers have found to be potentially beneficial in reducing inflammation that causes allergies and asthma. It's also important during pregnancy.
May Help Lower Blood Sugar
Artichokes and artichoke leaf extract may help lower blood sugar levels. One study in 39 overweight adults found that consuming kidney bean and artichoke extract daily for two months lowered fasting blood sugar levels compared to not supplementing. Another small study indicated that consuming boiled artichoke at a meal reduced blood sugar and insulin levels 30 minutes after eating. That said, artichoke extract has been shown to slow down the activity of alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into glucose, potentially impacting blood sugar.
Artichokes are an extremely nutritious, low-carb food that provides numerous health benefits.
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Source(s): Healthline, Womenshealthmag