Since I can recall, I always loved artichokes. Growing in various parts of the world, my memories of going back home to Portugal and spending time at my grandparents farm, near Lisbon and where the Gare do Oriente now is, was to run around the farm and always being intrigued by the beauty of the actual artichoke plant.
Artichoke is low in calories and fat; nonetheless, it is a rich source of dietary fiber. It provides 5.4 g per 100 g, about 14% of RDA fiber. Dietary fiber helps control constipation conditions, decrease bad or "LDL" cholesterol levels by binding to it in the intestines and help prevent colon cancer risks by preventing toxic compounds in the food from absorption.
Artichoke contains bitter principles, cynarin, and sesquiterpene lactones. Scientific studies show that these compounds inhibit cholesterol synthesis and increase its excretion in the bile and thus; have overall cholesterol reduction in the blood.
Fresh artichoke is an excellent source of vitamin folic acid; provide about 68 µg per 100 g (17% of recommended daily allowance). Folic acid acts as a co-factor for enzymes involved in the synthesis of DNA. Scientific studies have proven that adequate levels of folates in the diet during pre-conception period, and during early pregnancy, help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
Fresh globes also contain good amounts of anti-oxidant vitamin; vitamin-C (Provides about 20% of recommended levels per 100 g). Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
It is one of the vegetable sources for vitamin-K; provide about 12% of DRI. Vitamin K has potential role bone health by promoting osteotropic (bone formation) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
It is an also good source of antioxidants such as silymarin, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid, which help the body protect from harmful free-radical agents. Total antioxidant strength (ORAC) of artichokes (globe or french) is 6552 µmol TE/100 g.
It is also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
Further, artichoke is rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.
Additionally, it contains small amounts of antioxidant flavonoid compounds like carotene-beta, lutein, and zeaxanthin.