As vegetables, leeks belong to the Alliaceae family, together with onions and garlic. You might have occasionally added leeks to your cuisine or stock. The edible portions include the white base and the pale green stalk. While leeks appear unassuming or even boring, they have many nutritional benefits that are similar to those of garlic and onion. To maximize the flavor of leeks, note that when boiled, they turn soft and have a mild taste. When fried or sauteed, they are crunchier and are similar to raw leeks in taste. When raw, they are crunchy and firm, and are best used for salads. Usually only the white and pale green portions are used, because the dark green portion is woody in texture and has a mild flavor. Here’s a closer look at some of the nutritional benefits of leeks:
1. Protects the Linings of Blood Vessels
A flavonoid called kaempferol is present in significant amounts in leeks. Kaempferol provides protection to the linings of the blood vessels, particularly against free radicals or reactive oxygen species. Kaempferol could also induce the increased production of nitric oxide, a substance that acts as a natural dilator and relaxant of the blood vessels. Therefore, it allows your blood vessels to rest and decreases your risk for hypertension.
2. Provides Folate
A bioactive form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate is present in leeks. Aside from being an important vitamin during pregnancy, folate has been shown to lessen the concentration of homocysteine in the blood. Note that excessive levels of homocysteine promote inflammatory conditions and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis. By adding leeks to your diet, you can decrease your homocysteine levels, and protect your heart and blood vessels.
3. Functions as an Antioxidant
Leeks contain polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants. These substances help fight against free radicals that can cause many chronic diseases and aging. A 100 g portion of fresh leeks contains about 33 mg gallic acid equivalents (GAE). This is less than what is present in garlic (59 mg GAE) and onions (76 mg GAE), but leeks are highly valuable sources. If you are looking for an alternative to the strong flavors of garlic and onions while retaining the benefits of allium vegetables, then look no further than leeks.
4. Decreases Risk of Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
Although not as famous as onions and garlic, leeks are important vegetables for fighting against chronic low-level inflammatory states. These states include diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. Leeks can decrease the risk for these conditions by virtue of their polyphenol and kaempferol contents.
5. Provides Vitamins and Minerals
Leeks are also good sources of vitamins C, B6 (pyridoxine) and K, as well as manganese and iron. Vitamin C is important in wound healing and collagen formation. Pyridoxine is important in efficient energy utilization. Vitamin K is needed for blood coagulation, and for metabolism of bone and connective tissues. Manganese functions as a coenzyme for many reactions in the body, while iron is important in the formation of hemoglobin. By incorporating leeks in your diet, you can be sure that you are receiving good amounts of these nutrients.