Lemons and Artichokes: Underused Superfoods

Artichokes and lemons are healthy spring foods.

It can be challenging to find some of the health food greats, such as berries, at a reasonable price and quality during the winter and early spring months. That doesn't mean that there aren't great, health-packed choices available, though, you just might need to expand your palate's horizons.

Lemons: A Health Food Hero

The health power of lemons can't be overstated. Many people pass the lemon up for its sweeter cousin the orange, unless they're craving some lemonade. The truth is that lemon makes a great regular addition to a healthy diet, and here's why.

  • Lemons contains high levels of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant, fighting disease-causing free radicals in the body. This strong antioxidant property can decrease the risk of many illnesses, including cancer. Vitamin C also keeps away the dreaded disease scurvy, a debilitating condition that results in anemia and the disruption of collagen formation in the body. Vitamin C also contributes to healthy skin due to its free radical-fighting ability and its contribution to good collagen formation. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and can help decrease the number of colds a person gets.
  • The citric acid in lemons helps maintain proper kidney function and can even decrease the risk of kidney stones.
  • Lemons contain a host of other vitamins that help maintain health. These include folic acid, calcium, and magnesium.
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Ways to Use Lemons

There are so many ways to include lemons in your daily routine that it would be impossible to list them all here, but we've compiled several easy-to-implement lemon uses for you.

  • Squeeze lemon over other fruits, like apple slices, to add flavor and keep them from turning brown too quickly.
  • Add to hot tea, along with honey, for a throat-soothing drink if you're under the weather.
  • Mix some lemon juice with a bit of olive oil and your favorite spices for a tasty, healthy homemade salad dressing.
  • Soak wilted lettuce in a bowl of ice water with the lemon juice in it to make it crispy again.
  • Lemon pairs great with fish and other seafood; squeezing some over your broiled fish and then sprinkling on some parsley is delicious.
  • Add lemon, along with mint or berries, to a pitcher or water or iced tea. Keep it in the refrigerator and refill your glass from it all day long.

Artichokes: A Forgotten Superfood

Artichokes don't always make it onto the list of superfoods that everyone should be eating to stay healthy, but that's an unfortunate oversight. These vegetables are absolutely stuffed with important nutrients that we all need.

  • Fiber is important for good digestion, lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, and can assist you in losing weight by helping you feel full for a longer period of time after you eat.
  • Artichokes contain a high level of magnesium, a nutrient in which most American diets are deficient. Among other tasks, magnesium aids in good digestion, helps provide the body's cells with energy, and is crucial in maintaining good muscle and nerve function.
  • Vitamin C, with its immune-boosting, disease-fighting properties (discussed above) is present in high levels in artichokes.
  • The USDA found in 2004 that artichokes are among the vegetables with the highest levels of antioxidants, including quercetin (Largest USDA Study Of Food Antioxidants Reveals Best Sources, 2004). These compounds fight free radicals in our bodies, decreasing the risks of many types of diseases, including cancer.

Ways to Use Artichokes

Fresh artichokes can be a bit intimidating for people to cook. The outer petals are fibrous and have small thorns on the tips. The inner "heart" of the artichoke is the most tender part that people usually enjoy the most. Artichoke hearts can be purchased already prepared and jarred, but there is likely to be a fairly high sodium level present in these products. Preparing a fresh artichoke isn't as hard as it may seem, and you can take advantage of the nutrients in the petals by preparing them yourself.

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  • First, cut the thorns off the tips of the artichoke petals with a knife or kitchen scissors. (This step is optional; the thorns will soften during cooking.)
  • Cut off the stem and the tip of the artichoke.
  • Rinse the artichoke, and pull the petals open a bit.
  • Place the whole artichoke in a steamer basket with several inches of water in the pan beneath it.
  • Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
  • Steam until tender.
  • Alternatively, you could bake your artichoke. Prepare as above, but wrap the vegetable in foil and bake at 425˚ until a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the artichoke, about 1 hour. You can place seasonings such as salt, garlic, and lemon inside the artichoke petals before baking.

Now that it's cooked, how do you eat the artichoke?

  • Peel the petals from the cooked artichoke one by one. Place each petal between your teeth tip-first, and then use your teeth to pull the petal-meat out. You can dip the petals into melted butter with lemon, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, or any other desired dip.
  • Scoop the heart out of the artichoke, leaving the fibrous "choke," which isn't edible. Enjoy the heart plain or use it in a recipe.

You can see a video of the procedure for eating a fresh artichoke here.

Lemon and Artichoke Tastes Great Together

These two nutritional hard-hitters taste great when combined. For example, try our delicious "Artichoke Oven-Roasted Chicken with Lemons."

Works Cited

  • Largest USDA Study Of Food Antioxidants Reveals Best Sources. (2004). Retrieved from Science Daily.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Do not take any supplements without first consulting with your physician if you are on any prescription or over-the-counter medications.