You know I love a tasty gut-friendly vegetable, but when a veggie is also fun to eat – I like it even better. And artichokes are about the most fun vegetables out there. First of all, they’re fun to look at. As a member of the sunflower family, they actually look like flowers. And when they’re fully mature, these beautiful, odd veggies can sometimes grow to be about 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Now, the best part of this spiny-looking veggie (it’s actually part of the thistle family!) is the bud – that’s the piece that contains the heart (aka the meaty core). Around the heart is the fuzzy choke encased by lots of petals. At the tips of the petals are spiky thorns meant to shield the heart, but once they’re cooked, they get softer. Initially, artichokes were grown in the Mediterranean, but California’s climate is also good for artichokes and so the state grows almost all of the artichokes you’ll find in this country. In fact, there’s even annual artichoke festival in Castroville, CA. Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe was crowned California’s first “Artichoke Queen” in 1948.
Why is the artichoke so healthy?
The best thing about it is that it can provide up to 28 percent of your daily fiber! Fiber is essential for keeping you regular by pushing waste through your digestive tract. Fiber is also really helpful when it comes to –
- Lowering blood sugar
- Reducing inflammation
- Boosting heart health
- Lowering bad cholesterol levels1
But, artichokes have so much more to offer. They can also give you up to 25 percent of your daily vitamin C which helps defend your body against free radical damage, boost connective tissue production (like collagen), and help your body hold process and hold onto iron.2 Artichokes are also a great source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus.
How can artichokes benefit your gut?
But the real reason I’m such a fan of the artichoke is that they are full of inulin. And inulin is a major help to your gut bugs… because it’s a prebiotic (foods that your good bugs munch on to stay healthy). Basically, inulin is a water-soluble prebiotic fiber. You can find it in other vegetables too. For instance, inulin can be found in –
And recent studies have shown that prebiotics like inulin can help with –
- Improving blood sugar levels
- Maintaining good cholesterol levels
- Gastrointestinal health
- Weight loss and weight maintenance
- Improving immune function3
Turns out, inulin fiber can’t be digested by your body. It just moves through your gut without getting broken down. That’s because good bacteria live off the fiber in your diet. So as inulin passes through your gut, it feeds your good gut bugs – helping them repopulate, survive, and grow.
How to Cook it?
Now that you know why the artichoke is so wonderful for you, I think it’s time to try one of my all time favorite recipes. Don’t worry. I know they can look pretty intimidating, but they are actually pretty easy to prepare. This recipe comes from Jimmy Schmidt, of Morgan’s in the Desert at the La Quinta Resort and Club. I’ve taken the liberty of simplifying his version a little and I’m offering a baked version of his deep fried artichoke hearts. The result is simply too tasty for words! So, now you know that artichokes are one of the best sources of healthy prebiotic fiber on the planet – but if you don’t know how to cook them, they seem like a lot of work. The truth is… it’s really basic. Take a shot at making my lectin-free “fried” snack. You’ll discover they aren’t just delicious – they’re also super easy. All you need is frozen artichoke hearts (yes, really), almond or cassava flour, and some smart seasoning to make this delicious snack or side dish.
Baked “Fried” Artichoke Hearts
Serves 2 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes What you’ll need –
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or perilla oil)
- Juice of ½ lemon, or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 10 frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and patted dry with paper towels
- ¼ cup almond, coconut, or cassava flour
- ¼ tsp sea salt, iodized
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Lemon wedges
What to do –
1. Heat the oven to 400F.
2. Place 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl. Then whisk until blended.
3. Add the artichoke hearts to the bowl and stir until well coated.
4. Next, coat a rimmed baking sheet with a tablespoon olive oil. Place the flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper in a 1 quart resealable plastic bag.
5. Add the artichokes to the bag and shake to lightly cover.
6. Place the artichoke hearts on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the artichokes or shaking the pan two or three times, until the artichokes are golden brown and crispy.
7. Remove to a serving dish, sprinkle with salt to taste, and serve with lemon wedges.
For the full cooking demo, watch here:
This prehistoric-looking vegetable not only is a delicious treat, but also fun to serve at parties. (Just steam it and set out some Euro butter or ghee for dipping and allow guests to eat the pulp on the inside of the leaves!) It’s super healthy and the inulin content actually fills a lot of space in your gut – so you feel full longer. Enjoy the great recipe above and if you have any other Plant Paradox-friendly artichoke recipes, feel free to share them in the comments below.