Continental artichoke season, which reigns from November to May, is eagerly anticipated in Italy.1 That’s when these green, layered globes are eaten voraciously. But Italians are not the world’s only artichoke enthusiasts. Throughout the Levant, the home of artichokes, they’re also a beloved part of the diet.2
Like many staples of the Mediterranean diet that aren’t widely eaten in Britain, artichokes are absolutely brimming with health benefits. This article will give you the inside line on everything artichoke.
What are artichokes?
Although we consider artichokes a vegetable, they’re actually an edible thistle.3 People throughout the Mediterranean have eaten artichoke since the Ancient Roman era.4
Health benefits of artichokes
Artichokes are associated with a wide range of health benefits, including:
Numerous studies have found that artichoke leaf extract lowers ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.5,6,7
Reduce blood pressure
High blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of illness and disease.8 Happily, one study found that taking supplements of artichoke leaf extract helped lower blood pressure.9
Enhanced liver function
Studies on humans and animals have found that regular consumption of artichoke leaf extract improved liver function and made the liver healthier, even among those suffering from disease.10,11,12,13
Better gut health
A healthy gut is connected to all-around good health.14 Those who supplemented with artichoke extract for two weeks experienced an increase in good gut bacteria.15,16
Artichoke's nutrition profile
An average, medium-sized artichoke (128g) contains:
|Vitamin C||Vitamin K||Folate||Vitamin B6|
|25% of RDA||24% of RDA||22% of RDA||11% of RDA|
How to include more in your diet
In Nigella Lawson’s 2020 book Cook, Eat, Repeat, she devotes a whole chapter to artichokes and writes that they were once so hard to get in Britain. The only place you could buy them was the freezer of Middle Eastern grocery shops!
Although frozen artichokes are available in some major supermarkets these days, finding them fresh is still rare. Your best chance is farmers’ markets in June when they’re in season here.
When you do find frozen artichokes, use them for cooking flavourful dishes, like:
- Roman-style artichokes stuffed with garlic, parsley, and fresh mint
- Syrian-style artichokes stuffed with beef and pine nuts
- Greek-style artichokes stuffed with feta and capers
- Creamy artichoke dip
- Pasta with artichoke
- Artichoke tart
Potential risks of artichokes
Artichokes may cause bloating and gas for those with sensitivities toward fibrous foods. Although rare, artichoke may cause allergic reactions, particularly among those allergic to daisies, marigolds, thistles, and nettles.17
If you’re Jewish, you may be concerned whether or not artichokes are Kosher, after Israel’s chief rabbinate declared them trayf (nonkosher). Whether or not they are is complex; Rome’s Jews have firmly refused to accept the proclamation against artichoke consumption, as they’re a symbol of their unique cultural identity.18
Last updated: 2 March 2021