Leeks are a member of the Alliaceae family and are scientifically known as Allium porrum. The main edible portion of the vegetable is the stem or the stalk which is nothing but a bundle of leaf sheaths and also the white onion base. They have a mild onion like taste and are quite crunchy and firm in their raw forms. Different varieties of the vegetable are available and are broadly categorized as the summer varieties and the overwintering leeks. Two of the most popular and commonly cultivated varieties are the Tadorna Blue and King Richard. Physically, they resemble scallions but are much bigger and are usually around 12 inches in length and around 2 inches in diameter. They have a small bulb like structure and a cylindrical stalk of superimposed leaves. Being a high source of vitamins and minerals, the vegetable plays an important role in providing defense against a number of ailments and diseases. It also helps to promote optimal health and strengthens the immune system of the body. Some of the major health benefits of consuming leeks are given below.
Health Benefits Of Eating Leek
- A particular combination of nutrients in leeks is very helpful in steadying elevated blood sugar level. These include vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron and manganese. These nutrients do not slow the absorption of sugars from the intestinal tract. They lower the sugar levels merely by ensuring that the sugars are properly metabolized in the body.
- A regular intake of leeks has been associated with the raise in the HDL (High Density Lipoprotein or ‘good’ cholesterol) levels and the corresponding decrease in the LDL or Low Cholesterol Lipoprotein levels. Maintenance of this balance in the body is very essential as it helps in the prevention of either the onset or the progression of plaques in the blood vessels in the body. It is this plaque formation that leads to the occurrence of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease in humans. Progression of these plaques can even result in a heart attack or stroke.
- Intake of Allium vegetables like leeks also cause decrease in high blood pressure levels, another major factor for the occurrence of stroke and heart attack.
- Leeks are also known to promote optimal health of humans. Consumption of the vegetable has been shown to considerably decrease the risk of colon and prostate cancer.
- Studies have also shown that the vegetable is beneficial in the prevention of ovarian cancer in females.
- A good source of dietary fiber, leeks energizes the human body to perform many types of biological functions like digestion and metabolism.
- Leeks are especially essential for pregnant women as they contain considerable amount of folate (a type of vitamin). Due to this, a number of birth defects are prevented, particularly the ones that are related with the spine and brain of the baby like spina bifida and encephalitis.
- The use of calcium in the maintenance of a healthy skeletal system has been known since a long time. Leeks, a good source of calcium helps in achieving this effect. Calcium is also used for the proper clotting of blood in the human body.
- In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, leeks also act as an antiseptic and help the body fight against infection and contamination.
- People with untreated or existing kidney and gall bladder problems should avoid the consumption of leeks on a regular basis. This is because of the fact that the vegetable contains a considerable amount of oxalates, which, when becomes too concentrated in the human body crystallize and create health problems.
- Studies and continuous research has also shown that the presence of oxalates interfere with the absorption of calcium from the body.
- Complete and thorough cleaning of the vegetable is very important prior to their cooking. This is vital to remove any forms of dust or dirt that might have accumulated in the different overlapping layers of the vegetable.
- Before cutting the vegetable, slice away the rootlets and some section of the green tops. Also, remove the outer layer of the vegetable.
- If the vegetable is required to be cut in cross sections, then start by cutting into the desired pieces and then place the sliced vegetable in a strainer and clean under cool running water.
- For any other preparations, cut the vegetable longitudinally along the centerline, fold it open and clean under the cool water.