Leek or Allium porrum is a vegetable that provides high quality nutrients in significant amounts. As a close relative to onion and garlic, it has similar medicinal properties to them, and many of these properties have been attributed to their sulfur-containing compounds.
Leek, which is also called Poor-man’s asparagus is a stalk of Allium porrum, a herbaceous plant of the botanical family Liliaceae. It is very similar to onions, and differs from it due to the presence of a very little or no bulb with much more stalk. Onions and garlic, belongs to the same botanical family with leek, hence, they share many properties.
According to USDA, a 100 g of leek provides energy of 61 kcal, carbohydrates of 14.15 g, dietary fiber of 1.8 g, fat of just 0.3 g, protein of 1.5 g, vitamin C of 12 mg, vitamin K of 47 µg, vitamin B9 of 64 µg, calcium of 59 mg, iron of 2.1 mg, magnesium of 28 mg, phosphorus of 35 mg, and potassium of 180 mg. It also contain water, which makes up about 83 g.
By comparing it with onion, leeks has more carbohydrates and minerals. Calcium, iron and magnesium stands out among others. One-half kilo of leek provides one-third of the daily need for calcium, and provides 10 mg of iron that an adult needs in a day. Leek also contains essential oil similar to that in onions, which accounts for its typical odor and volatility, but in a lower concentration.
Health benefits / medicinal uses of Leek
Leeks posses some medicinal qualities and can act as a laxative, antiseptic, antibacterial, and a diuretic. This qualities are mainly attributed to its rich content of phytonutrients. Their consumption can go a long way in preventing and treating many types of diseases. You can take a look at some of its medicinal benefits below:
The consumption of leeks helps reduce the level of bad cholesterol in our body. This is probably due to its sulphur content which is known to reduce bad cholesterol levels. Additionally, leeks are rich in fiber, which is known to absorb excess cholesterol and eliminate it from our body.
Leeks are said to contain allyl sulphides, which have been proven to reduce or minimize the risk of developing certain types of cancers, particularly prostrate, stomach, and colon cancer.
The Environmental Health Perspectives made it clear that Allium vegetables have beneficial effects against several diseases including cancer, with garlic, onion, leeks, and chives reported to protect against stomach and colorectal cancers. They also found out that the protective effects are related to the presence of organosulfur compounds, mainly allyl derivatives, which inhibited the formation of carcinogens in the oesophagus, forestomach, colon, mammary glands, and lungs of experimental animals.
Protects the Heart
Leeks contain important flavonoids in significant quantities. These flavonoids have beneficial effects on the heart and its associated vessels by helping prevent heart diseases like stroke, arteriosclerosis, and cardiac failure. A flavonoid called Kaempferol present in leeks has been shown to help protect our blood vessels lining from damage.
Also present in leeks is B vitamin folate in significant quantities. Folate is an important B complex vitamin that supports our cardiovascular system, because it helps keep our homocysteine level in a proper balance. Excess levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for many cardiovascular diseases.
Another constituent of leeks that cannot be overlooked is the presence of great concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols. These polyphenols are said to directly play a role in protecting our blood cells and vessels from oxidative damage.
Good for pregnancy
This stems down to leeks content of folates, which are essential especially during pregnancy. These folates help prevent neural tube defects and miscarriages, while assisting in cell division and DNA absorption.
We have seen above that leek is a great antiseptic and antibacterial. This makes it able to cure and prevent certain infections such as cold, flu, bronchitis and sinusitis. The mucolytic (fluidization of mucus) effect of leeks and its antiseptic properties makes it appropriate in the treatment of bronchitis and sinusitis. Thus, the regular consumption of leeks can be effective in its treatment.
Uratic arthritis (gout)
The body produces uric acid as the metabolism of proteins occurs, which is eliminated through the urine. When excess is produced, it tends to deposit in joints, causing pain (gout) and inflammation. Leeks alkalizing and diuretic effect increases the elimination of this uric acid through urine.
Thus, the regular consumption of leeks is particularly beneficial for those suffering from arthritis and kidney disorders.
Leeks produce intestinal flatulence due to the laxative effect of their fiber. You can read more tips on how to avoid constipation here.
Strengthen the bones
Leeks contain significant quantities of calcium and magnesium, which are essential for strong and healthy bones.
It is important to note that about half the cases of anemia are due to deficiency in the mineral iron, while the rest is due to genetic factors (WHO).
Leeks may help prevent the occurrence of iron-deficiency anemia, since it contains significant amounts of iron and vitamin C. Iron is involved in the production of red blood cells, while vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron into the body.