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Leeks are closely related to the onions and garlic family, but are often included in salads and soups due to their comparatively mild flavour. They are larger in size when compared to their counterparts, but are full of beneficial fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidant polyphenols and rank high in the nutritional chart. Leeks are available all through the year in several parts of Asia, Europe and America, but are best consumed during the early part of spring season.
Just as is the case with garlic, Leeks have much to offer for your good health. They are a popular remedy for several ailments, but most of their therapeutic effects are due to the presence of 'allicin', a sulphur-containing compound. The seeds and juice of leeks are also used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
Why Are Leeks Beneficial For Health?
The combination of flavonoids and 'allicin' makes leeks unique, and hence they should form an important part of your diet. Leeks are packed with dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but are low in calories. Leeks are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, are rich in folic acid, Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin C. Potassium helps with better nerve functioning, while calcium and phosphorus help strengthen your teeth and bones, Leeks are rich in iron, Vitamins A and K, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and magnesium. They are also easily digestible in comparison to onions.
Amazing Health Benefits Of Leeks:
Having said about the nutritional value of leeks and why they should form a part of our daily diet, let us take a look at some amazing health and therapeutic benefits of leeks that you may not be aware of:
1. Fights harmful free radicals in the body
The presence of sulphur-containing compounds such as 'allicin' in leeks helps in fighting the harmful free radicals in the body. This is because during the process of digestion, allicin produces sulfenic acid, a compound that neutralizes the dangerous free radicals faster than any other such compound.
2. Lowers the risk of cancer
The presence of a flavonol named 'kaempferol' may help in fighting cancer. When consumed in large amounts, it is believed that leeks have the potential to reduce the risk of gastric and colorectal cancers. Being a good source of allyl sulphides, they can block pathways linked to development of malignant tumors.
Kaempferol has the potential to boost the human health manifold. Apart from lowering the risk of cancer, kaempferol is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardio-protective, antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and is also believed to lower the risk of many other chronic diseases.
3. Supports the cardiovascular health
Leeks share the same health benefits of onions and garlic, and therefore are beneficial to your heart. The presence of the flavonol 'Kaempferol' in leeks protects blood vessel linings from damage by increasing the production of Nitric Oxide that helps blood vessels to dilate and relax. They support heart health by keeping 'homocysteine' levels in balance, as elevated levels are associated with blood clots, heart disease and stroke.
4. Improves bone health
The presence of vitamin K in leeks helps by activating 'osteocalcin', a protein that is beneficial for bone health. A cup of leeks provides 42 micrograms of Vitamin K, providing half the daily recommended amount for bone health in women.
5. Reduces inflammatory diseases
The presence of Vitamin K in leeks make them anti-inflammatory, which is essential in fighting diseases such as obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, calcification of arteries, and other chronic inflammatory diseases.
6. Supports digestion
Leeks are an ideal prebiotic helping with digestion, stimulating and strengthening the kidneys, stomach and gut. Being high in fibre, leeks enable you in slow eating, giving ample time to properly digest your food.
7. Aids weight loss
Leeks are fat-free and low in calories. The high fibre content in leeks makes them a natural appetite suppressant, giving you a feeling of fullness. The soluble and insoluble fibres in leeks help regulate intestinal activity, reducing bloating. They are best consumed as part of salads to add that additional flavour without adding calories.
8. Improves eyesight
Being a rich source of zeaxanthin and lutein, the compounds that are vital for healthy eyesight, leeks protect your eye tissues from the harmful DNA oxidation by filtering out the harmful light rays when they enter your eyes. When consumed in adequate amounts, leeks can also protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts.
9. Keeps the nervous system healthy
The presence of phosphorus, magnesium and folate in leeks makes them great for the healthy functioning of the nervous system. Being rich in these vitamins and minerals, they also help improve concentration, memory and help the brain in processing the information better.
10. Beneficial during pregnancy
Including leeks as a part of the diet during pregnancy can be very beneficial. Being rich in vitamin B9 (folate), they are essential for the production of the new DNA required for the formation of new cells. Folates help in the development of healthy neural tube, adequate birth weight and in proper development of the heart, face, spine and brain of the baby.