Artichokes

Artichokes ~ Super Vegetables

For Good Health

Anything with lot's of fiber, and just one of these supplies 25% of an adults daily quota, is detoxifying because it helps rid the body of waste.

The result?

Clearer more radiant skin.

They also contain rutin, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation throughout the body, so skin appears plumper and less red.

Their Healing Power Can Help

Protect against skin cancer, prevent heart and liver diseases and even prevent birth defects.

When Henry II's wife started eating them in France during the Renaissance, the natives deemed it positively scandalous.

This super vegetable, after all, was rumored to be an aphrodisiac, hardly the food that a lady the likes of Lady Catherine should be eating with abandon.

Four hundred years have passed since then, and there's little evidence that this vegetable can fire your libido.

But they can do a lot to fuel your health.

Research has shown that they contain a compound that can help prevent certain kinds of cancer and even heal a damaged liver.

Globes of Protection

Artichokes originated in the scorching Nile Valley and today are grown most prolifically in the sun-baked soil of Castroville, California.

So perhaps it's not surprising that this super vegetable, which is actually the immature flower of the thistle plant, may provide protection against skin cancer.

In a study at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, also in Cleveland, researchers found that an ointment made with silymarin, a compound found in artichokes, was able to prevent skin cancer in mice.

You don't have to “wear” artichokes to reap this protection.

Silymarin works because it is a powerful antioxidant.

Antioxidants help prevent cancer in the body by mopping up harmful, cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals before they damage DNA and pave the way for tumors to develop.

Free radicals occur naturally, but their formation is accelerated by exposure to such things as sunlight and air pollution.

You can't stop free radicals from forming, but artichokes can block their effects.

It's such an effective antioxidant that silymarin extract is even used medicinally against liver disease in Europe.

In fact, these super vegetables are the only food source of silymarin.

You can get silymarin from milk thistle herbal supplements, but other than artichokes, you won’t be eating it.

Silymarin also protects against liver damage from a host of natural and manmade toxins.

From liver-damaging aflatoxins (produced by molds and fungi in our food) to acetominophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) and alcohol, silymarin appears to minimize the damage of liver-toxic substances.

No other naturally occurring food and herbal nutrient has the liver-protective effects of silymarin.

Studies haven't been done yet to determine how many you'd have to eat to reap these benefits.

But, in the meantime, preliminary research suggests that you can't go wrong by including more of these super-healthy and very tasty vegetables in your diet.

Hearts For Your Heart

As Americans continue to enjoy the convenience of drive-through, fast-food, fast-paced living, they often come up short on many significant food components, particularly the fiber that only comes from plant foods.

Even though dietary fiber does not have nutritional value, it's of tremendous importance.

By adding bulk to the stool, it causes wastes to be excreted from the body more quickly.

This is essential for sweeping toxins and cholesterol from the intestinal tract before they cause problems.

In addition, getting enough fiber in your diet (the Daily Value, or DV; is 25 grams) can help prevent high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar (a precursor of diabetes), certain kinds of cancer and particularly colon cancer.

An Excellent Fiber Source

One medium cooked artichoke contains more than 6 grams of the rough stuff, providing about a quarter of your daily requirement.

Even if you don't eat the leaves, you can get plenty of fiber from the hearts alone.

Frozen or fresh, a half-cup serving of artichoke hearts delivers about 5 grams of fiber, 20 percent of the DV.

They're also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that has been found to be helpful in controlling high blood pressure.

Magnesium helps keep muscles running smoothly and lessens the risk of arrhythmia, which is a potentially dangerous variation in the heart's normal rhythm.

Studies have shown that 20 to 35 % of people who have heart failure also have low levels of magnesium.

One of medium size delivers 72 milligrams of magnesium, 18 % of the DV.

A half cup serving of the hearts alone provides 50 milligrams, nearly 13 % of the DV.

Filled With Folate

Pregnant women would be especially wise to sink their teeth into the sweet layers because, as researchers have discovered, these super vegetables are loaded with folate, a B-vitamin known for its importance in fetal development.

Even if you're not pregnant, folate is an essential nutrient.

It helps the nerves function properly and studies show that it may be important in protecting against heart disease and certain cancers as well.

Unfortunately, folate deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the U.S.

