Health On Life's Journey

The global artichoke is an unusual food. A member of the thistle family that is cultivated as food, it is one of the world’s oldest cultivated vegetables. Artichokes are used in many parts of the world both as food and as medicine.

The edible portion of the plant is actually the unbloomed flower buds. Each green, sphere-shaped bud is enclosed by overlapping “leaves” whose flesh is sweet and tender at the base (but inedible at the tip). When you peel away the “leaves”, you will find a fibrous thistle, known as the “choke”, which is firm-fleshed, tender and delectable at the base (known as the “heart of the choke”).

Nutrients found in artichokes

Artichokes are rich in fiber, vitamin A, vitamins B (folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, biotin), vitamin C, as well as minerals such as chromium (trace mineral), magnesium (trace mineral), manganese, and potassium.

A medium-sized artichoke containing just 60 calories and 0.2g of fat can provide you with all these nutrients.

Artichokes also contain a high proportion of oligosaccharide (a type of carbohydrate), which serves as food for the friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract. This makes the artichoke a natural probiotic food that supports the health of your digestive system.

Artichokes for blood sugar control

Artichokes contain a form of carbohydrates, known as inulin, which is handled very differently by the body as compared to other sugars. For this reason, artichokes are very low in calories and can actually be beneficial to those with diabetes. In fact, inulin has been shown to help improve blood sugar level control.

Note however that artichokes should be consumed as fresh as possible, as inulin is easily broken down into other sugars when stored for some time. Artichokes are actually very perishable. The ones whose leaves have begun to spread apart and turn woody or dry are likely to be way past their prime.

Artichokes for liver health

Traditionally, artichokes are used in supporting and healing the liver.

This is because artichokes contain silymarin and caffeoylquinic acids, which are found to assist liver cells in regenerating. In addition, compounds in this flower-food also help the gallbladder increase the flow of bile to and from the liver. This is important because if the bile is not transported adequately to the gallbladder, the liver is at an increased risk of damage.

For these reasons, artichokes are a useful food for those with liver disorders (e.g. hepatitis) and gallbladder diseases.

Artichokes for better heart health

Artichokes have also been used by traditional healers as a diuretic, as well as for lowering cholesterol and fats in the blood.

The compounds in artichokes that facilitate the smooth passage of bile and fats to and from the liver actually help increase the excretion of cholesterol and decrease the manufacture of cholesterol in the liver. As shown in studies, artichoke leaf extracts are found to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans and animals.

Leaf extracts of this exotic fruit have also been shown to improve the functioning of cells that line your arteries (known as endothelial cells). This means that consuming artichokes regularly can provide you with atherosclerosis preventive benefits.

[1] Collins, Elise Marie. An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Companion. San Francisco, California: Conari Press, 2009. Print.
[3] Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.

Cindy L. TJOL is trained in Psychology, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has several years of experience writing on natural health on the internet. Follow her on her blog and read her other articles at Insights On

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