Whether you experience culinary delight or intimidation when you see the firm, tightly closed leaves of a fresh artichoke probably depends on if you’ve eaten one. Although the thistlelike bud seems a bit tough, it’s long been considered a delicacy among vegetables -- its edible portions have a complex flavor and a velvety texture. Artichokes are a low-calorie, high-fiber, antioxidant-rich source of several important vitamins and minerals.
Full of Folate
Eating artichokes is one way to boost the amount of folate in your diet. This B vitamin is not only essential to cell reproduction, but along with vitamins B-6 and B-12, it also helps protect against heart disease by regulating your body’s homocysteine levels. A medium-sized globe artichoke delivers almost 30 percent of the daily value for folate; a cup of artichoke hearts supplies closer to 40 percent of the recommended daily value.
Artichokes are an excellent source of vitamin C, provided you go against tradition and eat them raw. In addition to its role as a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C supports healthy skin, good vision, wound healing and iron absorption. A medium-sized raw globe artichoke -- freshly picked tastes best -- supplies about 25 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. Cooked artichokes are nearly 40 percent lower in vitamin C because the water-soluble nutrient is heat-sensitive.
Artichokes are rich in vitamin K, which is sometimes referred to as the “coagulation vitamin” because your blood can’t clot without it. It also plays an important role in bone formation and maintenance. An average-sized globe artichoke -- either raw or cooked -- provides just over 20 percent of the daily value for vitamin K; a cup of artichoke hearts delivers just over 30 percent of the recommended daily value.
Magnesium is a major mineral, meaning your body needs relatively large amounts to function normally. This all-important nutrient is vital to bone, muscle, nerve and heart health. It also helps convert carbohydrates, protein and fat into energy. You’ll get just under 20 percent of the daily value for magnesium from a 1-cup serving of artichoke hearts or an average-sized, uncooked globe artichoke. Cooked artichokes are approximately 30 percent lower in magnesium than the raw variety.
Including artichokes in your diet will boost your intake of potassium and iron, as well. An average-sized raw globe artichoke or a cup of the tender hearts each supply about 14 percent of the daily value for potassium. The raw vegetable provides nearly 10 percent the daily value for iron, while the cooked variety contains about half that amount. An artichoke’s value goes beyond its vitamin and mineral content, however, as it’s also an excellent source of antioxidant compounds and dietary fiber. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an average-sized cooked artichoke contains more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries, while a cup of artichoke hearts delivers nearly 60 percent of the daily value for fiber.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Artichokes, (Globe or French), Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Artichokes, (Globe or French), Raw
- California Artichoke Advisory Board: Health and Nutrition
- USDA: Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods
- New York Times: Eating a Raw Artichoke
- Wellness Foods A to Z: An Indispensable Guide for Health-Conscious Food Lovers; Sheldon Margen, M.D.