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What Is a Sunchoke?

By Paul Rothbart

If you like to watch cooking shows, you may have seen an ingredient called a sunchoke. They are root vegetables also called Jerusalem artichokes. This is ironic as they neither originate from Jerusalem nor are they related to artichokes. Similar to ginger in appearance, sunchokes have a nutty flavor, not unlike water chestnuts. Though not a common vegetable, you may see them in farmers markets. If you do, give them a try. They can be used like potatoes and they carry several health benefits. 

Vitamins

Sunchokes contain several essential vitamins. One serving has 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of both niacin and Vitamin C. It also contains 30 percent of the thiamine recommended. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals that can damage cells and cause chronic diseases such as cancer. The Linus Pauling Institute says that Vitamin C can also lower the risk of stroke and heart disease. Thiamine and niacin, both B vitamins, help the body derive energy from food and are good for the eyes and skin.

Minerals

One cup of sunchokes contains plenty of healthy minerals. It provides 28 percent of the daily allowance of iron, 18 percent of potassium, 12 percent of phosphorus, and 11 percent of copper. Potassium helps the body form necessary protein while phosphorus helps strengthen bones and DNA. Iron and copper work together to create the red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells.

Aids Digestion

A serving of sunchokes contains 26.2 grams of carbohydrates. Most of those carbs are in the form of inulin. This substance is an excellent prebiotic Inulin feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut that act as probiotics. These bacteria help break down food in the digestive system as well as boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, and keep unhealthy bacteria in check. Foods that contain prebiotics have an advantage over taking probiotic supplements. The supplements may break down in digestion before reaching the healthy bacteria. Inulin is released as a result of digestion. The British Journal of Nutrition published a study in 2010 that found consuming juices fortified with inulin from sunchokes increased the levels of some types of probiotics in the body. 

Getting good nutrition doesn't have to restrict you to a handful of foods. There are plenty of healthy new things you can try to shake things up. Sunchokes are worth considering. It may take a bit of work to find them, but they can be a delicious addition to your diet that can provide nutrients and boost your health.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Midwest City, Okla.

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