At the "Heart" of Spring
By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, and Jeannette Bessinger, CHHC
Everything you need to know about this mighty food in a tiny package

artichokeArtichokes 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)
and stem.

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
Serves 4

This easy recipe combines fresh artichokes and a tasty dip into a healthy appetizer or snack.

ARTICHOKES

4 whole, fresh artichokes*

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. black peppercorns

¼ cup chopped celery

½ cup red wine

DIP

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

  1. To make artichokes: Rinse artichokes and trim off any thorny leaf ends. Slice off stem bottoms, leaving ½—1 inch at the base, and remove any small leaves on stem or base.
  2. Add at least 2 inches of water to large steamer pot (the water line can go up to the level of the steamer basket), and add oregano, peppercorns, celery, and wine. Add steamer basket, and place artichokes, base-down, into basket. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes to one hour, or until lower leaves pull away easily and base is fork-tender. After 30 minutes, check water level occasionally, and add more hot water if it gets too low.
  4. To make dip: Whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, chives, shallots, and salt and pepper in bowl until well incorporated.
  5. Adjust seasonings to taste, and chill dip in refrigerator until artichokes have finished cooking. Serve each artichoke with ¼ of the dip.

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




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