February 23, 2024/Nutrition

10 Health Benefits of Artichokes

This unique-looking veggie is fiber-dense and antioxidant-rich, and can improve the health of your gut, liver and heart

Hand holding an artichoke over a basket of artichokes

You’ve probably seen artichokes in the produce section or as an appetizer on restaurant menus. With their spiky outer leaves, artichokes can look intimidating. But you can buy the vegetable (it’s actually the immature flower of a thistle plant) frozen or canned and ready to eat.

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“Artichoke hearts are soft and meaty,” says registered dietitian Beth Czerwony, RD, LD. “But the plant’s petals and stems are equally tasty and nutritious. They’re not as difficult to prepare as people think.”

Artichoke health benefits

Artichokes are chock-full of vitamins, nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Czerwony shares 10 reasons artichokes are an okey-dokey artichoky addition to your dinner table.

1. Provides a low-calorie, low-fat source of nutrients

A large artichoke has 76 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates and zero cholesterol or fat. Nutrient-wise, a large artichoke has approximately:

  • 0.37 milligrams of copper (42% of your daily value, or DV).
  • 110 micrograms of folate (28% of DV).
  • 97 milligrams of magnesium (23% of DV).
  • 24 micrograms of vitamin K (20% of DV).
  • 19 milligrams of vitamin C (21% of DV).
  • 0.41 milligrams of manganese (18% of DV).
  • 600 milligrams of potassium (13% of DV).
  • 146 milligrams of phosphorus (12% of DV).
  • 2.1 milligrams of iron (12% of DV).
  • 1.7 milligrams of niacin (11% of DV).
  • 0.55 milligrams of vitamin B5 (11% of DV).
  • 0.19 milligrams of vitamin B6 (11% of DV).
  • 0.12 milligrams of thiamin (10% of DV).

2. Protects against diseases

Natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) in artichokes protect against bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses. “Phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, so you get some of the same protections when you eat the plant,” notes Czerwony.

Antioxidants lessen the damaging effects of free radicals. These molecules cause cell damage that may increase your risk of cancer, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that artichokes have the second-highest antioxidant content of all vegetables. (Only beans fare better.) One cup of artichoke hearts has close to 8,000 total antioxidants.

3. Lowers cholesterol

Cynarin, a phytochemical in artichokes, can lower cholesterol. Cholesterol, a waxy substance that collects in your arteries, can lead to coronary artery disease and heart disease.

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A study of people who took artichoke leaf extract for six weeks showed an 18% drop in cholesterol levels compared with those given a placebo. “Artichokes can be a great addition to a heart-healthy diet — as long as you don’t always eat them with cheese, butter and other high-fat ingredients,” says Czerwony.

4. Aids digestion

Cynarin also helps your liver make bile. Your body uses this fluid to break down foods, absorb vitamins and remove toxins. In one study, participants took artichoke leaf extract for two months. Researchers found a 26% decrease in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms and a 40% decrease in upset stomach symptoms.

Participants also reported a 20% improvement in their quality of life. “Meals that include artichokes may help improve your gut health naturally,” Czerwony says.

5. Promotes a healthy liver

Artichokes also have silymarin. This flavonoid, or plant-based chemical, protects against liver damage. As early as the first century A.D., Greek and European physicians used silymarin extract made from dried artichoke seeds and milk thistle plants to treat jaundice and other liver problems. Studies show silymarin can improve cirrhosis and fatty liver disease symptoms and may even reduce deaths.

6. Fills you up

A large artichoke has 9 grams of fiber — that’s more than a cup of prunes — making it one of the best high-fiber foods you can eat. It’s also a good source of inulin. “This soluble fiber makes you feel full,” explains Czerwony. “As a result, you’re less likely to overeat or have blood sugar spikes that make you crave sweets.”

Inulin is also a prebiotic. Healthy bacteria in your gut use prebiotics and probiotics (also found in artichokes) to keep your bowels regular and prevent constipation.

7. Provides protein

For a plant, artichokes are surprisingly high in protein. One artichoke has about 5 grams of protein. In addition to making you feel full, protein helps your body repair tissues and muscles.

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Studies also show that eating more plant-based protein versus animal-based protein can lower your risk of heart disease. “Artichokes are a good source of protein for those who follow a vegetarian or vegan meal plan,” Czerwony adds.

8. Improves blood pressure

A large artichoke has 600 milligrams of potassium, which helps your heart and kidneys work well. Potassium also lowers blood pressure. A 2021 systemic review of eight studies found that taking artichoke supplements for 12 weeks significantly lowered high blood pressure.

9. Lowers cancer risk

Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant compound, are plentiful in artichokes. These compounds help your body fight inflammation that can cause cancer. They also stop cancer cells from multiplying and growing.

Several studies suggest artichokes and artichoke leaf extract can prevent or help manage:

10. Helps you sleep better

One large artichoke has close to 100 milligrams of magnesium, more than 20% of the recommended daily intake. Studies suggest magnesium promotes better sleep, especially if you experience insomnia. This essential mineral (electrolyte) also helps keep your heart in rhythm, preventing heart palpitations.

Get creative with artichokes

Artichokes — fresh, frozen or canned — are easier to incorporate in dishes at home than you might think. Give these recipes a try:

Learn more about our editorial process.

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