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ArtichokesArtichokes

 

Benefits

A good source of folate, vitamin C and potassium

Low in calories, high in fiber

 

Drawbacks

May provoke allergic reaction in people sensitive to ragweed

 

Served either hot or cold, the globe artichoke is both a delicacy and a low-calorie, nutritious vegetable. Actually, a globe artichoke is the flower bud of a large, thistlelike plant, with only a few edible portions the heart and the tender, fleshy part at the base of the tough outer leaves. Both the heart and the meaty leaves of the artichoke are edible, though it's the leaves that contain many of the vegetable's phytochemicals.

 

Use a light sauce. To prepare a fresh artichoke, the thorny top and leaf tips are trimmed away, and the vegetable is boiled, steamed, or baked. It can be served in many ways, but one of the most popular is to dip the edible portion of the leaves in a sauce. It's this sauce that dictates whether an artichoke is a healthful treat or a high-caloried indulgence. High-fat sauces like Hollandaise and melted butter are traditional favorites, but a much more healthful choice is lemon juice with a dash of olive oil.

 

One artichoke provides 28 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of folate, 16 percent of vitamin C, 300 mg of potassium, and about 3 g of fiber. Artichokes contain cynarin, an organic acid that stimulates the sweetness receptors in the taste buds of some people, causing the foods eaten afterward to taste sweeter. This chemical is thought to improve liver function and possibly lower blood cholesterol, but these claims are unproved. Also lacking proof are claims that artichokes lower blood sugar and stimulate bile flow.

 

Artichokes are members of the sunflower, or composite, plant family. People allergic to ragweed pollen may react to artichokes because of cross-reacting antigens that respond to both allergens.

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