ONCE UPON A TIME THE JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE…
…an almost forgotten tuber but with a relevant role for health.
Most of the people ignore what is the Jerusalem artichoke, both as a flower and as food, so there are very few people who know its beneficial properties and give it some phytotherapy importance.
It’s an extremely useful natural remedy, perfect to keep under control diabetes, to lower blood sugar and which can restore intestinal balance and for these resons, it is excellent for those who want to lose weight and fight against water retention.
But let’s see more in detail what we are talking about.
Its scientific name is Helianthus tuberosus, commonly called Jerusalem artichokes, but also Topinambur, Sunroot and Sunchoke earth apple and it belongs to the family of Compositae. It is an herbaceous perennial that is often confused with the Sunflower.
The stems can reach 150 cm tall and it has yellow wildflowers, very characteristic and similar to sunflowers, even if smaller, which appear around the end of summer.
Although if this is a plant native to North America and Canada, where it grow spontaneously, it is not very demanding on habitat and soil therefore, adapts very well in all weathers, resists at low temperatures and grows easily in any kind of soil, from the driest to wettest.
When we talk about food and Jerusalem artichoke, we mean the part of knotty and radical tubers, similar to potatoes, characterized by a reddish skin and white pulp; with typical sweet taste very similar, but more delicate, to artichoke.
Very recommended to convalescent, elders, children, and diabetics people, provides very few calories (it has an energy value of about 70 kcal per 100 g of product) and thanks to great content in soluble fiber (inulin), its total energy value further decreases because the human body does not absorb this carbohydrate, thus, this foodstuff is suitable for all low-calorie diets.
Mainly consists of:
- Water 80%
- Carbohydrates 15-20% (almost composed exclusively by polysaccharide INULIN)
- Proteins 2%
- Vitamin A: is a fat soluble vitamin essential for epithelial cells, for the mechanism of vision and cell differentiation; necessary for growth, reproduction and the integrity of the immune system.
- Group B vitamins: these vitamins are recommended in cases of general debility, secondary to various diseases, alcoholism, intense psychophysical stress, anorexia, obesity, anemia, different neurological diseases, post-operative periods.
- Potassium (the presence of potassium salts make it a slightly diuretic food)
- Asparagine (is a necessary amino acid for the metabolism of alcohol)
- Arginine: this amino acid is very widespread in nature, it is essential for children in growth phase; plays a key role in the maintenance of homeostasis and functions of the organism; it’s an immunostimulant, helps wounds to heal and contributes to the regeneration of liver tissue.
- Colina: is an essential coenzyme for the formation of cell membranes; it has the function to protect cells from oxidative damage and cardiovascular diseases.
As previously mentioned, this tuber is the best ally food for diabetics people and for those who want to lower their blood glucose levels, because it’s rich in complex sugars represented from the 15% of INULIN, an oligosaccharide composed from various chains of fructose.
Although if inulin appears hard to digest for humans, it has very interesting features: promotes digestion and reduces production of flatulence; is able to balance the gut flora that results in a strong increase of lactic acid bacteria that are very important to the health of the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, at the same time the density of bacteria considered harmful decreases, so it contributes to rebalance the intestinal flora, enhancing activity and improving metabolism and intestinal peristalsis; is able to reduce the number of blood triglycerides and the total cholesterol.
As well as an ornamental plant and food for human consumption, the Jerusalem artichoke, through fermentation and subsequent distillation of its raw, obtained from the tuber and the stem of the plant, it is used by industries as bio-ethanol, a liquid and colorless fuel with chemical and physical parameters similar to those of gasoline.
From its tubers is also produces a kind of flour that can replace up to 10% wheat flour in the preparation of bakery products, very useful for those who want to lose weight.
You can found the Jerusalem artichoke in fruit and vegetables markets; it should be stored in the fridge, wrapped in paper bags, to avoid the air contact that make it shrivel.
It is beneficial for those who want to control blood sugar, diabetes, cholesterol and weight, but also for those who suffering indigestion, constipation and for who need to disinfect the gastrointestinal tract and to recover energy.
It can be eaten both, raw and cooked (preferably steamed), in all preparations like potatoes and with the rice, or as an ingredient in salads, perfect with a little condiment.
Don’t give up to eat healthier and tastefully!
- J. Xiao, D.H. Zhu, X.H. Wang, M.D. Zhang. “Study on extraction process of inulin from Helianthus tuberosus” Mod. Food Sci. Technol. 29 (2013) 02.
- Linxi Yang, Quan Sophia He, Kenneth Corscadden, Chibuike C. Udenigwe. “The prospects of Jerusalem artichoke in functional food ingredients and bioenergy production”. Biotechnology Reports 5 (2015) 77-88.