Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are very different from globe artichokes. They look like ginger and have a nutty crunch when eaten raw. They can be mashed like potatoes when cooked and are excellent substitutes for jicama or water chestnuts in recipes. Although not as healthful when sliced thin and fried in vegetable oil, they make delicious chips. When cooked with other tubers, like potatoes, they complement roasts and stews. Besides being delicious, they help maintain gut health and provide additional health benefits.
Good Source of B Vitamins
Sunchokes contain thiamine or vitamin B1. Thiamine is essential for the functioning of the muscles and nervous system and also for metabolizing carbohydrates. It helps the body produce hydrochloric acid for food digestion. Production of this byproduct declines with age, which can lead to digestive problems later in life, including bacterial overgrowth, diarrhea, and lack of nutritional absorption. Including sunchokes in your diet could help prevent these symptoms.
Regulate Blood Glucose
Since sunchokes are high in fiber, they take a long time to digest. This means they enter our bloodstream slowly and help prevent blood sugar spikes. This makes them an excellent food choice for people with diabetes and pancreatic disorders, or anyone who wants to regulate their blood glucose levels. Sunchokes also have a glycemic value of 11. Eating foods with low glycemic value can combat fatigue, and heart disease, and stabilize mood.
Help with Blood Formation
The body needs a steady source of iron; this is especially true for women during menstruation. Anemia can be a problem for those who don’t eat foods with enough iron, which helps build new blood cells. One cup of sunchokes contains 28 percent of the daily requirement of iron and 20 percent of the daily requirement of copper, which helps with the absorption of iron.
Great for the Gut
Sunchokes are high in inulin, a dietary fiber found in many fruits and vegetables. Inulin creates a prebiotic effect, providing an excellent environment for beneficial gut bacteria to feed and grow. Because of high inulin, sunchokes could be difficult for some people to digest. If you have never eaten sunchokes before, it’s best to start with a small amount, as they can cause gas and bloat. Cooking helps break down inulin, so cooking them can help alleviate this issue (though be wary of overcooking, as they can become soggy).
Rich in Nutrients
Besides B vitamins, copper, and iron, sunchokes contain small amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, which help eliminate free radicals and protect against cancer, viruses, inflammation, and other diseases. Sunchokes contain nine percent of the daily requirement of potassium. Proper potassium levels help balance the negative effects of sodium.
Control Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
High fiber content makes sunchokes excellent at lowering bad cholesterol levels by absorbing unneeded fats. The nutrient also helps insulin maintain proper blood pressure levels. The high potassium and low sodium in sunchokes are beneficial in regulating blood pressure and maintaining overall cardiovascular health.
Since sunchokes are high in inulin, a prebiotic fiber, they are excellent for keeping the digestive system moving. They improve stool consistency and frequency and lessen gut transit time. Inulin also helps with the absorption of nutrients from food. When using sunchokes for constipation treatment, start slowly and with a small amount to prevent intestinal upset.
Good for Detox
There are many toxins in the environment, including in the food you eat. Your body needs sulfur to detoxify properly. Sunchokes are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, which help cleanse and heal the body. Obtaining sulfur from the food you eat, rather than from supplements, helps ensure healthy amounts.
Promote Hair Health
High copper and iron content in sunchokes help keep hair healthy and thick. Copper in the gut helps to properly absorb iron, which in turn helps with blood formation, keeping hair follicles oxygenated. Evidence indicates that low iron levels in premenopausal women can cause hair loss. Like iron, copper stops hair loss and creates new growth. Ingestion of copper can intensify hair color and prevent thinning and greying.
Easy to Grow
Sunchokes might even improve your mental health if you grow them yourself: you can enjoy the sight of beautiful blooming sunflowers. You can obtain sunchoke tubers through the mail or simply chop up one you buy from the grocery store and plant it. The tubers are invasive, so make sure you plant them in a place where you won’t want to dig them up for a long time, or in containers.