There are a lot of great health benefits from eating onions and garlic, but what about their cousin, the leek?
Leeks are an old vegetable. They were a regular part of Egyptian diet at least from the beginning of the second millennium. They’re also one of the national emblems of Wales. Even Aristotle loved them!
Leeks are a cousin of onions and garlic, and have some of the same properties, but they’re shaped quite differently. Unlike onions and garlic, leeks grow in stalks, not bulbs. Typically it is the white portion of the stock used for culinary purposes but more on that in a bit.
This historical vegetable is a good source of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6. They’re also a great source of folate, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Manganese is a great mineral that you’ll find in many vegetables, and leeks happen to be a great source! It’s important because it is used as an antioxidant in the body. These antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress. Manganese is great for picking up the slack of other antioxidants. When enzymatic antioxidants aren’t enough to protect you from oxidative stress, manganese antioxidants are able to step in and finish the job. This is a unique characteristic of manganese and plays a large role in slowing the deterioration of cells and aging.
Vitamin A is great for your eyes. It can help protect your eyes from the regular strain and weakening of the eye. It is also important for the prevention of many ocular diseases. Vitamin A is also an anti-inflammatory, relieving stress throughout the body.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant vitamin. It fights disease and stress in the body. It can also help prevent illness, and can significantly reduce inflammation in the body. Vitamin C is often found in sugary fruit, so it’s great to get a healthy dose from a vegetable like leek.
Vitamin K1 is an important nutrient found in plants, most significantly in green plants. It works as a coagulant, and a vitamin K1 deficiency will result in excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, bruising, and anemia.
One of the biggest benefits of the onion and garlic family is the effect it has on cancer prevention. Leek, being a part of this family, shares in the ability to reduce the risk of developing many common cancers. This list includes oral cavity, pharynx, esophageal, colorectal, laryngeal, breast, ovarian, prostate, and renal cancer.
Do you suffer from hemorrhoids? Don’t worry, leeks can be made into a topical cream, which has been shown to be an effective treatment for hemorrhoids (or at least equally as effective as standard antihemorrhoid creams).
As previously mentioned, the long white shaft of the leek plant is the portion of the plant most people eat. However, by fermenting both the green leaves and the white shaft the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) are greatly increased, plus it makes the greens easier to eat/digest. That means you’re not only getting more food by fermenting leek, but you’re also getting increased antioxidant levels.
Leek is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic fibre that promotes the growth of bifidobacteria. A prebiotic is a non-digestible carbohydrate that works as food for probiotics (good gut bacteria). Bifidobacteria works as a probiotic, healing and maintaining gut health. Inulin also helps reduce constipation.
A 2013 study showed that inulin might contribute to weight loss. It has also been linked to improved moods, though the reason isn’t clear.
In short, leeks are a great addition to most diets. They are good for your gut, fighting disease and inflammation, plus they may help improve your mood. Go ahead and try adding leek to a meal this week!