Jerusalem Artichoke Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes

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Jerusalem artichokes, otherwise known as sunchokes, are not related to artichokes but rather are a member of the sunflower family. Jerusalem artichokes are an edible tuber that look similar to knobby ginger root but have a texture similar to a water chestnut when raw and a creamy potato when cooked. The flavor is unique—similar to a combination of artichoke and potato. Some say they also resemble the flavor of chestnut.

They are a good source of vitamin C, an excellent source of iron, and contain high amounts of the prebiotic fiber inulin known for gut health. (Inulin derived from chicory is often added to functional foods to increase fiber content.) For many though, the high amounts of inulin can cause digestive discomfort; the vegetable even has a widespread reputation as causing a lot of gas. Jerusalem artichokes are not appropriate for those on a low-FODMAP diet.

Jerusalem artichokes may be available year-round at some specialty stores but are typically harvested in the Fall and can be found at farmer's markets and grocery stores during this time. The root vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways including raw and thinly sliced, roasted, steamed or boiled, mashed or pureed, and fried as chips.

Jerusalem Artichoke Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition facts are for 1 cup (150g) of Jerusalem artichokes, per the USDA.

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 26g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Sugars: 14g
  • Protein: 3g

Carbs

The calories from Jerusalem artichokes primarily come from complex carbohydrates (over 90%). They are especially high in inulin, a fermentable fiber in the fructan family. They contain 26g carbohydrates per cup, including 2.4g fiber which is about 10% of the daily requirements, and 14g natural sugar. Although they seem to be high in sugar, the glycemic load of 11 falls in the low-to-medium range. Jerusalem artichokes make a good substitute for potatoes for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Fats

There is negligible fat in Jerusalem artichokes.

Protein

Jerusalem artichokes contain 3g protein per 1 cup raw sliced vegetable and about 8% of the calories come from protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Jerusalem artichokes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C; the B-vitamins Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin, B6, and Folate; and the minerals magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. In fact, this root vegetable is an excellent source of iron, providing almost 30% of the daily requirement in a 1 cup serving.

Since this is non-heme iron (non-animal source), it is recommended to eat foods rich in vitamin C along with the Jerusalem artichokes in order to maximize your absorption of this iron.

Health Benefits

There are numerous benefits that come from including Jerusalem artichokes in your diet.

Gut Health

The inulin fiber in Jerusalem artichokes is beneficial for gut health because of its role in helping to regulate bowel function, and because of its role as a prebiotic. Inulin acts as a prebiotic because of its ability to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacterium.

This increased good bacteria can, in turn, help to decrease the number of bad bacteria in your gut and improve your gut microbiome. Maintaining a healthy amount of good bacteria is being linked to reduced inflammation and improved metabolism and immunity.

Blood Glucose

The inulin also may also be beneficial for glucose metabolism. Some studies suggest that inulin may help lower fasting blood sugar and reduce fasting insulin in those with type 2 diabetes. Inulin is a short-chain carbohydrate that is not metabolized and broken down into simple sugars like other carbohydrates, therefore it does not raise blood sugar.

Blood Pressure

Jerusalem artichokes are a good source of potassium which helps regulate blood pressure and counteract the negative effects of sodium. High potassium diets such as the DASH diet are recommended for reducing blood pressure.

Cholesterol Reduction

The soluble fiber in the Jerusalem artichokes may help lower cholesterol by binding the cholesterol in the small intestine. There is strong evidence that soluble fiber is effective at significantly lowering bad LDL cholesterol. An increased intake of foods high in soluble fiber is an important part of achieving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

Allergies

Anyone who has fructan intolerance or is on a low-FODMAP diet should avoid eating Jerusalem artichokes. Furthermore, anyone who does not regularly have a high fiber diet or consume other foods with inulin should start off with a small quantity to test personal tolerance.

When It's Best

Jerusalem artichokes can be found seasonally during the fall and winter months at farmer's markets and most large grocery stores in the refrigerated produce section. Some specialty food stores may also have them available year-round.

How to Prepare

Jerusalem artichokes can be prepared similar ways as you would prepare potatoes, but additionally can be consumed raw, thinly sliced, in a salad (be mindful of the portion when consumed raw to minimize GI discomfort).

Similar to potatoes, the skins are edible and provide an additional source of fiber. It is a personal preference to eat them with or without skins; however, it is recommended to trim off any visible strings or tough ends on the vegetable.

There are a few ways to make Jerusalem artichokes easier to digest.

  • Eat them cooked. Eating Jerusalem artichokes raw will cause the most irritation, so the more they are cooked, the better. For example, eating them steamed, boiled, pureed into a mash, or incorporated into a soup should minimize GI symptoms.
  • Enjoy small portions. Minimize the quantity you consume in a single sitting to help build up a tolerance over time. Inulin is good for you but there's no need to overdo it all at once. Try making a combination of mashed sunchokes and potatoes to reduce the amount of sunchokes in one portion but still get some of the benefits.
  • Boil them in lemon juice. Apparently, a centuries-old recipe calls for boiling them in lemon juice in order to break down the inulin prior to consumption. This will slightly alter the flavor, but it does make them easier to digest if you are consuming them in larger quantities. That being said, you won't get as much of the beneficial effect of the inulin.
  • Pickle them. Pickling Jerusalem artichokes may also remove the gaseous effects through the fermentation process.

Recipes

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