Artichokes are known to be a "liver-friendly" food, and artichoke extract is often included in comprehensive liver formulas. Why? Because the plant is a wonderful source of silymarin, the active ingredient in the most important herb for liver health—milk thistle. The leaves also contain a number of active chemical compounds that have been found to be beneficial across a range of health issues. And let's not even talk about artichoke's antioxidant power! (OK, let's.) One of the largest studies of antioxidants in food, conducted by the USDA and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, ranked artichokes seventh among the top 100 foods.
Artichokes are a nutrient superstar because they provide more than 15 percent of your total recommended daily allowance (RDA) for four or more different vitamins and minerals. One medium artichoke contains 72 mg of magnesium, a whopping 425 mg of heart-healthy potassium, and a really substantial 6.5 grams of fiber. All for a miserly 60 calories!
Now that's a good nutritional deal, no matter how you slice it.
1 medium: 60 calories, 0 grams fat, 13 grams carbohydrate (7 g fiber), 4 g protein.
Good Source: Vitamins C and K, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.
How to Eat an Artichoke
To eat a steamed artichoke, pull the leaves off, dip lightly, and drag the base ends through your teeth, scraping off the tender pulp and discarding the tougher parts of the leaves. When all the leaves are gone, scoop out the thistly fibers (choke) and enjoy the tender "heart" (base)
Notes from Chef Jeannette
If you're running short on time, you can omit the herbs, celery, and wine and simply steam the artichokes in plain water.
To choose a fresh artichoke, look for a firm, heavy, medium green one with compact center leaves.
Steamed Artichokes with Yogurt Dip
This easy recipe combines fresh artichokes and a tasty dip into a healthy appetizer or snack.
4 whole, fresh artichokes*
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. black peppercorns
¼ cup chopped celery
½ cup red wine
¼ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup natural, organic mayonnaise
2 tsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. minced fresh chives
1 shallot, minced
¼ tsp. each salt and white pepper
PER SERVING: 181 CAL; 5 G PROT; 12 G TOTAL FAT (2 G SAT FAT); 17 G CARB; 11 MG CHOL; 348 MG SOD; 10 G FIBER; 2 G SUGARS