Leeks nutrition facts
Delicate flavored leeks are cylindrical, leafy stalks obtained from the onion-like plant in the Allium family. They are biennial, tall, slender plants with long cylindrical stem composed of overlapping leaves. They are commonly used as vegetables in many parts of Europe, America and Asia.
Botanically, they belong to the Alliaceae family of bulbous plants, of the genus Allium. However, unlike their fellow allium members such as onion, shallots, garlic ... etc, they do not form bulbs.
Scientific name: Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum.
The plant requires well-drained fertile soil to flourish. In general, it is cultivated as annual crop in many parts of Europe and Asia. Planting can be done by either sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings that takes about 100-120 days to harvest.
In general, leeks are planted in deep trenches to deprive sun light exposure which otherwise would turn their stems green (chlorophyll pigmentation) due to photosynthesis. As the plant grow, fill in the trench by pulling surrounding earth to create a mound around the individual plants. This method is applied in order to obtain long blanched stem.
Health benefits of Leeks
Leeks contain many noteworthy flavonoid anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits.
Leeks are low in calories. 100 g fresh stalks contain 61 calories. Further, their elongated stalks provide good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Though leeks contain proportionately less thio-sulfinites than that in garlic, they still possess significant amounts of these anti-oxidants such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide and allyl propyl disulfide. These compounds convert to allicin by enzymatic reaction when the stalk disturbed (crushing, cutting etc).
- Laboratory studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal activities.
Allicin also decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide (NO); thereby bring reduction in the total blood pressure. It also blocks platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels which, helps decrease overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.
Leeks are great source of minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Their leafy stems indeed contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in healthy proportions. 100 g fresh stalks provide 64 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.
In addition, leeks are one of the good source of vitamin A (1667 IU or 55% of RDA per 100 g) and other flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, xanthin, and lutein. They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, K, and vitamin E. Vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
Further, its stalks have small amounts of minerals such as potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.30 g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber||1.8 g||5%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.140 mg||3%|
|Vitamin A||1667 IU||55%|
|Vitamin C||12 mg||20%|
|Vitamin E||0.92 mg||6%|
|Vitamin K||47 mcg||39%|
|Calcium||59 mg||6 %|
Selection and storage
Leeks are at their best during spring season. However, they can be available fresh year around in some super markets. While buying, choose fresh organic leeks, as they are rich in flavor and in nutrition. Look for uniform, long, firm, white stalks with healthy root bulb as it signals of fresh farm produce.
Avoid stems with withered, yellow discolor tops.
Once at home, wrap in paper towel and place inside the refrigerator. They keep well for up to a week to 10 days.
Preparation and serving methods
Leeks impart a mellow, sweet oniony flavor to the dishes they added to. They give less pungency than garlic or onions. Although used sparingly outside the European continent, their delicate stems have recently found favor among oriental, and Mediterranean recipes.
To prepare, remove the thick green tops. Similarly, cut away lower root end. Swish in a large bowl of water to shake out all grit, sand, and soil. Transfer to a colander to drain. Mop dry using paper towel.
The outer layers generally peeled by hand. You may want to cut them into rings, slice lengthwise or in squares using knife depending up on recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
Sliced baby leeks and young tender regular stems can be used raw in salads.
They mix well especially with vegetables, cream, butter, cheese, seafoods and eggs.
Delicate stems are one of the most sought after particularly in stews and soups. Potato-leek soup is a favorite Northern -European winter preparation, especially by British, and French (vichyssoise).
- Thinly sliced white leeks are used in the preparation of quiche with added leafy rocket (arugula) and herbs like basil.
They can also be used in frittata, pizza, and pasta, and like spring onions in noodles, fried-rice, pulao...etc in mouth-watering stir-fries.
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