Jerusalem Artichokes | Health benefits

 

 

A prebiotic powerhouse

This may seem strange, but there are more bacterial cells in our body than human cells.  Ten times more to be precise - enough to fill a small soup can.  But because of their small size, they account for just 3-5 pound of the average person's weight.  The largest portion of these incredibly important bacteria live in our digestive tract, where they serve several important functions, from stimulating the immune system to aiding in digestion.  Inulin, the main carbohydrate in Jerusalem Artichokes, is not assimilated by our bodies - but the microbiota within us thrive on it.  And unlike other other carbs such as starch, only beneficial bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are selectively targeted.  Skip the yogurt (the vast majority of bacteria in it don't make it past the stomach alive) and boost your flora with inulin.   

A boon for diabetics

By 2025, the World Health Organization estimates there may be 300 million people living with diabetes, a disease in which blood sugar is not properly absorbed into the cells.  Since inulin is not absorbed, the spike in blood sugar normally associated with starch or glucose consumption is flattened out and the need for insulin injections mitigated.  Studies suggest that diabetics should work in 16 to 23 grams of inulin per meal (inulin content in JA is roughly 50% of dry weight, and 8 to 21% of fresh weight).  The easiest, and perhaps the least monotonous way to incorporate Jerusalem Artichoke into a diet is to make a flour from the tubers.  Simply shred the tubers, dry them in a dehydrator and grind in a food processor for a coarse meal, or use a coffee grinder for a fine powder.  It can then be used as a thickener in stews, gravies and sauces, and in baking.  Store in an airtight container for long term storage. 

Fill you up, not fill you out. 

Jerusalem Artichokes are a relatively low caloric source of food.  For example, while 100 grams of potato has a caloric value of 76 kcal, the same amount of JA has just 41 kcal.  It also has four times more vitamin C, three times more iron and a plethora of vitamin and minerals.  For these reasons and its good "mouthfeel",  the food industry is increasingly turning to Jerusalem Artichokes to address the obesity epidemic.   

A note on flatulence

With all the health benefits that come with Jerusalem Artichokes, it's only fair that it has a potential downside; some people may experience increased flatulence.  There are ways to mitigate this side effect though.  Begin by eating small amounts and see how your body reacts, and slowly build up your tolerance.  Boiling them in water that is changed several times lowers inulin levels, as does long cooking times.  Unfortunately, this also lowers the health benefits.  *Sigh*