We simply don't eat enough okra, spinach, and other folate-rich foods to get the 400 micrograms we need each day.

One of medium size contains 61 micrograms of folate, 15 % of the DV.

A half cup of the hearts contains about 43 micrograms, which is 11 % of the DV.

A Burst of "C"

As with most fruits and vegetables grown in the sun-drenched California soils, artichokes are a good source of vitamin-C.

Like silymarin, vitamin-C is a potent antioxidant, so it squelches free radicals before they do damage.

Studies also show that eating plenty of vitamin-C helps maintain healthy skin and strong immunity against bacteria and viruses.

One medium artichoke contains about 12 milligrams of vitamin-C, 20 % of the DV.

Getting the Most

Enjoy the convenience.

The one problem that many people have with this super vegetable is that it's too much work to eat.

An easy alternative is to buy a bag of frozen hearts.

They're a snap to prepare, and although they lose some nutrients during processing, they actually have more folate than their fresh counterparts.

For vitamin-C, eat it fresh.

Vitamin-C is easily destroyed during processing.

So when you're trying to boost your intake of this important vitamin, fresh are the way to go.

Go easy on the dip.

In their natural state, they are a low-fat food, a benefit that's quickly lost when you dip the leaves in butter.

To maintain their low-fat profile while still adding a bit of zest, replace the butter with a dip of low-fat yogurt seasoned with garlic or lemon juice.

In Your Kitchen

At first glance, the artichoke is kind of like Rubik's Cube-it looks inviting and intriguing, but you're not sure you want to mess with it.

Appearances can be deceptive.

If you follow a few easy tips, preparing and eating them is simple.

* Dirt readily gets lodged beneath their scaly leaves, so it's important to rinse them thoroughly before cooking them.

* Pull off the tough outer, lower petals. With a sharp knife, slice off the stems so that they're level with the bottoms of the artichokes.

* Stand them in a large saucepan. Cover halfway with water and simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.

Or place them on a steaming rack and steam for the same amount of time.

* To test for doneness, pull on a center petal. If it comes out easily, they're done.

* To eat the leaves, hold them by the tip, curved side down, and draw them between your teeth to remove the tender flesh.

* When the leaves are gone, use a fork or spoon to scoop out the hairy layer, called the choke.

Discard the hairy choke, and then dig into the best part-the tender heart.

Food Alert ~ Hidden Sweetness

Artichokes are traditionally served as a separate course rather than with meals.

For one thing, they require all your attention to eat.

In addition, even though artichokes themselves aren't sweet, apparently they like sweetness in others and have the means to make it so.

This super vegetable contain a compound called cynarine.

When cynarine is mixed with other foods, it makes them taste sweeter than they actually are by themselves.

Cynarine stimulates the sweetness receptors on your tongue.

Even water tastes sweet after you eat one.

So it's best to serve them either alone or with a neutral-tasting food like pasta.

You may also want to hold off on serving that pricey bottle of Pinot Noir.

As they stimulate the sense of sweetness, artichokes really throw off the taste of wines.

If you're just drinking plain table wine, it doesn't matter.

But for fine wines where you want to taste all the subtle nuances, you're best off not drinking them with artichokes.

From the "I-can't-believe-this-isn't fattening" school of thought comes this delicious weekend treat.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip


We first made this vegetable dip recipe for a tailgating football party.

We've received so many compliments on this vegetable dip that we continue to make it for social occasions and people can't even tell it's a reduced-fat recipe!

Ingredients:

Serves: Prep: 5min ~ Cook: 2hr ~ Total: 2hr 5min

NOTE: Ingredients for a changed serving size are based on a calculation and are not reviewed by the author or tested.

Please also consider scaling up or down cooking containers as needed.

* 2 c. shredded reduced-fat mozzarella

* 1 container (8 oz.) reduced-fat onion and chive cream cheese

* 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

* 1/4 lg. onion, chopped

* 1 bag (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed

* 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

* 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper

* Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

* baked tortilla chips (optional)

* celery and carrot sticks (optional)

Preparation;

1. Stir together the mozzarella, cream cheese, Parmesan, onion, spinach, artichokes, garlic powder and red pepper in a 3 to 5-quart slow cooker.

Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Serve warm with tortilla chips or celery and carrot sticks.

Enjoy!

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