Top Health Benefits of Leeks
Leeks are versatile, tasty, and easy to prepare, so don't let their relative unfamiliarity deter you. Leeks have much to offer in the way of good health and, like garlic, it's thought that much of their therapeutic effect comes from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Allicin is not only anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, but research has revealed that as allicin digests in your body, it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that neutralize dangerous free radicals faster than any other known compound.1
Leeks also contain kaempferol, a natural flavonol that's also found in broccoli, kale, and cabbage. Kaempferol is impressive in its broad yet powerful potential to boost human health. Research has linked it not only to a lower risk of cancer2but also a lower risk of numerous chronic diseases. As reported in Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry:3
"Some epidemiological studies have found a positive association between the consumption of foods containing kaempferol and a reduced risk of developing several disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Numerous preclinical studies have shown that kaempferol and some glycosides of kaempferol have a wide range of pharmacological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, anti-osteoporotic, estrogenic/antiestrogenic, anxiolytic, analgesic, and antiallergic activities."
Anti-Cancer and Heart Protective Benefits
Kaempferol, and by association, leeks, is also known to protect blood vessel linings from damage, possibly by increasing production of nitric oxide (NO), which helps blood vessels to dilate and relax.4
Consuming large amounts of allium vegetables, including leeks, has also been shown to reduce the risk of gastric cancer significantly5 as well as potentially colorectal cancer. As written in Environmental Health Perspectives:6
"Allium vegetables have been shown to have beneficial effects against several diseases, including cancer. Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives have been reported to protect against stomach and colorectal cancers…
The protective effect appears to be related to the presence of organosulfur compounds and mainly allyl derivatives, which inhibit carcinogenesis in the forestomach, esophagus, colon, mammary gland, and lung of experimental animals."
Leeks Are a Phenomenal Source of Vitamins and Antioxidants
Leeks contain notable quantities of vitamins A and K, along with healthy amounts of folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, and thiamin. Adequate intake of leeks during pregnancy may help prevent neural tube defects in newborns. B vitamins in leeks, in particular, may support heart health by keeping levels of homocysteine in balance (elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease, blood clots, and stroke).
Leeks also provide a concentrated source of antioxidants, even when compared to other antioxidant-rich foods. For instance, leeks have a total polyphenol content (TPC) of 33 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh edible portion. By comparison, red bell peppers' TPC is 27 milligrams and carrots' 10 milligrams.7If you'd like to learn more about leeks, be sure to read "What Are Leeks Good For?"
Leeks Likely Provide Many of the Powerful Health Benefits of Garlic and Onions
Leeks have not been the subject of the extensive amount of research that garlic and onions have. However, that doesn't mean they're less healthful than their allium cousins. In fact, it's likely that leeks share many of the same health-supportive properties of garlic and onions.
Studies have demonstrated, for instance, more than 150 beneficial health effects of garlic,8 including reducing your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and various cancers such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
Onions, similarly, are also linked to cancer- and diabetes-fighting properties, as well as decreasing blood vessel stiffness by releasing nitric oxide (this may lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease). As noted by the World's Healthiest Foods, it's to be expected that leeks, too, offer these impressive benefits:9
"Given their substantial polyphenol content, including their notable amounts of kaempferol, we would expect to see overlap with garlic and onions in terms of support for many health problems related to oxidative stress and chronic low-level inflammation.
These health problems would include atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergic airway inflammation. We would also expect to see leeks providing measurable amounts of protection against several different types of cancer, mostly likely including colorectal cancer.
It's important to remember that even in the absence of research studies to confirm health benefits, leeks still belong to the same allium vegetable family as onions and garlic and contain many health-supportive substances that are similar to (or identical with) the substances in their fellow allium vegetables."
A Peek at Leeks
Botanical name: Allium ampeloprasum porrum
More delicately flavored than its cousins the onion, shallots, and garlic, the leek has a similar history but its own distinctive flavor and panache. While it’s similar-looking to a green-topped garden onion, it is much larger and cigar-shaped, with tiny hairs for roots rather than a bulb.
Biblical accounts illustrate how desirable leeks were even then: the children of Israel thought seriously about returning to Egypt, the land of their captivity, just to taste them again.
Leeks in today’s gardens are usually planted quite deep to deprive the stems from sunlight exposure, which keep the tops white and tender. A delicious addition to green salads, another easy and nutritious way to enjoy leeks is to slice them thin and sauté them – alone or with other vegetables – making them a perfect base for stir-fry cooking and creamy soups.
Health Benefits of Leeks
When sliced or chopped, the many antioxidants leeks provide begin converting to allicin. Allicin provides an abundance of important attributes to the body, such as anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities, and reducing cholesterol by impeding harmful enzymes in liver cells. Another major benefit is the 52% daily requirement of vitamin K, and a more than 29% daily requirement of vitamin A.
Leeks contain healthy amounts of folic acid (needed for proper DNA absorbsion and cell division), as well as niacin, riboflavin, magnesium for healthy bones, and thiamin. Adequate intake during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in newborns