Looking at your typical artichoke in the produce section or at the farmer's market can be intimidating. You may be wondering how on earth you get food out of that thing.
But artichokes are worth a second look. Packed with nutrients, they're also known to support healthy digestion. If you've been avoiding this spiky-looking vegetable, it's time to give them a try. Your tummy will thank you.
The Facts on Artichokes
While they're classified as a vegetable, if left to grow, artichokes will bloom, since they're actually flower heads. This explains why only the inner parts of the artichoke -- the flesh within the petals and the heart -- can be eaten. You can commonly find globe (Cynara cardunculus) and French (Cynara scolymus) varieties of artichoke for sale.
An average-sized artichoke has about 10 g of fiber and no cholesterol. They also have healthy omega-3 fatty acids, minerals like potassium and magnesium, vitamins including B, C and K and antioxidants like lutein and beta carotene.
Artichoke and Your Digestion
Research has shown artichoke leaf extract may be beneficial for those suffering from functional dyspepsia. According to the Mayo Clinic, functional dyspepsia is indigestion that doesn't have an apparent cause. Symptoms include stomach pain, gas, bloating and an unusually "full" feeling.
A 2003 study published in the medical journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found taking artichoke leaf extract daily improved symptoms of indigestion over the course of six weeks. Out of 244 patients who were examined at the beginning and end of the study, the 129 who were given the artichoke leaf extract (the remaining 115 were given a placebo) saw significant improvement in both their symptoms and overall quality of life. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine supported this research, showing improvement of symptoms in patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
A 12-week study published in 2008 in the medical journal Phytomedicine and conducted at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom found artichoke leaf extract also helped improve overall cholesterol. Participants consumed 1,280 mg of the extract daily. While the results were not terribly drastic (11 percent improvement in the active group and 9 percent in the placebo), they suggest another possible benefit of artichokes worth investigating.
Adding More Artichoke to Your Day
You can enjoy artichokes throughout the year either fresh or from a can (look for BPA-free cans and buy organic artichoke packaged in water whenever possible). You can steam, boil or roast fresh ones and add canned artichoke hearts to salads or pasta dishes. Sorry, but no matter how delicious spinach artichoke dip is, it's probably not the best way to eat artichokes for health.
If you're not interested in eating artichokes, don't like the taste or want a stronger dose of the good stuff they offer, try a supplement. Artichoke leaf supplements are widely available in varying strengths to be taken as needed or on a daily basis. Talk with your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine, especially if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or being treated for a medical condition. Your doctor can also help determine the best dosage.
Give artichoke a try to help knock out your digestive woes. Shop our full selection at eVitamins and let us know how it goes!