Oh, my favorite inexplicably delicious vegetable. When I was growing up, my mom would steam each of us an artichoke, whip up a batch of hollandaise, and we’d sit down and get to work making a giant pile of finished leaves in the middle of the table. In my memory, that was the whole meal, though I’m guessing I’m just forgetting whatever else might have been served because I just loved the painstaking process of dismembering the choke leaf by leaf. You had to finish because otherwise you wouldn’t get to scrape out the middle and eat the real treat at the end. These days, I usually make a dip with greek yogurt, garlic, and italian herbs, or a little olive oil with lemon juice rather than the hollandaise to lighten things up a bit, but it’s still an event here on artichoke night.
Artichokes are a wonderful springtime treat not only because they are in season, delicious, and a fun activity that keeps everyone focused on dinner, but because they also support our body’s specific health needs during this season. They are high in inulin, the mysterious fructooligosaccharide I spoke about in my article about Jerusalem Artichokes. This means they support the health of the large intestine which will promote the removal of wastes from the body.
Historically, artichokes have been used extensively to support the health of the liver, one of the primary organs we need to support during these months of “spring cleaning”. Generally, studies have shown artichoke to have a protective effect on liver cells. Beyond this, artichokes have been found to help with one of the primary actions of the liver, which is to properly synthesize and move fats. This is useful for several reasons: It helps to bring cholesterols more efficiently out of the bloodstream, turn them into bile, and then deliver the bile to the gallbladder. The bile is then excreted via the intestines. This is the only way the body is able to rid itself of cholesterols. This can also help increase the efficiency of removal of fat-soluble toxins from the body. It has also been found to decrease production of cholesterol (which takes place in the liver).
Overall, artichokes are a great support to the bodily processes that need extra support during the springtime. They help the body process and eliminate wastes more effectively by promoting the function of the liver and large intestine. So get out the steamer (or it only takes 8 minutes in the pressure cooker!), roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Michael Murray, ND. 2005.
Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: a randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial.
Bundy R, Walker AF, Middleton RW, Wallis C, Simpson HC. Phytomedicine. 2008 Sep;15(9):668-75.