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FOOD FOR TAUT (SKIN): A Heart That Does Not Choke

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A Heart That Does Not Choke

Artichoke RecipeTell me how many times have you seen this, whether in movies or in real life? It’s prom night. The ballroom is filled with dazzling lights and romantic music. The dance floor is swimming in white balloons that give the illusion of walking on clouds. Everybody (with a plus one) asks their date’s hand if they could have this dance, and they all walk to the middle of the room, holding hands, and dance to the slow music, resting their foreheads against each other. Then the boy, who never wanted to attend the event in the first place, searches across the room for that one girl whom he’s been eyeing for as long as he could remember. The girl, having a great laugh with her close girlfriends, pauses for a moment and, as if in slow motion, looks over her shoulder to meet the boy’s gaze… and smiles. The boy’s best friend sees the two’s eyes meet and nudges him to make his move. This is the moment he’s been waiting for. The boy, after much stalling (and probably talking to himself), musters enough courage to finally stand from his chair and start walking up to the girl to ask her, “May I have this dance?” Halfway there, the girl again looks over her shoulder and sees a boy who asks if she would like to dance with him. She happily obliges. But that boy was someone else, and the best friend sees his buddy frozen in the middle of the room, wishing he were the one who got to the girl first, punishing himself for not making his move sooner. If only he did not choke, his heart would not have been broken.

Forgive me for sounding so cheesy. I can’t help it, knowing that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. But since we’re on the subject of hearts and choking, I just thought I’d give all the hopeless romantics and unrequited lovers out there a ray of hope by talking about one heart that does not choke, at least definitely not in the health department. I’m talking about the humble artichoke.

The artichoke, commonly thought to be a vegetable, is a thistle that is native to the Mediterranean region. It is no wonder, therefore, why it is so commonly found in Mediterranean cuisines. And if you’re familiar with the Mediterranean Diet which, because of all the buzz surrounding it nowadays, I’m sure most of you already are, artichokes have a lot to contribute to eating your way to a healthy life.

Starting with the heart, literally, artichokes are exceptionally beneficial to the central pump in our bodies. It is known to reduce levels of bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol levels at the same time. This contributes in lessening fat build-up in the arteries that lead to heart attacks and stroke. In a similar vein, artichokes regulate blood pressure because of its high potassium content. This high potassium concentration helps to counter the effects of excessive sodium in the body, which is one of the primary factors that lead to high blood pressure. Aside from the heart, artichokes are also good for other vital organs in the body.

Aside from its high content in potassium, artichokes contain copious amounts of phosphorus as well, which is the same mineral found in brain cells. This supports the fact that artichokes are not only good for the heart, but also for the brain, literally. Also, because artichokes are rich in fiber, they are quite beneficial for improving the digestive system by regulating bowel movement. Moreover, artichokes are good for the gallbladder, which contain bile that, when released, helps digest fatty foods. Lastly, to further digest the facts (pun intended), artichokes are good for the liver. They contain cynarin and silymarin, two antioxidants that are extremely helpful in reducing the toxins in that vital organ.

And while there are many more health benefits to artichokes, perhaps the most notable is its usefulness in fighting cancer. As recently mentioned, artichokes are rich in antioxidants, and it is these antioxidants that serve as the primary defense for the immune system against free radicals, metabolic byproducts that can lead to a plethora of dangers and diseases, including the big C.

So if you’re feeling heart-broken this Valentine’s, take heart (again, pun intended). There is still much love out there, and especially in artichokes. And since many of us fall into the depression of over-eating when broken-hearted, may I suggest you include artichokes in your diet so that at least I know you’re still caring for your heart (and other organs in your system) in spite of broken relationships, wishful thinking, and unrequited loves. For starters, try out Chef John’s Artichoke Hearts Gratin, and eat to your heart’s content!

Artichoke RecipeArtichoke Hearts Gratin


  • 6 canned artichoke hearts, drained and halved
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges


1.Place artichoke heart halves on a paper towel cut-side down to drain for about 15 minutes.

2.Set oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with vegetable oil.

3.Place artichoke heart halves on the prepared baking sheet, cut side up. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and drizzle with olive oil.

4.Broil artichoke hearts until browned on top, about 7 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.





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