8 Proven Health Benefits of Leeks
Leeks (Allium porrum) are a vegetable that belongs to the same botanical family as chives, garlic, onions, scallions and shallots, in the genus Allium. However, unlike its fellow members, leeks do not form bulbs. The edible part of the leek plant is the white onion base and light green stalk (or stem), while the dark green leaf sheaths are usually discarded. Leeks are believed to be originated in the Mediterranean and Middle East. They have been grown and used for cooking for more than 3,000 years in Asia and Europe regions. Just like onions, leeks can be served either cooked or raw, but make sure to just use the whitest part of the plant. Leeks have a mild onion-like flavor that works well in soups and a variety of other dishes. Apart from that, Leeks also have several health benefits that are similar to those of garlic and onion.
Health Benefits of Leeks
1. Protect Against Heart Disease
Studies have shown that members of the allium family have a slight blood pressure lowering effect and may help prevent platelets from clotting which could potentially lead to a heart attack. Leeks can help rid of homocysteine, a molecule that can be very detrimental to cardiovascular health.
2. Promotes Hair Growth
Leeks are an important source of iron which helps the hair follicles to grow. They are also rich in vitamin C that promotes the absorption of iron by the body. Deficiency of iron can cause anemia which is one of the causes of hair loss.
3. Digestive Health
Leeks are actually a natural source of prebiotics. Prebiotics are the good type of bacteria that thrive in the digestive tract. They contribute to a healthy digestive system and are playing an important role in the absorption of nutrients. Eating leeks can help keep the stomach’s bacterial environment in balance, help to eliminate toxins and stimulate digestive fluids. All of these factors contribute to a healthy digestive system and can help improve overall health.
4. Regulate Cholesterol
The sulfur-containing compounds in leeks may also naturally reduce bad cholesterol levels, which is especially important if you’re at risk for heart disease. Allicin, one of the compounds we discussed in the cancer-preventing qualities of leeks, inhibits a specific enzyme in the liver responsible for cholesterol production, HMG-CoA reductase. Interestingly, inhibiting this enzyme is the target of every major cholesterol-lowering drug, all of which are dangerous. Why not use the food you eat as medicine? It’s already proven to do what you need! The phytonutrients in leeks, sulfides, and thiols, also regulate cholesterol by lowering LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels.
5. Anti-Diabetic Potential of Leeks
Research has observed that leeks have a great potential to lower high blood glucose levels. Leeks improve insulin sensitivity and thus, they enhance uptake of glucose by the muscles. Hence, glucose is used as a source of energy rather than being present in the blood. Such a hypoglycemic property of leeks is attributed to the presence of sulfur compounds and flavonoids in them. Furthermore, antioxidants present in leeks protect the beta-cells, as well as, the pancreas against the attack of free radicals. They also reduce oxidative stress and delay the onset of diabetic complications.
6. Prevents and Treats Anemia
Leeks are also good sources of iron that is vital in hemoglobin synthesis. It is important to maintain normal hemoglobin levels because lack of hemoglobin can lead to anemia. Anemia is caused by improper transportation of oxygen in the body. Oxygen is very needed by every body parts and organs for them to function accordingly. Lack of oxygen can affect their performance thus causing them to deteriorate. Aside from anemia, insufficient oxygen levels can also cause irregularities that can lead to sickness. Regularly consuming leeks is of great help in normalizing amounts of hemoglobin that assure oxygen is accordingly carried all throughout the body.
7. Leeks Are Good For Your Bones
If you want to keep your bones healthy, add leeks to your diet. Leeks contain a high amount of vitamin K which is known to help in regulating blood flow. Low levels of vitamin K is associated with poor circulation. Vitamin K in leeks is helpful in activating the protein osteocalcin which is essential for bone health. One serving of leeks contains nearly 50% of women and nearly 40% for men of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin K.
8. Prevents Cancer
Allium vegetables contain compounds called allyl sulfides, which have been shown to protect cells from cancer-causing hormones and chemicals. Studies have demonstrated their particular effectiveness in preventing colon cancer. Leeks, with their gentler taste and aroma, do contain less of these sulfides than their more bitter relatives, garlic, and onions, so you’ll need to consume more to gain equal benefits. Then again, it’s more pleasing to enjoy a side of subtly flavored leeks than a serving of breath-killing garlic.
Nutritional Facts of Leeks (1)