Healthy Family | Home Safety | Health and Wealth | Relationship Issues | Career Advice | Growing Family
Get the SixWise e-Newsletter FREE!
Google Web
Free Newsletter Subscription
Get the Web's Most trusted & Informative Health, Wealth, Safety & More Newsletter -- FREE!


Share Email to a Friend Print This

Artichokes: The Phytochemical-Rich Thistle
Vegetable with an Interesting History

Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans, yet many Americans are wary of this prickly vegetable with the tough exterior. However, if you've never tried an artichoke, there is great reason to do so. Aside from being very tasty, they're excellent for your health.


Artichokes were the fourth highest antioxidant food according to a survey of more than 100 foods.

Artichokes have been grown since ancient times, with the Greek philosopher Theophrastus even writing about them being grown in Italy and Sicily as far back as 371-287 B.C.

Interestingly, much later during the 16th century, only men were allowed to eat artichokes, as they were considered an aphrodisiac that would enhance sexual power.

In Ancient Greece, meanwhile, artichokes were thought to be an effective food if you wanted to give birth to a boy. And in the 1576 "Book of Nature," Dr. Bartolomeo Boldo said of artichokes, "It has the virtue of ... provoking Venus for both men and women; for women making them more desirable, and helping the men who are in these matters rather tardy."

There are more than 140 known artichoke varieties, though fewer than 40 are grown commercially. Although artichokes are grown in France, Italy and Spain, the United States gets their entire artichoke supply from California.

Artichokes: Antioxidant Powerhouses

Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium, but it is their phytonutrient content that really makes them shine.

In fact, a study published in the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that artichokes ranked fourth in antioxidant content out of over 100 tested foods.

Artichokes were found to contain more antioxidants per serving than blueberries, raspberries, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes and a host of other fruits and vegetables (only blackberries, walnuts and strawberries had more).

The phytonutrients (compounds in plants that have antioxidant properties) in artichokes are known to:

  • Help prevent cancer

  • Help slow the signs of aging

  • Keep your heart healthy

  • Boost your immune system

  • Lower your cholesterol

Specifically, according to artichoke grower Ocean Mist Farms, artichokes contain:

  • Quercetin: A flavonoid may protect against cancer and heart disease.

  • Rutin: A flavonoid that "promotes vascular health, helps prevent cell proliferation associated with cancer, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties."

  • Anthocyanins: Antioxidants that may lower the risk of cancer and promote urinary tract health, memory function and healthy aging.

  • Gallic Acid: An antioxidant that has been shown to inhibit cell proliferation in prostate cancer cells.

Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes

Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is the perfect cooking companion for anyone who wants to get more fresh, healthy and great-tasting fruits and vegetables into their diet -- but doesn't have a lot of time to do it.

  • Luteolin and Cynarin: Antioxidants that may lower cholesterol.

  • Caffeic Acid and Chlorogenic Acid: These contain anti-cancer, antimicrobial and anti-viral properties, and they may help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.

  • Silymarin: An antioxidant that may help the liver in regenerative tissue growth.

How to Eat an Artichoke

The obvious factor that keeps many people from enjoying artichokes is their outward appearance. But though they may look complicated, cooking and enjoying artichokes is actually quite simple. Here's what to do:

  • Wash the artichoke using cold, running water.

  • Trim the stem so it's about an inch or two long (but not too short, because the stem is edible).

  • Cut about an inch off the top of the artichoke (so the top is flat, rather than pointed).

  • Using scissors, trim the pointed tip off of each petal (this is optional).


Don't be intimidated by artichokes; they're simple to prepare. Just cut off the top, trim the stem and tips from the petals, steam until tender and enjoy with a little melted butter and lemon juice for dipping.

Artichokes can then be steamed (for about 30-50 minutes, or until tender), boiled, grilled (after being steamed first), or roasted (steam them for 10 minutes less than usual first).

To eat an artichoke in the traditional manner (whole), here's what you need to know:

  • Eat the petals one at a time, pulling the soft meat through your teeth, then discarding the remaining, tougher leaf.

  • You can eat the petals plain or dip them into melted butter, lemon juice, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar or any sauce of your choice.

  • When you've reached the artichoke heart, remove the fuzzy pinchers with a spoon, and eat the entire "heart" and stem (the artichoke heart is considered the best part of the artichoke).

Artichokes are also great when cooked into recipes, such as the two delicious dishes you can try out below.

Artichoke Pissaladiere


  • 3-4 jumbo artichokes, steamed
  • boiling salted water
  • 3 large red onions
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (16 oz.) Italian bread shell or brown-and serve focaccia
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Herbs de Provance
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives


  1. Remove leaves and choke from the cooked artichokes. Cut heart into thin slices.
  2. Place onions, sugar and wine in heavy skillet. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent and all liquid has evaporated; cool before using.
  3. Brush bread shell with oil (or halve focaccia horizontally and brush cut surfaces with oil); sprinkle with herbs and kosher salt. Top with caramelized red onions, cheese, olives and artichokes.
  4. Bake at 375°F 25-30 minutes or until center is lightly toasted and edges are golden brown. Cool. Cut into 8 wedges and serve at room temperature.

Healthy Artichoke Dip


  • 4 large artichokes, steamed (mash the hearts, bottoms and stems of the steamed artichoke for this recipe and save the leaves for dipping)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat or regular sour cream
  • 1/2 cup green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic salt
  • The juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine mashed artichoke, sour cream, green onions, lemon juice and garlic salt in a medium mixing bowl , making sure that artichoke hearts, bottoms and stems are well mashed.
  3. Place artichoke mixture in a small oven-proof casserole dish and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of dip.
  4. Bake in oven for 25 minutes and serve warm or cold with fresh veggies, artichoke leaves or a thinly sliced baguette for dipping.

Recommended Reading

The 11 Healthiest Autumn Fruits and Vegetables

10 Top Foods to Help You Fight High Cholesterol


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 1, 95-135, July 2006

Ocean Mist Farms

To get more information about this and other highly important topics, sign up for your free subscription to our weekly "Be Safe, Live Long & Prosper" e-newsletter.

With every issue of the free newsletter, you’ll get access to the insights, products, services, and more that can truly improve your well-being, peace of mind, and therefore your life!

Share Email to a Friend Print This