Fibrous artichokes are a dieter's delight -- low in fat and loaded with fiber. Yet many would-be artichoke lovers shy away from this delicate, buttery-flavored vegetable since they don't know how to handle it. Actually, artichokes require little prep work; the time-consuming step is the process of eating -- that's why this odd vegetable should be included in your weight-loss efforts. Because it's labor-intensive to consume, you are forced to eat at a leisurely pace, giving your stomach time to tell your brain it's full, which may prevent you from overeating.
Artichokes' high fiber content is also a bonus for your digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is nature's laxative, absorbing water and creating bulk to move things along. Artichokes are also a super source of folic acid, which is especially important for women during their childbearing years, as this vitamin helps prevent neural-tube birth defects. Research has also linked long-term deficiencies of folic acid to an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Selection and Storage
Green globe artichokes are grown in the United States. Baby artichokes come from a side thistle of the plant; artichoke hearts are the meaty base. A Jerusalem artichoke is not an artichoke at all; it's an unrelated root vegetable. Look for heavy artichokes with a soft green color and tightly packed, closed leaves. Bronzed or frosted leaf tips signal delicate flavor. Avoid moldy or wilted leaves. Store artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator; add a few drops of water to prevent them from drying out. (Do not wash artichokes before storing them.) Although best if used within a few days, they'll keep for a week or two if stored properly and handled gently.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Wash artichokes under running water. Pull off outer, lower petals and trim the sharp tips off of the outer leaves. Boil, standing upright in the saucepan, for 20 to 40 minutes, or steam for 25 to 40 minutes or until a center petal pulls out easily. Artichokes are versatile. They can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Though they're best served as appetizers, they are well suited for a variety of uses including dips and sauces. Or stick to plain lemon juice or olive oil. If you eat it in moderation, the monounsaturated fat in olive oil can help in weight management.
Artichokes are wonderful for people trying to lose weight because the food keeps your mouth busy, giving your stomach more time to feel full.