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Artichoke is a pretty intimidating vegetable if you aren’t familiar with it. Its sharp, thorn-tipped leaves can poke you, and its most delicious parts are hidden under many layers of inedible plant matter. And while there are plenty of ways to cook and eat artichokes, figuring out how to master this unique veggie can be tricky. But artichokes are meaty and nutty, versatile and available in many forms – and they’re great for your health.
Artichokes are an especially great choice for anyone who’s concerned about keeping blood sugar levels under control. For diabetics and those who might be at risk for prediabetes or diabetes, putting this prickly green veggie on your plate more often can really pay off. Here’s why artichokes are so great at helping you manage your blood sugar.
Artichokes provide fiber, a key blood sugar player
Artichokes, like other green vegetables, are fiber-filled plants. A whole cooked artichoke offers 6.84 grams of fiber, or about one-third of the daily recommended total.
And that fiber is able to help manage your blood sugar levels. Fiber is able to slow down the body’s absorption of sugar, pulling it into the bloodstream in smaller amounts. This keeps your blood sugar levels more stable, preventing sharp or sudden spikes or drops.
In a scientific review that examined artichoke’s effect on fasting blood sugar levels, it was clear that artichoke played a positive role. Individuals who had high fasting blood sugar levels – or high blood sugar on an empty stomach – saw those levels decrease when they ate artichoke. And a research study found that eating boiled artichoke during a meal decreases both blood sugar and insulin levels 30 minutes after eating.
High blood sugar levels can put you at a higher risk for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease or strokes. So, the fact that artichokes can help you maintain more control over your blood sugar levels means you may be able to lower your risk for these conditions.
Not a fan of artichokes? It turns out that artichoke extract can have similar effects. A small research study discovered that individuals who took artichoke extract every day for two months saw lower fasting blood sugar levels. While more research is still needed, the very same benefits could come from artichoke in a different form.
Antioxidants also play an important role
In addition to their fiber, artichokes also contain a variety of natural antioxidants. Artichokes are a good source of vitamin C, which works as an antioxidant, as well as hydroxycinnamic acid and flavones. In fact, artichokes are among the top 10 most antioxidant-rich foods you can find.
Those antioxidants can also have a positive effect on high blood sugar levels. A research study examined the effect of artichokes on hyper diabetic (or hyperglycemic) rats, testing different parts of the veggie and noting their effects. After four weeks, rats that ate artichoke heads saw lower serum glucose – or lower blood sugar levels. Artichoke leaves also had a similar positive effect.
Researchers noted that the decrease in high blood sugar was the result of both the fiber and the antioxidants present in artichokes. The head contained the highest levels of antioxidants, while the leaves contained the highest levels of fiber. And they estimated that those who might be at risk for diabetes could benefit from eating the different parts of an artichoke to get blood sugar levels better in balance.
Combined with the effects of fiber, the benefits of artichoke antioxidants could offer promising results for your blood sugar levels.
How to add more artichokes to your diet
Ready to start eating more artichokes? You don’t have to be a kitchen expert to master this tough green vegetable. Artichokes can be prepared in so many different ways – you can steam, boil, grill, roast or saute them. The heart and the leaves are the two most important parts, and they’re what you’ll focus on no matter how you prep your artichoke.
While steaming is one of the most popular ways to eat artichokes, you can get far more creative.
Going with fresh artichokes? You can pull the leaves off and dip them into flavorful sauces with recipes like our Artichokes with Lemon Yogurt Dip. Or, you can turn an artichoke into a main dish; our Baked Eggs in Artichokes with Bacon Chive Bread Crumbs are a delicious choice. Our Italian Stuffed Artichokes recipe is another main that’s easy, as you can cook a whole batch in your Instant Pot or slow cooker.