Leeks (scientific name: Allium porrum) are close relatives of onions, garlic, shallots, and also scallions. Visually, they are similar to scallions, just that they are larger and have a small bulb with a cylindrical white stalk. They consist of superimposed layers that flow into green, tightly wrapped and flat leaves. Leeks are usually about 12 inches long and have a diameter of about 1-2 inches. They have a fragrant flavour that is similar to that of shallots but sweeter and more subtle.
Leeks are widely consumed in many parts of America, Europe and Asia and are available all around the year although they are at their best during the beginning of spring. Their flavour works well in soups and a number of other dishes.
A cup of leeks (approximately one entire leek) has only 54 calories. Therefore, they can help you lose weight by giving you the feeling of fullness on consumption without letting you consume excess calories. They are also an excellent source of vitamins and have multiple health benefits to offer due to their phytonutrient content.
Leeks rank high on the nutritional chart and are a popular cure for several health problems and the good part is that they are not very costly also. Used in a number of forms – from soups to bureks – leeks can augment the aroma, flavour and richness of almost any cuisine. Its juice, syrup and seeds too have a notable place in the cosmetic and the pharmaceutical industries.
With the unique blend of sulfur-containing nutrients and flavonoids (concentrated in their lower leaf and bulb portion), leeks can form a crucial part of your diet. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre. Read more about the health benefits in the following sections.
Younger leeks have more delicate texture and flavour as compared to mature ones. Therefore, avoid large and bulbous ones and also those who’s bottoms are starting to take the bulb shape.
While buying leeks, make sure that the bulb is slender and white with a minimum of 2-3 inches of firm and white, tightly-rolled dark green tops. The diameter of the base should be a minimum of 0.5 inches although they are usually much larger – 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
Additionally, press the centre of the leek to make sure that no stalk is present there. This is because such leeks have a tough centre and must be avoided.
To be stored in a refrigerator, leeks must be wrapped in a thin plastic sheet so that their smell does not mix up with other things presents in the fridge.
Depending on their freshness they can be stored for about 5 days to 2 weeks.
However, freezing makes their taste bitter. Thus, freezing and canning of leeks are not recommended unless you want to use them for side dishes like soups.
One leek, cooked, boiled with no added salt has 1 gram protein, 38 calories and 1.2 grams of dietary fibre.
Potassium – 108 mg
Phosphorus – 21 mg
Magnesium – 17 mg
Calcium – 37 mg
Iron – 1.36 mg
Sodium – 12 mg
Zinc – 0.07 mg
Copper – 0.077 mg
Manganese – 0.306 mg
Selenium – 0.6 mcg
Also contains small amounts of other minerals.
Vitamin C – 5.2 mg
Niacin – 0.248 mg
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – 0.032 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0.025 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.14 mg
Folate – 30 mcg
Pantothenic Acid – 0.089 mg
Vitamin A – 1007 IU
Vitamin K – 31.5 mcg
Vitamin E – 0.62 mg
Contains some other vitamins in small amounts.
• Protects the linings of the blood vessels:
The flavonoid Kaempferol is present in leeks in substantial amounts. It protects the linings of blood vessels especially from free radicals. It is also known to increase the manufacturing of nitric oxide in the body which is a natural dilator and relaxant of blood vessels, consequently allowing blood vessels to relax and lower the chances of hypertension.
• Helps in losing weight:
Leeks help in avoiding obesity by controlling weight because they do not have fats and are low in calorie content. Due to the high amount of dietary fibre present in them, they provide a feeling of fullness when consumed and then suppress hunger. The fibre also regulates intestinal activity and aids digestion.
• Improves digestion:
The fibre present in leeks acts as a bulking agent and allows smooth passage of bowels.
• Good for the eyes:
The lutein and zeaxanthin content of leeks prevents eye problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration by protecting the tissues from the harmful oxidation of cell membranes and DNA.
• Balsamic Characteristics:
Because of the presence of volatile oils in it, leek juice has a relieving effect on the respiratory tract. Therefore, it can cure the symptoms associated with flu, cold and hay fever.
• Protects the skin from the sun:
The green leaves of leeks contain beta-carotene and vitamin C in good amounts. These along with other vitamins and powerful antioxidants present in the vegetable are known to protect the skin from harm by free radicals and UV rays of the sun. Leeks also detoxify the skin.
• Prevents chronic inflammation:
Leeks have a good content of vitamin K and vitamin B6 which are known to possess anti-inflammatory properties. This helps in preventing obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and redundant calcification of the arteries.
• Helps in hair growth:
Leeks contain a good amount of iron (and vitamin C too which helps in absorbing iron) which helps the hair follicles to grow quickly.
It does not generally cause any side effects when consumed in moderate amounts in foods. However, overconsumption may lead to certain health conditions in some individuals.
- Buttered Leeks: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1676/buttered-leeks
- Cock-A-Leekie: https://www.marthastewart.com/316762/cock-a-leekie
- Light Leeks Vinaigrette: https://www.marthastewart.com/342481/leeks-vinaigrette
- Spaghetti with Bay Scallops, Leeks, and Tarragon: https://www.marthastewart.com/316089/spaghetti-with-bay-scallops-leeks-and-ta
- Leek, Bacon, and Pea Risotto: https://www.marthastewart.com/336988/leek-bacon-and-pea-risotto