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Leek Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses


What is Leek?

Like garlic and onion, the leek is a vegetable, a cultivar of Allium ampeloprasum family  but have their own distinct flavour – quite harsh when raw (only very young leeks are eaten this way) but, when cooked, very delicate, like a mild onion but with a hint of sweetness. The edible part of the plant is a bundle of leaf sheaths that is sometimes erroneously called a stem or stalk.

Two thirds of their length is white and firm, and this is the part that is mainly eaten. The rest of the third is made up of the leaves (flags), most of which is discarded.

Health Benefits of Leek

Good for pregnant women: Leek is very essential for pregnant women as they contain considerable amount of folate. The folate consumption during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
Strengthen bones: Leeks are a rich source of calcium and magnesium. The calcium along with magnesium is essential for bone health, helping to convert vitamin D into its active form in the body and thus strengthen the bones.

Fight infections: Leeks also act as an antiseptic agent, which help the body fight against infection. You may apply leek extract on a wound to prevent the infection.

Improve digestive health: Leek is one of the few foods that contain prebiotics, a type of good bacteria, which is necessary for a better nutrient absorption. It eliminates noxious waste matter in the body, stimulates peristaltic action and secretes digestive fluids, thereby improving digestive function.

Maintain healthy cholesterol levels: A regular intake of leeks has been associated with the decrease in bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise in the level of good (HDL) cholesterol.

Prevent Anemia: Due to its iron content, leeks can also help in preventing various types of anemia, particularly iron-deficiency anemia. It is also rich in Vitamin C, which can help in better absorption of iron in the body.

Anti-cancer properties: Leeks are a good source of allyl sulfides which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, particularly stomach, prostate, and colon cancer.

Protect against heart disease: Several studies have shown that members of the Allium family, including Leeks, have a slight blood pressure lowering effect and may help prevent heart diseases like arteriosclerosis, stroke and cardiac failure.

Uses of Leek

Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish. Two of the world’s most famous soups, Scotland’s cock-a-leekie and France’s crème vichyssoise, are based around them.

Cut off green tops of leeks and remove outer tough leaves. Cut off root and cut leeks in half lengthwise. Fan out the leeks and rinse well under running water, leaving them intact. Cut leeks into 2-inch lengths. Holding the leek sections cut side up, cut lengthwise so that you end up with thin strips, known as the chiffonade cut, slicing until you reach the green portion. Make sure slices are cut very thin to shorten cooking time. Let leeks sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking.

Heat 3 tablespoons of broth in 10-12 inch stainless steel skillet until it begins to steam. Add 1 pound of cut leeks. Cover and Healthy Sauté for 4 minutes. Add 2 more tablespoons of broth, reduce heat to medium low, and Healthy Sauté for 3 more minutes uncovered while stirring frequently. Toss with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Nutritional value of Leek

100 grams of leeks contain about 83g water, 1.5g protein, 14g carbohydrates and minimal fat. Leeks are a source of several vitamins and nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, magnesium and manganese.