The Artichoke is a deciduous perennial plant. The root looks like a peg and goes deep into the soil, while the stem is tender and has many branches. Its blossom is a disc that is covered by many thick leaves, which are arranged like fish scales. Usually the flowers have thorns, but there are some varieties that give large flowers (heads) without thorns. The edible part of the plant is the blossom and should be cleaned of leaves and fluff that surrounds it. Many times, however, leaves are also used, as animal feed. The artichoke is a plant known since ancient times. Although cultivated in different regions of the Mediterranean does not seem to be particularly popular in all these countries even though it has become part of the great Mediterranean Diet.
Apart from the special and unique flavor offering, the artichoke has multiple health benefits. Its effect on various health issues has been studied for many years now and has been shown to act positively to various health problems and conditions of the body.
It has been found that both the flower and leaves of the artichoke are very rich in polyphenols particularly chlorogenic acid and cynarine, but also in many other antioxidants such as lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin etc.
Indeed, in a list of 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols, artichoke occupies a leading position. This could potentially make the artichoke valuable in the pharmaceutical industry, beyond its use as food.
The therapeutic effect in the liver and the gall bladder has been found since the 17th century, when it was found that artichoke extract had diuretic and choleretic action. New research in different artichoke varieties and in various stages of maturation, have led to conclusions about various therapeutic properties.
Study has shown that extracts from the leaves of the artichoke is likely to lead to an improvement in lipid profile, in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia . More specifically states that the artichoke can not only achieve a decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, but also to achieve a slight increase in levels of HDL cholesterol, thereby improving the lipid profile and thus reducing the risk for cardiovascular problems. Moreover, the artichoke has been found to have a high level of Κ and a relatively low Na / K ratio (as compared to other vegetables) and so it protects against hypertension and cardiovascular problems.
Another therapeutic action of the artichoke is in the gastrointestinal system. The extract from the leaves of the artichoke relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and seems to assist in resolution of the symptoms of indigestion in people who do not show any other health problem.
In addition, the use of artichoke extract was found to have a positive effect in controlling appetite and reducing glycaemia in overweight individuals, resulting in the possible use of artichoke even in the regulation of body weight.
The biological value is further enhanced by the fact that it is very rich in vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin K, and minerals like magnesium, potassium , copper , iron , phosphorus, while it is a very good source of fiber.
Artichoke can be cooked in many different ways and may be combined with almost anything and this is why it has been adopted easily in the Mediterranean cuisine and Mediterranean Diet in general. The best known combinations are artichokes with potatoes, with peas, rice, meat, minced meat, spinach, mushrooms, seafood, egg omelet or if you are seeking a more gourmet option, try artichokes au gratin. However, in some regions it is customary to be consumed raw.
The fresh artichoke has a special cleaning technique and this is probably a difficulty in preparation. Firstly, cut with a knife the stem of the artichoke and then remove the hard leaves pulling one by one by hand. When you reach the inner leaves that are softer, cut with a knife at their base, the head of the artichoke. Then clean the fluff from the inside and with a knife clean the hard part of the bottom of the artichoke. Then cut a lemon in half and rub the cleaned artichoke with it before it turns brown. This way you prevent oxidation and loss of nutrients. Place the cleaned artichoke in a pot full of water and lemon juice and continue cleaning. Artichokes are placed there until they are all ready for cooking.
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