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What is Jerusalem Artichoke: Benefits, Uses
Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes as some people call them, are now included in a slew of recipes and food products --- and for good reason! Not only do Jerusalem artichokes offer up a unique flavor that levels up any food or drink that it is paired with, but it has unique health benefits that are hard to match.
After reading this article, anything you have ever wondered about the elusive sunchoke will be addressed. From what is a Jerusalem artichoke to what it does in the body, you will be a Jerusalem artichoke-pro in no time!
What is Jerusalem Artichoke?
When people think of an artichoke, they often think of that veggie that tastes oh so good when the leaves are dipped into melted butter and has a soft “heart” in the middle. But if you accidentally order a Jerusalem artichoke instead of the leafy variety, you will be surprised to find something that doesn’t resemble what you may consider an artichoke at all. Instead, you will have a root-like tuber that looks like a ginger root but is starchy like a potato.
And while you can certainly roast it and enjoy it like a potato, Jerusalem artichoke is often used as an ingredient in tons of food and drink products thanks to the combo of its neutral taste and potential health benefits.
Ironically, jerusalem artichokes are neither a classic artichoke nor do they come from Jerusalem. So already, they are a surprising food from the get-go. Instead of being an Israeli food like its name implies, Jerusalem artichokes are native to North America and were cultivated by Native Americans.
In fact, you will not find any Jerusalem artichokes growing in Jerusalem. The plant got its name because Italian settlers in North America called it girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, since technically this root is a variety of this plant.
Like a game of telephone, words change over time. And the word girasole evolved into Jerusalem. Which is why today, we have a non-Israeli veggie that fools many people of its origin because of its name.
Other Names For Jerusalem Artichoke
Of course, this interesting food goes by many other names. To keep things interesting, the Jerusalem artichoke has other aliases that you may have seen in passing including:
- earth apple
How Jerusalem Artichoke Works
Jerusalem artichoke contains many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. But the shining star is inulin – a fiber that the human body does not digest. Instead, this fiber essentially “feeds” beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, helping them thrive and support a healthy microbiota.
When the bacteria “eat” the inulin fiber, they create a by-product from their own digestion, creating short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids make a section of the gut more acidic, preventing less beneficial bacteria (like E.coli) from surviving. Additionally, the short chain fatty acids may help the body absorb certain nutrients.
The Health Benefits of Jerusalem Artichoke
As you know, in general, consuming vegetables is linked to a slew of health benefits. In fact, scientific evidence has established that diets low in fat and high in fiber-containing grain products,fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of some types of cancer. And since only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day, including Jerusalem artichoke into your diet will help you get closer to meeting your produce quota.
Jerusalem artichokes in particular are a functional food, or a food that provides a health benefit beyond simply providing nutrients. Thanks to the natural inulin this veggie contains, eating Jerusalem artichokes as part of a healthy diet can help support:
- improved gut health
- healthy inflammatory response
- healthy blood pressure level
- healthy blood pressure level
- healthy LDL cholesterol levels
- increased satiety after consumption
Plus, since they are also antioxidants, Jerusalem artichokes can help keep a person’s overall health in check.
What To Look For
Jerusalem artichokes are in season during the fall and winter months. When shopping for the veggie, choose Jerusalem artichokes that are smooth, unbruised, and firm. Avoid sunchokes that have green sprouts, just as you would avoid a potato with this addition. And just like a potato, the Jerusalem artichoke peel is completely edible. Once washed, they can be eaten raw or cooked by boiling and steaming.
Sunchokes should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from light (again- just like potatoes).
Jerusalem Artichoke in OLIPOP
If you scope out the ingredient list of a can of OLIPOP, you may be wondering what the heck a veggie extract like Jerusalem artichoke is doing in a can of soda! And, even more mind-blowing, why does OLIPOP not taste like vegetables with such a unique ingredient in there?
Thankfully, Jerusalem artichoke extract is easily added to food and drink products like OLIPOP without negatively affecting the taste. And since it is soluble in water, it dissolves in the OLIPOP goodness, leaving no weird consistency in your can while contributing to the whopping 9 grams of fiber per serving.
While the extract from Jerusalem Artichoke does not have all of the nutrients and health benefits of the whole vegetable, drinking a soda that contains fiber from sources like Jerusalem artichoke means that you are drinking something that not only supports your gut, but also means that you are supplying your body with antioxidants. So, feel free to sip on your OLIPOP knowing that drinking it is, at least in the health department, okie dokie, artichokie!
- Cieślik, E., and A. Gębusia. “The content of protein and of amino acids in Jerusalem artichoke tubers (Helianthus tuberosus L.) of red variety Rote Zonenkugel.” Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment, vol. 10, no. 4, 2011, pp. 433-441.
- Fan CH, Cao JH, Zhang FC. “The prebiotic inulin as a functional food - a review.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. vol. 20, no. 15, 2016, pp. 3262-5.
- Baxter NT, Schmidt AW, Venkataraman A, Kim KS, Waldron C, Schmidt TM. “Dynamics of Human Gut Microbiota and Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Response to Dietary Interventions with Three Fermentable Fibers.” mBio. Vol. 10, no. 1, 2019, pp. e02566-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02566-18.
- Ocvirk S, Wilson AS, Appolonia CN, Thomas TK, O'Keefe SJD. “Fiber, Fat, and Colorectal Cancer: New Insight into Modifiable Dietary Risk Factors.” Curr Gastroenterol Rep. vol. 21, no. 11, 2019, pp62. doi: 10.1007/s11894-019-0725-2.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 1 in 10 Americans Get Enough Fruits and Vegetables. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/division-information/media-tools/adults-fruits-vegetables.html. Accessed June 3, 2021.
- Shoaib M, Shehzad A, Omar M, Rakha A, Raza H, Sharif HR, Shakeel A, Ansari A, Niazi S. “Inulin: Properties, health benefits and food applications.” Carbohydr Polym. Vol. 147, 2016, pp 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2016.04.020
- Jerusalem Artichoke is not from Jerusalem; instead, they are native to North America and were cultivated by Native Americans.
- Jerusalem artichoke contains many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. But the shining star is inulin – a fiber that the human body does not digest.
- OLIPOP includes Jerusalem Artichoke because it is soluble in water (aka it dissolves) while contributing to the whopping 9 grams of fiber per serving.
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