The Health Benefits and Efficacy of Leeks

Many cooks are familiar with onions and garlic, but leeks, a close relative of these two, also add flavor to soups, salads and other dishes. They are similar to green onions in appearance, but are bigger and taller, with a long white shank that contains the bulb. Leeks contain unique flavonoid antioxidants and minerals that provide proven health benefits.

One of these, kaempferol, has been shown in preclinical studies to have a variety of positive effects on the human body, including anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer, cardiovascular and neuroprotective properties. It has also been found to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes, improve the elasticity of arteries and increase circulation.

The phytochemical allicin, which forms when the leek is cut or crushed, has been shown to possess a number of powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, including activity against E-coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and Pseudomonas spp. The plant is also a rich source of vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyes and skin, and dietary fiber, which slows digestion to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Although leeks are a low-calorie food, they are high in water and fiber, which bulk up your meal and keep you feeling full so you don’t overeat. This can make them an important part of a weight management program, especially if you choose to eat them boiled instead of raw. They contain just 61 calories per cup, and they’re very filling.

Farmers grow leeks in trenches, which means dirt collects between the layers of the vegetable as it grows. This can be a problem when you are cooking them, since the dirt can end up in your food. To avoid this, carefully clean them before using.

Leeks are easy to grow in the garden, and they are a good substitute for onions in recipes when you don’t have enough of them or want to experiment with a new vegetable. They are also easy to grow in containers and can be planted with other vegetables in mixed plantings. They are sensitive to very acidic soil, but mulching with organic material can reduce this problem. Mulching is particularly important during the first two months of growth, as this is when weeds compete with leeks most for nutrients. Intercropping leeks with celery and fennel may help to reduce weed pressure during this critical period (Traunfeld et al. 2010).

Leeks can be started from seed in late winter or early spring, and they can also be grown as transplants. Leeks do best in beds that have been amended with compost in autumn or winter, and a layer of organic matter applied as a mulch in spring will improve the soil’s structure and fertility (Baumann et al. 2000). They will benefit from being inoculated with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which can lead to improved nutrient uptake and resistance to disease (Nasir et al. 2018).