By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
I have a friend who's been with her husband for 18 years and neither he nor she farts in front of the other. I thought that was unusual but judging by how well they get on it may be something which helps to keep the romance alive; which is an odd introduction to an article about food, but it struck me, while reading this week's market specials, that this couple would struggle to stick to their "no wind code-of-conduct" after a serve of Jerusalem artichokes.
My husband and I don't have such a rule in our home which is a good thing because ever since I mistook Jerusalem artichoke for ginger, and despite discovering for myself the downside to these interesting tubers, when they're in season I like to include them in the weekly shop. It's the cloud/silver lining story because despite their tendency to give you wind they have numerous health benefits and they taste great.
The name "Jerusalem artichoke" is believed to have derived from the name of the Dutch village, Artischokappeln van Ter Neusen where they were first cultivated before being taken to England. Presumably the English couldn't pronounce the name and came up with something that was easier to market.
As mentioned before, the tubers can easily be mistaken for ginger, despite the colour variance which can range from pale brown to white, pink, red, or purple. Once peeled and cooked they have a characteristic smoky-sweet and slightly earthy flavour.
The reason why Jerusalem artichokes make you fart is due to their highly indigestible carbohydrate content. Approximately 16% of the carbohydrate in Jerusalem artichokes is made up of inulin, a polysaccharide, which passes straight through the mouth, stomach and small intestine without being digested.
Great for diabetics
What that means is Jerusalem artichokes can be a valuable and unusual source of carbohydrate, especially for diabetics, because the carbohydrate from foods that are rich in inulin have less effect on blood sugar levels.
Great for gut health and brain function
When inulin does finally reach the large intestine, it's broken down by a fermentation process enabled by bacteria in the gut. It's brilliant food for our gut bacteria and as such is one of the best prebiotics to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. The function of gut bacteria is of particular interest to nutritional scientists worldwide as we know now that active colonies of good bacteria in the gut are essential for the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Most interestingly, scientists now recognise the connection between the brain and the gut and attribute an imbalance of good and bad bacteria with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, or depression.
Reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease
High inulin foods like Jerusalem artichokes can also help to relieve constipation, and reduce the risk of colon cancer, lower cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. Jerusalem artichokes are also high in potassium an important nutrient to help lower blood pressure and reduce any excess sodium in the body.
Not suitable for people with IBS
Jerusalem Artichokes are a form of Oligosaccharides and as such will not be suitable for people who suffer from IBS who respond well to a low FODMAP diet.
As an aside, it's this discovery about inulin that has found it used in various functional food products and is used to help lower the GI and increase the fibre content in traditional high GI/low fibre food products by replacing some of the sugar and flour in cereals and baked goods with inulin.
That's about it for Jerusalem artichokes. My advice is to get out there and try them for yourself. Eat them at home, stay amongst good friends and family and don't worry about the consequences.