Artichokes: all the benefits of the ancient vegetable considered by the Greeks to be the food of the gods

Artichokes: all the benefits of the ancient vegetable considered by the Greeks to be the food of the gods

The artichoke is an ancient food, whose roots go back to ancient Greece. Let's find out the benefits and why we need to eat more

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The artichoke is an ancient food, whose roots go back to ancient Greece. Let's find out the benefits and why we need to eat more

The artichoke is one of the most ancient superfoods of Greek origin, it has many powerful medicinal properties, as well as being able to be used for the creation of delicious recipes.

The artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) has a history dating back to 3000 years ago and bears on its leaves, thick and green, many myths of ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, in fact, it was considered food of the Olympians, while in ancient Rome it was intended only for the palates of the aristocrats. In the Middle Ages, artichoke was considered a rare and exotic delicacy, and was only available in the palaces of kings. Today, the green vegetable that resembles a flower is one of the most consumed superfoods.


The artichoke in Greek mythology

According to Greek mythology, the first artichoke was actually a beautiful e mortal young woman named Kynara, who lived on an island in the Aegean. One day Zeus visited Poseidon's brother and suddenly saw Kynara swimming in the blue waters off the island's beaches. He immediately fell in love with her, and made her a goddess next to him on Mount Olympus.

However, Kynara felt homesick for her old way of life and often secretly left the peaks of Mount Olympus to go down to her island to swim. When Zeus discovered this, blinded by jealousy and the feeling of betrayal, he transformed Kynara into a plant.

Artichokes: nutritional values

The artichoke plant is mainly produced in the Mediterranean and the Americas. It has been used as a food for more than 3000 years, thanks to its wonderful nutty flavor and its own to the healing properties. It is considered a superfood, as it has a high concentration of antioxidants e Vitamins, and enormous nutritional value.

Specifically, 100 grams of artichoke provide:

  • Energy (calories) 53
  • Carbohydrates (g) 11,9
  • Proteins (g) 2.9
  • Fat (g) 0,3
  • Fiber (g) 5.7
  • Calcium (mg) 21
  • Ferro (mg) 0,61
  • Magnesium (mg) 42
  • Phosphorus (mg) 86
  • Potassium (mg) 285
  • Vitamin C (mg) 7,4
  • Folic acid (μg) 89
  • Niacin (mg) 1.107
  • Lutein & Zeaxanthin (μg) 463

Benefits of artichokes

Lowers cholesterol

Artichoke leaf extract may have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, either by lowering the "bad" LDL or increasing the "good" HDL. Artichokes can affect cholesterol through two different biochemical pathways; first of all they contain luteolin, an antioxidant that prevents its formation, and secondly, artichoke leaf extract can lead the body to better regulate cholesterol levels through greater elimination of sterols and bile acids. (Read also: How to lower cholesterol)

Regulates blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, it may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but according to some studies artichoke leaf extract could regulate blood pressure, probably due to the high content of potassium.

Improve liver function

Research shows that artichokes have beneficial effects on liver health. In fact, artichoke leaf extract can protect the liver from damage and even help grow new tissue. It also increases the production of bile, which helps remove harmful toxins and helps improve liver function in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Improve digestive function

According to a study, the large amount of fiber they contain helps maintain a healthy digestive system. Artichokes contain inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic and maintain good intestinal microflora it also reduces the risk of certain cancers and symptoms of constipation or diarrhea.

It can relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome

In one study about people with irritable bowel syndrome, daily consumption of artichoke leaf extract for six weeks helped relieve symptoms. Additionally, 96% of participants rated the extract as effective, if not better, than other treatments, such as antidiarrheals and laxatives. Another study out of 208 people found that 1-2 capsules of artichoke leaf extract, consumed daily for two months, reduced symptoms by 26% and improved quality of life by 20%.

Artichoke extract can relieve symptoms in several ways, in fact, some compounds in artichokes have antispasmodic properties. This means they can help stop muscle spasms, balance gut bacteria, and reduce inflammation.

Potential anticancer protection

It is believed that some antioxidants (rutin, quercetin, silymarin and gallic acid) present in artichokes are responsible for anticancer effects. For example, silymarin has been found to help prevent and treat skin cancer.

It can help lower blood sugar

Artichokes and artichoke leaf extract can help reduce blood sugar levels. A study of 39 overweight adults found that consuming bean and artichoke extract daily for two months lowered fasting blood sugar levels. Another small study found that consuming boiled artichoke reduced blood sugar and insulin levels 30 minutes after eating. Notably, this effect was only seen in healthy adults who did not have the metabolic syndrome.

How artichoke extract lowers blood sugar is not fully understood. That said, artichoke extract has been shown to slows down the activity of alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into glucose, potentially affecting blood sugar.

The cynarin in artichokes improves the taste of other foods

A notable phenomenon observed after consuming artichokes is the sensation of a sweet taste in other foods, even in water. This is due to the presence of cinnarine, which seems to affect the sweet taste sensors present on the taste buds. This means that a meal with artichokes can alter the taste of other foods consumed at the same time, such as salads, other vegetables, and even wine.

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