Leek, an Excellent Dietary Food
Leek (Allium Porrum) is a herbaceous plant belonging to the family of Alliaceae, the same botanical family to which onion and garlic also belong.
Leek has been known and used for centuries for its medicinal properties, although nowadays it is used mainly as food or flavor.
The edible parts of the leek plant are the light green stalk (or stem) and its white bulb, while the dark green leaf sheaths are usually discarded because of their fibrous consistency. However, it would be wise to use the dark green leaves as well (finely minced or juiced), because they are the parts with the highest content in minerals and vitamins.
Although leeks have a sharp flavor, their taste is sweeter and more delicate than that of onions. Leeks can be used in a variety of dishes, either raw or cooked, or they can be used to prepare delicious juices.
Leeks are composed primarily of water, about 90%. They also contain dietary fiber, minerals¾nickel, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorous; vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, and moderate amounts of vitamins of the B complex (B1, B2, B3 and B6).
Leek is an excellent dietary food, which is very low in calories but is packed with multiple healthy nutrients and phytonutrients.
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.
· Thanks to its content in iron, which is essential for the synthesis of hemoglobin (the protein in red cells responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body) leek can help fight various types of anemia, especially those resulting from iron deficiency. Its vitamin C content helps make effective iron absorption.
· Due to its content in volatile oils, leek juice does have a beneficial, balsamic action on the respiratory tract. So it can be used to relieve the symptoms associated with flu, cold and hay fever.
· Magnesium, phosphorous and folic acid are important nutrients needed for healthy functioning of the nervous system. They help improve concentration, memory and the brain’s ability to process information. Folic acid is also essential to prevent brain defects in babies.
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.
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