Leek is an ancient cultivated plant that is very closely related to onion, garlic and other such plants. It was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who greatly valued this plant due to its amazing healing properties. The leek has long and flat leaf sheaths that grow close to each other in a shape of a cylinder. It can reach a height up to half a meter. Its underground part is white, fleshy and thick. Leeks have a much milder flavor than most of its “relatives”.
Fresh Leeks – A Source of Compounds Beneficial for the Human Organism
Leeks can be prepared in combination with other types of vegetables and they are a great addition to soups. According to their nutritional value, they are very similar to their relatives (onion, garlic), but they have a higher protein, beta-carotene and vitamin C content. Fresh leeks are a great source of manganese and a good source of iron and vitamins C and B6. The process of cooking reduces the amount of vitamins and minerals, so cooked leeks become a good source of manganese and a fair source of iron, folic acid and vitamin C.
Leeks contain thiosulfinates that convert to sulfides when chopped or crushed. These elements function as natural antibiotics, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol levels and have a major role in the prevention of malignant diseases.
Leeks’ Beneficial Effects on the Human Organism
The leek is extremely valued due to its content of organosulfide compounds, phytochemicals that differ among individual vegetable groups and have a beneficial effect on one’s overall health. Phytochemicals, also known as phytonutrients, are biologically active plant compounds that together with vitamins and minerals have a positive effect on health. They have the ability to modulate the organism’s metabolism and thus prevent the occurrence of malignant diseases. In addition, they also have a protective effect because they help strengthen as well as improve the organism’s defense mechanisms. Leeks can be consumed either fresh or cooked, which does not affect its phytochemical value, although a certain loss of micronutrients cannot be avoided during the culinary preparation. In order to prevent a greater loss of invaluable ingredients, it is recommended that when cooked, leeks (as well as other vegetables) are put in hot water instead of cold.
If you really want to take care of your health, then you should try to make your diet as versatile as possible, have three to five meals of vegetables a day and add leeks to your menu. It doesn’t matter if you they are fresh, frozen, canned or cooked – they are healthy anyways. Leeks are rich in essential oil that stimulates secretion of gastric juices in the digestive organs and they also have a good effect on urine secretion. In early spring, they are used for cleansing of the organism, restoring of intestinal flora, and as a laxative.