Jerusalem Artichoke Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes

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Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) is a good source of many vitamins and minerals while also providing some fiber and protein. Otherwise known as sunchoke or sunroot, it is not related to artichokes. Rather, Jerusalem artichoke is a member of the sunflower family. 

These artichokes look similar to knobby ginger roots. Their texture is like water chestnut when raw and white potato when cooked. Some call the flavor a combination of artichoke and potato, while others feel it tastes like chestnut.

Jerusalem Artichoke Nutrition Facts

One cup of Jerusalem artichoke (150g) provides 110 calories, 3g of protein, 26.1g of carbohydrates, and 0g of fat. Jerusalem artichoke is an excellent source of iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The following nutrition facts are provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 26.1g
  • Fiber: 2.4g
  • Sugars: 14.4g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Iron: 5.1mg
  • Copper: 0.2mg
  • Magnesium: 25.5mg
  • Phosphorus: 117mg
  • Potassium: 644mg

Carbs

Over 90% of the calories in Jerusalem artichokes come from complex carbohydrates. A one-cup serving provides about 10% of daily fiber requirements. This root veggie is especially high in inulin, a fermentable fiber in the fructan family.

One serving also contains 14 grams of natural sugar. Although this may seem high, the glycemic index of Jerusalem artichokes is low. This means that they have minimal effects on blood sugar, making them a good potato substitute for people with pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Fats

There is negligible fat in Jerusalem artichoke. This is helpful if you follow a low-fat diet or another eating plan that limits your fat intake.

Protein

Jerusalem artichokes contain 3 grams of protein per cup of raw slices. So, just over 10% of its calories are in the form of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Jerusalem artichokes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, notably iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. You'll also get some vitamin C, a variety of B vitamins, calcium, and a few other nutrients when you add this vegetable to your menu.

The iron in Jerusalem artichokes is non-heme iron (iron from a non-animal source). Eating foods rich in vitamin C—such as peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts—along with your Jerusalem artichokes will help maximize the absorption of this iron.

Calories

There are 110 calories in one cup of Jerusalem artichoke slices. This is roughly the same amount of calories as in a one-cup serving of diced raw potato (118.4 calories), making them a fairly even swap calorie-wise.

Summary

Jerusalem artichoke is a rich source of complex carbs and, although high in natural sugars, has minimal effect on blood sugar levels. Jerusalem artichokes also offer a bit of protein, along with numerous vitamins and minerals.

Health Benefits

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

Improves Gut Health

The inulin fiber in Jerusalem artichokes is beneficial for gut health because it helps regulate bowel function while also acting as a prebiotic. Inulin stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacterium.

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

Assists With Blood Glucose Control

Inulin may also be beneficial for glucose metabolism. This is because inulin is a short-chain carbohydrate that is not metabolized and broken down into simple sugars like other carbohydrates, which means it does not raise blood sugar.

Some studies suggest that inulin may help lower fasting blood sugar and reduce fasting insulin in those with type 2 diabetes. 

Regulates Blood Pressure

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

Reduces Cholesterol

The soluble fiber in Jerusalem artichokes can help lower high cholesterol and triglycerides. There is strong evidence that an increased intake of foods high in soluble fiber is important to achieving and maintaining cardiovascular health.

Protects Against Cancer

When researchers studied the leaves of Jerusalem artichoke, they found 11 sesquiterpene lactones and two known flavones. Together, these compounds exhibited cytotoxic activities against cancer cells. Put another way, they help to kill cancer cells.

Allergies

Though it is rare, some people are allergic to the inulin in Jerusalem artichoke (which is also found in chicory root). Currently, manufacturers only have to list inulin as a "dietary fiber" on the ingredient list. This can make it harder to know whether a food contains inulin or not.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering more precise labeling of non-digestible carbohydrates. In the meantime, if you think you may have an inulin allergy, speak to your doctor or an allergist for testing and guidance.

Adverse Effects

Jerusalem artichoke is generally considered safe to eat. However, for some people, its high inulin content can cause digestive discomfort (the vegetable has a reputation for causing a lot of gas).

If this happens to you, you may want to limit how much you eat, at least until your body gets used to it. Additionally, since it contains fructan, anyone who is fructan intolerant or on a low-FODMAP diet should avoid eating Jerusalem artichoke.

Varieties

There are multiple varieties of Jerusalem artichoke. Among them are Stampede, Red Fuseau, White Fuseau, and Clearwater. Additional varieties include Mammoth, Columbia, LSD, and Oregon. Different varieties produce different color tubers. Some tubers are white and some are red.

When It's Best

Jerusalem artichokes can be found 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 have them available year-round.

When buying fresh Jerusalem artichoke, choose a tuber that isn't shriveled and doesn't have a lot of cuts or bruises. Also, look for small holes as this may be a sign that pests have gotten into it. Avoid any with black spores on them, which may indicate a fungus.

Storage and Food Safety

Jerusalem artichoke tubers like cool and humid environments. The ideal storage temp is around 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the ideal humidity level is between 85% and 95%.

One way to achieve this environment is to keep them in a plastic bag in your basement. Jerusalem artichoke can last several months in these conditions.

If you store them in your refrigerator, wrap them in paper towel, place them in a plastic bag, and put them in your vegetable drawer. They will generally last between one and two weeks. Cooked Jerusalem artichoke should be kept in the fridge and consumed within a couple of days.

While many foods can be frozen for longer storage, this is not recommended with Jerusalem artichoke. If you freeze them, they will start to discolor and their texture changes as well.

How to Prepare

This root vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways. You can eat Jerusalem artichokes raw (thinly sliced), roasted, steamed or boiled, mashed or pureed, and fried as chips.

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.

If the fiber in Jerusalem artichokes causes stomach upset, you can try these strategies to make them easier to digest.

  • Eat them cooked. Eating Jerusalem artichokes raw will likely cause the most irritation. Steaming, boiling, pureeing them into a mash, or cooking them in a soup should minimize GI symptoms.
  • Boil them in lemon juice. A centuries-old recipe calls for boiling Jerusalem artichoke in lemon juice to help break down the inulin. This will slightly alter the flavor, but it may 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 artichoke may also remove the gaseous effects through the fermentation process.
  • Enjoy small portions. Minimize the quantity of Jerusalem artichoke 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 in one portion but still get some of the benefits.
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