Jerusalem artichokes do not derive from the artichoke family nor do they originate from Jerusalem. Instead they are a sunflower tuber, often called a Sunchoke, from North America. All very unusual! This strange vegetable looks like knobbly ginger and tastes remarkably like potato when cooked and chestnuts when raw. A vegetable high in fibre and with fantastic PREBIOTIC qualities, it is a little bit of magic for people who can’t or don’t eat potatoes and yet miss them. Let me explain.
Potatoes are starchy vegetables placing them high on the glycemic index. Their carbohydrate makeup impacts blood glucose levels and often sends people into a blood sugar ‘spike’. (Have you had a baked potato for lunch, felt full and 1½ - 2 hours later very tired? That’s the ‘spike’). Jerusalem artichokes store their energy not in the form of glucose, but inulin (a fructose molecule), which means the body has to use it in a different way. This is the reason there is no impact to blood sugar. There is no glucose molecule to be converted into rapid, quick use ‘sugar energy’, making it ideal for diabetics or other people with blood sugar issues. Instead, the nutrients of this fibrous vegetable are broken down in the colon by ‘friendly pro-biotic bacteria’ helping this bacteria to then flourish. Of course, a healthy colon equals a healthy gut and immune system. Gut issues such as IBS, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and stomach soreness are prevalent today as different stresses and foods take their toll on the digestive system. The understated Sunchoke can certainly help as a soothing agent for the gut and a blood sugar balance.
Besides inulin (the fructose molecule), the Sunchoke is high in iron (particularly when raw) and it helps in the absorption of calcium rich foods (like leafy green vegetables). It doesn’t need to be peeled (this can be quite a painful process given its shape), but scrubbed well and eaten in a salad or as a raw side dish. Or treat it like a potato – boiled, mashed or roasted.
Sunchoke/Jerusalem artichokes are the sweetest between October and February. Put them on your festive shopping list!
Note to those new to Jerusalem artichokes – they can cause flatulence among some people. Start with a small portion and see how it affects your digestive gases! Food affects everyone in different ways.
Paula Sharp is a qualified Natural Nutritionist, living and working in Lee Green. She works with her clients to promote optimal health and energy. For consultations she can be contacted on 0778 662 1251 or email@example.com