Daily, indeed many people use this vegetable to cook many dishes. But many will not have stopped to know the possible properties of leeks for health.
Perhaps the benefits of regular consumption of garlic and onions are better known. It should be noted that the leek belongs to the same family, has an interesting nutritional composition, and can be considered a healthy and positive food for the body.
Do you want to know what aspects the intake of this delicious vegetable can affect? In this article, we know the most outstanding and how to introduce it daily.
The leek: a versatile and nutritious vegetable
The leek is a vegetable that belongs to the genus Allium, the same family as onions, garlic, and chives. It is a plant native to Europe and Western Asia and cultivated for its leaves, bulb, and edible flowers.
It was already known as food around 3000 BC and was an essential product for the Romans. They introduced it to Great Britain, then spread it to Europe and the rest of the world.
Today, it is also a highly valued product for its aroma and flavor and its versatility in the kitchen. But the possible properties of leeks for the body have made it a food synonymous with health for many people.
At a nutritional level, it must be considered a light food due to its high percentage of water. According to the United States Department of Agriculture data, carbohydrates, and fiber stand out in their nutritional composition, followed by a little protein and almost no fat.
It also contains vitamins C, B6, and folates. The presence of minerals is not so remarkable, although it does provide a small amount of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and iron.
Properties of leeks
Due to its nutritional composition, it is possible to list some advantages that the consumption of leeks can bring to the body. However, it should be noted that this must be included in the framework of a healthy diet and appropriate to the needs of each person.
1. Good for the digestive system
Leeks are an essential source of dietary fiber. Among the multiple benefits of this compound is improving some aspects related to digestive health.
As can be read on the Mayo Clinic website, insoluble fiber increases the size of the stool and promotes the passage of the food bolus through the gastrointestinal tract. In this way, it helps prevent and improve conditions such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticula.
2. They contain folates, which are suitable during pregnancy
As the National Institutes of Health pointed out, folates are a B vitamin needed to form new cells, DNA, and other genetic material.It is a nutrient of particular importance for pregnant women, increasing their daily needs. Eating enough foods with folates (along with a folic acid supplement) is advised to prevent neural tube malformations in the fetus.
3. They provide antioxidants
Beyond its nutritional compounds (vitamins, minerals, or carbohydrates), this vegetable contains other substances responsible for the health properties of leeks. These include antioxidants.
According to data published in the Potravinarstvo Scientific Journal for Food Industry, these are flavonoids, carotenoids, and chlorophyll (concentrated in the green leaves). As the authors of this article indicate, antioxidants allow us to counteract the adverse effects of an excess of free radicals. The latter plays a prominent role in the appearance of some health problems, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.
4. They can help lower blood pressure
Leeks are rich in potassium. According to a Harvard Medical School publication, ensuring an adequate intake of this mineral in the diet (with healthy foods) and reducing sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure.
Among the effects of potassium is the ability to relax blood vessels. In turn, this lowers the pressure at which blood is pumped. As the same experts indicate, a low potassium intake has been associated with an increased risk of stroke.
5. They protect cardiovascular health
As we have just seen, we can mention the potassium content among the properties of leeks, which helps regulate blood pressure. Likewise, it contains more nutrients and phytochemicals that improve other aspects related to the cardiovascular system.
As the authors of this review of studies published in Nutrients point out, it is fiber, carotenes, and flavonoids (among others). The mechanisms by which this is possible are varied:
- They help regulate the metabolism of lipids and glucose.
- They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
- They improve the function of the arterial walls.
- They help reduce myocardial damage (in the muscle layer of the heart).
Based on the data collected, increased consumption of vegetables can be advised to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems from the leek family and leafy greens, orange-colored, cruciferous, and legumes.
6. They strengthen immune function
Leeks are a vitamin A source, essential for the immune system. This has a regulatory action on the response of the defense system. In addition, it is anti-inflammatory and protects the integrity of the tissues and the mucous layer of the body. The authors of this publication in the Journal of Clinical Medicine indicate this.
On the other hand, vitamin C also exerts an outstanding action in this regard. As the authors Carr and Maggini point out, it is an antioxidant and supports the proper functioning of immune cells. A deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to increased susceptibility to infections.
7. Necessary for the maintenance of bones
As Oregon State University (in the United States) pointed out, calcium and phosphorus are two minerals the body needs to build and maintain bone tissue.
Building genetically determined bone mass is possible through proper diet and exercise. Maintaining this maximum threshold is essential to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.
Therefore, the properties of leeks for bones extend throughout the different ages of a person.
How to introduce the leek in the daily diet
The leek is a vegetable that is easy to introduce into everyday life and offers many possibilities. In addition, it is possible to find it on the market all year round since it has varieties grown at different times.
In general, the white part is usually eaten and used to prepare other dishes. However, green leaves can be saved and used to prepare vegetable broths and creams.
Leeks can be eaten raw when they are tender. However, cooking them and integrating them into various recipes is more common. You can cook soups, stews, stir-fries, savory pies, or tortillas with them.
There are also traditional recipes in which this vegetable is the protagonist. As an example, we can mention the vichyssoise and the pousada.Likewise, boiled or steamed leeks are a perfect first course or side dish. They can be served seasoned with vinaigrette or gratin with some cheese.
Try them and take advantage of the properties of leeks for the body.
These belong to the same family as onions and garlic, although they are not as popular as the latter. However, the nutritional properties of leeks are significant for the diet.
Its intake provides vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that promote cardiovascular, digestive, bone, or immune health.Likewise, they are a mild flavor and very versatile kitchen food. Whether in soups, stir-fries, stews, scrambled eggs, or tortillas, it is easy to introduce it into everyday life and enjoy its full potential.