Jerusalem artichoke is a bumpy, fleshy, root vegetable of sunflower family plants. It's underground nutty, flavorful, the starch-rich root is eaten much the same way as potato in many parts of Western Europe and Mediterranean regions.
It should not be confused to globe artichoke, which is an edible flower bud. Similarly, their name is widely misunderstood as “artichokes from Jerusalem” misinterpreted for the Italian girasole carciofi, translating to sunflower artichoke in English. Some of the common names are sunroot, sunchoke, topinambur etc. Scientific name: Helianthus tuberosus.
Jerusalem artichokes are native to Central America. The plant is technically an evergreen perennial but cultivated as an annual crop. Once established, it grows vigorously reaching about 5-10 feet in height slightly taller than the sunflower plant with multiple branches. Many golden-yellow flower heads appear at the terminal end of branches.
Sunchoke produces numerous starchy, edible rhizomes that are firmly attached to the stem, underneath the soil surface. The tubers feature gray, purple, or pink skin externally; and sweet, delicate textured ice-white meat inside. Some roots have a quite bumpy and extremely knobby outer surface making their cleaning a tougher task. Each tuber weighs about 75 to 200 g.
Health benefits of Jerusalem artichoke
Jerusalem artichoke is moderately high in calories; provides about 73 calories per 100 g, roughly equivalent to that of potatoes.
The root has negligible amounts of fat and contains zero cholesterol. Nevertheless, its high-quality phytochemical profile comprising of dietary fiber (non-starch carbohydrates), and antioxidants in addition to small proportions of minerals, and vitamins.
It is one of the finest sources of dietary fibers, especially high in oligo-fructose inulin, which is a soluble non-starch polysaccharide. The root provides 1.6 mg or 4% of fiber. Inulin should not be confused for insulin, which is a hormone.
Inulin is a zero-calorie saccharine and inert carbohydrate which does not undergo metabolism inside the human body, and thereby branding this tuber as an ideal sweetener for diabetics and dietetics.
Soluble as well as insoluble fibers in sunchoke add up to the bulk of food by retaining moisture in the gut. Studies suggest that adequate roughage in the diet helps reduce constipation problems. Dietary Fibers also offer some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut.
This vegetable contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C, vitamin-A, vitamin-E. These vitamins, together with flavonoid compound like carotenes, helps scavenge harmful free radicals and thereby offers protection from cancers, inflammations, and viral cough and cold.
Further, Jerusalem artichoke is a moderate source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, and copper. 100 g of fresh root holds 429 mg or 9% of daily required levels of potassium. Potassium is a heart-friendly electrolyte that brings a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate by countering the pressing effects of sodium.
100 g of fresh sunchoke contains 3.4 mg or 42.5% of iron, probably the highest amount of this trace element among some common edible roots and tubers.
It also contains small levels of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Jerusalem artichokes health benefits include improved gut health from inulin. This property is a prebiotic fiber that can help with bowel regulation, balanced blood sugar, regulated blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and protection against cancers. More on these potential health benefits is below.
Improves Gut Health
The inulin fiber in Jerusalem artichokes is beneficial for gut health because it helps regulate bowel function while also acting as a prebiotic. Inulin stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacterium.7
This increased good bacteria can, in turn, help to decrease the number of bad bacteria in the gut and improve the gut microbiome. Maintaining a healthy amount of good bacteria is linked to reduced inflammation and improved metabolism and immunity.8
Assists With Blood Glucose Control
Inulin may also be beneficial for glucose metabolism. This is because inulin is a short-chain carbohydrate that is not metabolized and broken down into simple sugars like other carbohydrates, which means it does not raise blood sugar.
Some studies suggest that inulin may help lower fasting blood sugar and reduce fasting insulin in those with type 2 diabetes.9
Regulates Blood Pressure
Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and counteract the negative effects of sodium.10 High-potassium, low-sodium diets (such as the DASH diet) are recommended for reducing blood pressure.11
The soluble fiber in Jerusalem artichokes can help lower high cholesterol and triglycerides.12 There is strong evidence that an increased intake of foods high in soluble fiber is important to achieving and maintaining cardiovascular health.
Protects Against Cancer
When researchers studied the leaves of Jerusalem artichoke, they found 11 sesquiterpene lactones and two known flavones.14 Together, these compounds exhibited cytotoxic activities against cancer cells. Put another way, they help to kill cancer cells.
VITAMINS INCLUDING :
Jerusalem artichoke is a rich source of complex carbs and, although high in natural sugars, has minimal effect on blood sugar levels. Jerusalem artichokes also offer a bit of protein, along with numerous vitamins and minerals.
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