The artichoke is the flower bud of the plant Cynara scolymus. The artichoke is rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, cynarine, an alkaloid able to protect the liver and to lower the cholesterol, inulin, a prebiotic that protects and stimulates the bacterial flora of the gut, antioxidants such as tannins (Rondanelli et al, Monladi Arch Chest Dis, Mar 2013 - Lopez-Molina et al, Phytochemistry, Jun 2005). However, the properties of the artichoke depend on the ways of cooking and on the foods served together. Let’s see the food combinations and the cooking methods to maximize the properties of artichoke.
Raw artichoke is an amazing dish if you should keep at bay the cholesterol, if you have anxiety or insomnia and it is also good for those people who suffer from diabetes or in case of poor digestion. In fact, raw artichoke preserves its cynarine intake and acts on cholesterol with different mechanisms, it lowers indeed the production of endogen cholesterol and triglycerides, it accelerates the conversion of cholesterol in biliary acids and, by increasing the production of bile, it stimulates the excretion of cholesterol. Inulin, that is a sugar, in raw artichoke isn’t assimilable by the body, and for this reason, raw artichoke may be eaten by persons in overweight or who suffer from diabetes. However, since inulin helps assimilate the iron of artichokes, a decrease in its absorption causes also a decrease of the absorption of iron. On the contrary, raw artichoke is a good source of tannins that show an anti cancer and sedative action and may be eaten also in the evening to calm in case of anxiety and irritability (Fausto Aufiero, the nutritional and therapeutical role of foods). For what concerns the preparation, you should remove the more external leaves, that are hard, and cut the artichoke into thin slices, season with extra virgin olive oil, a little sea salt and lemon juice. And in order to improve digestion you can add also a pinch of fresh grated ginger that, proposed together with artichoke, is a safe and effective combination to counteract poor appetite, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain and nausea (Giacosa et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, Apr 2015).
Artichoke cooked in oil
The artichokes cut into slices and cooked in the frying pan with extra virgin olive oil, or fried in batter are recipes that bring iron, because the heat makes the sugar inulin assimilable, and for this reason are useful in case of anemia or a lack of this mineral. However, be careful if you suffer from high levels of blood sugar, diabetes or if you are in overweight, in this case you should take into consideration the higher intake of sugars. Artichokes cooked in oil, since they stimulate the liver, help also reduce the abdominal bloating and counteract poor digestion. If you add to the artichokes cooked in pan with oil also some chopped garlic, you can maximize the calming and anti depressive action. Finally, this type of preparation is good against constipation because of its laxative action and helps keep at bay cholesterol because it preserves cynarine (Fausto Aufiero, The nutritional and therapeutical role of foods).
Boiled artichokes lose the cynarine while they increase the availability of inulin, with a protective action on the bacterial flora of the gut. The boiling process increases also the antioxidant action up to 8-fold (Ferracane et al, J Agric Food Chem, Sep 2008). Be careful if you suffer from diabetes but also of bloating and flatulence because this preparation may worsen these conditions.