Health Benefits of Artichokes, According to a Dietitian
Artichokes are delicious—especially when paired with spinach in dip form—but are they actually healthy? Here we break down the nutrition and benefits of artichokes, plus share tasty ways to incorporate them into your next meal.
Spinach and artichoke dip is delicious, but it's not the only way to enjoy artichokes. Fresh artichokes are in season in the spring and fall, and if these pinecone-looking veggies are new to you, here's what you need to know about their nutrition, health benefits, and how you can include them in your meals.
What Is an Artichoke?
Artichokes—also known as globe or French artichokes—are pinecone-shaped vegetables. Well, technically they're a thistle flower bud that is classified as a vegetable by many. The artichoke bulb is made up of hard and fibrous greenish-purple outer petals that protect the inedible hairy choke and the edible heart. Once the bud blooms into a flower, the artichoke as a whole becomes inedible.
Artichokes are prime in two seasons; in the spring between March and June and in the fall during September and October. And almost all artichokes grown in the U.S. are grown in California, according to the California Artichoke Advisory Board.
One serving of marinated artichoke hearts (about 1 ounce) contains:
- 35 calories
- 1 g carbohydrate
- 0.5 g fiber
- 3 g fat
- 0.5 g protein
- 0 g sugars
- 8 mg calcium
- 24 mg potassium
- 100 mg sodium
While the heart provides some nutrition, the whole artichoke, which also includes the edible meat at the base of the petals and the center of the stem, offers more nutrients. A medium artichoke (about 5 ounces) has:
- 60 calories
- 13 g carbohydrate
- 7 g fiber
- 0 g fat
- 4 g protein
- 1 g sugars
- 56 mg calcium
- 474 mg potassium
- 15 mg vitamin C
- 87 ug folate
- 77 mg magnesium
- 115 mg phosphorus
- 120 mg sodium
Artichoke Health Benefits
Artichokes pack a lot of health perks. Here are seven benefits you can get from including this veggie in your regular meal rotation:
1. Keeps you full
One medium artichoke provides about 7 grams of fiber, almost one-third of your daily recommended fiber intake. Research shows that fiber offers many health benefits, including increasing satiety after meals, stabilizing blood glucose levels, lowering cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and several cancers.
2. Strengthens your bones
For each artichoke you eat, you'll get up to one-fifth of the recommended daily intake for vitamin K. This vitamin plays an important role in bone health, blood clotting, and wound healing. To maintain strong bones as you age, don't skimp on this nutrient. Overall, women who skimp on vitamin K-containing foods in their diet have more of a risk of suffering from fractures, notes a review.
3. Protects your brain
Whole artichokes also pack folate, a B vitamin that's associated with brain health. According to research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, people who got enough folate in their diet were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, though there are a lot of factors at play with such a condition. Researchers suspect that folate may quench oxidative stress and inhibit plaque and tangle formation, which is involved in the development of Alzheimer's.
In addition, folate keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy. It is also a vital nutrient for preventing anemia and reducing the risk of some birth defects, such as those of the spine, skull, and brain, during pregnancy.
4. Serves as an excellent source of magnesium
One medium artichoke offers one-quarter of your daily needs of magnesium, a vital nutrient for blood pressure regulation, bone development, protein synthesis, and nerve and muscle function, notes the National Institutes of Health.
5. Supports healthy blood pressure
Artichokes are also a good source of potassium, with one artichoke providing a similar amount of potassium to that of a medium banana. Like magnesium, potassium is essential for nerve and muscle function. It also helps support healthy bones and kidneys and maintains the body's fluid balance. Getting adequate amounts of the mineral helps your body urinate out excess sodium, improving your ability to control your blood pressure, says the American Heart Association.
6. Provides some phosphorus
A whole artichoke provides about 9% Daily Value of phosphorus, another vital nutrient for supporting the body's functions using and storing energy, forming bones and teeth, and filtering waste in the kidneys.
7. Contains helpful antioxidants
Artichokes are known for their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds found in vegetables and fruits that can fight off free radicals, molecules that could damage cells.
In addition to being an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, artichokes have two one-of-a-kind antioxidants: cynarin and silymarin. Cynarin, an antioxidant unique to artichokes, may provide multiple benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol, supporting liver health, and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and certain types of cancer. Silymarin has been studied for its role in liver health.
One Potential Drawback of Artichokes: FODMAPs
People with irritable bowel syndrome may want to be cautious with artichokes, as the bulb is considered a high-FODMAP food. FODMAP is an abbreviation for certain types of sugars and fibers that can cause gut issues. Specifically, artichokes are high in inulin, a type of fiber that's not easily broken down in the small intestine in people with IBS. Inulin becomes food for bacteria in the colon, potentially causing unpleasant symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, and bloating.
How to Enjoy Artichokes
Artichokes have a firm texture and bitter flavor in their natural uncooked state. That's thanks to cynarin, the compound that contributes to artichokes' bitterness. Cooking artichokes softens their texture, transforming them to have the feel of boiled potatoes. The bitterness also fades with cooking.
Though artichokes look nothing like conventional vegetables but don't let their appearance intimidate you. Canned, jarred or frozen artichoke hearts are easy to use in everything from dips to casseroles, pasta, and soups.
Artichokes also pair splendidly with spinach. Vegan Spinach-Artichoke Dip is a must-try, but so is our Cream of Artichoke Soup. Our collection of easy-to-prep artichoke recipes can get your next meal ready in 20 minutes or less.
Artichokes are healthy vegetables that deliver nutrients like fiber, vitamin K and magnesium, and antioxidants like cynarin and silymarin. Canned, jarred or frozen artichoke hearts make it easy for us to enjoy them year-round. And in the spring and fall, whole artichokes make for an impressive, yet easy-to-make addition to your plate.