An ancient forgotten vegetable, the cardoon would benefit from being in our plates more often because its health benefits are numerous.
Cardoon (C. cardunculus var. altilis, syn. Cynara cardunculus L. subsp. cardunculus) is a greenish vegetable plant of the same family as artichoke. This herbaceous biennial, perennial herbaceous plant is one of those “forgotten” vegetables that are nevertheless a healthy ally not to be neglected. In fact, cultivated cardoon has multiple medicinal virtues that are beneficial to health. Overview.
A nutritionally dense vegetable
The cardoon emits a few thick stalks of up to 1.50 to 2 m thick stalks, depending on the variety and covered with leaves. It is eaten for its fleshy (edible part)”ribs”, pale green in colour. But you can also eat the cardoon flowers that look like small artichokes.
Nutritional benefits include a very low calorie (22 kcal/100 g) diet, which can be part of a weight-loss diet. It also contains an important content of minerals and trace elements: magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, and especially potassium (400 mg per 100 g) which is why it is of interest for the regulation of blood pressure in adults.
Cardoon also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9. Vitamin B9 (folic acid) is particularly present (48 µg per 100 g).
In these conditions, this vegetable is called “source of vitamin B9” and “source of potassium” (because 100 g of raw cardoon provides more than 15% of the Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs)), which helps to make cultivated cardoon a particularly interesting vegetable.
It also contains vitamin C (4 mg per 100 g) which is very useful for boosting the immune system during the winter months.
For optimal intestinal health
Thanks to its high soluble fibre content, this food helps the digestive tract to function properly by facilitating the regulation of intestinal transit and its fibres clear the intestinal tract of toxins. Its mucilage gives it natural laxative properties that can reduce severe constipation and its rich water content gives it diuretic virtues.
In addition, it also contains inulin, an assimilable sugar, which stimulates the development of beneficial intestinal bacteria, because it is neither digested nor absorbed before arriving in the colon: remaining intact, bacteria can feed on it. This improves digestion.
Inulin, as a prebiotic, is particularly important for maintaining the balance of the intestinal flora. This prebiotic effect could contribute to the treatment and prevention of certain inflammatory bowel diseases and gastrointestinal disorders.
For better fat and sugar metabolism
The high fibre content of cardoon would also enable it to be a good regulator of blood cholesterol and dietary fats. Eating it regularly would help to reduce LDL-cholesterol (the “bad”) and triglycerides.
This vegetable would also help stabilize blood glucose concentration (glycemia) and limit the rate of absorption of sugar in the intestinal tract. Thus, nutritionists also recommend that diabetics consume it to better control the pathology.
For a healthy liver
Regular consumption of cardoons would be a good way to keep the liver healthy. Cynarin, an antioxidant polyphenolic compound that gives it its bitterness, has purifying and detoxifying properties that promote hepato-biliary function and make cultivated cardoon an excellent ally of the liver. Cynarin also seems to be able to reduce the oxidation of fats, hence its true hepato-protective potential.
To prevent certain cancers
An in vitro scientific study also tends to prove that a component of the cultivated cardoon, cynaropicrine (lactone sesquiterpene), has an anti-cancer effect by acting against the proliferation of breast cancer cells (8). Cynaropicrin, through its cytotoxic and pro-apoptotic activity, also appears to have anticancer properties against cancerous leukocyte cells, as noted in a 2004 study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology (9).
Rich in fibre and antioxidants