Food Focus: Artichokes

Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region, an area of the world with one of the lowest rates of chronic disease and one of the highest life expectancies. Not a bad bandwagon to jump on! Mediterranean cuisine features artichokes, other vegetables and fruits, poultry and seafood, grains, beans, pastas, and little saturated fat.

artichokesArtichoke Season is year-round, with the peak in March through May. One large artichoke contains only 25 calories, no fat, 170 milligrams of potassium, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium and dietary fiber. Some new studies have shown that artichokes contain an unusual amount of anti-oxidants, in the form of phytonutrients. Among the most powerful phytonutrients are Cynarin and Silymarin, which have strong positive effects on the liver. Over the years, artichokes have been known to help in the cure of liver diseases, liver cancer and to cure hangovers!

The typical American diet is notoriously lacking in fiber, due to the heavy reliance on processed foods and meat products. Adding a large artichoke to the daily diet would add 6 grams of dietary fiber or 1/4 the amount recommended by the USDA. One medium artichoke has more fiber than a cup of prunes!

When buying fresh artichokes, look for a deep green color. Choose ones that seem heavy for their size, with a thorn at the tip of each leaf; these have anuttier flavor and a firmer texture than the thornless variety. The leaves should squeak when rubbed together and be tightly packed; opened leaves and
blackening on the stem are signs an artichoke is old. The roundest artichokes have the largest hearts.

From simply steaming artichokes to including them in pastas and salads, you can find a variety of ways to use this healthy vegetable. Artichokes can be found fresh, frozen or jarred. If you are looking for a quick way to get the health benefits of artichokes into your body without all of the work, frozen artichokes out are a great option!

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