Versatile in the kitchen, leek is a vegetable similar to onion that contains truly interesting nutritional characteristics for the body, starting from the high presence of fibers
It is considered a “scavenger” capable of purifying the body and fighting constipation, water retention and swelling: the leek is a really precious bulb for the health of the organism. Belonging to the Liliaceae family, the same in which only all the plants of the genus Allium, such as onion, garlic and shallot, are included, its benefits derive from a good presence of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals capable of improving the well-being of the intestine, promote renal function and support the cardiovascular system.
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According to the Food Composition Tables prepared by the Crea experts, a portion of cooked, boiled leek (200 g) contains:
- Water (175.2 g)
- Proteins (4.2 g)
- Lipids (0.2 g)
- Available carbohydrates (10.6 g)
- Soluble sugars (10.6 g)
- Fibra totale (6.0 g)
- Sodio (4 mg)
- Potassium (260 mg)
- Calcium (102 mg)
- Fosforo (102 mg)
- Ferro (1.2 mg)
- Thiamine (0.08 mg)
- Riboflavina (0.10 mg)
- Niacina (0.66 mg)
- Vitamina C (12 mg)
Properties for health
Leek is a vegetable that contains essential minerals for the body: iron, essential for the production of red blood cells; magnesium, important for the nervous system, sulfur and silicon, useful for bone and skin tissue; calcium and phosphorus, which help ensure good bone and teeth health; selenium, to combat oxidative stress; and above all potassium, a mineral ally of the heart and arteries which, also considering the low concentration of sodium, makes leek an ideal food for those suffering from arterial hypertension.
Among the vitamins, as can be seen from the food composition table, the content of vitamin C stands out, which is essential not only for the correct functionality of the immune system, but also for the beauty of the skin, since it contributes to the production of collagen.
There are also vitamin A and carotenoids, precious for eye health, and vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant and ally of beauty.
The vitamins of group B (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) instead favor a good metabolism; among them, folates are particularly important for the development of the nervous system during gestation. Finally, vitamin K promotes good blood coagulability.
But it is above all for its diuretic property that leek is known: despite its tissue draining action is less than that of onion, the increase in diuresis after its food consumption is truly significant – experts assure – helping to improve water retention (in addition to being useful in the fight against kidney stones). This characteristic makes it a purifying food for the body which, together with the high percentage of fiber contained, favoring intestinal transit and the feeling of satiety, with a low calorie content (35 Kcal per 100 g of raw product), in the presence of carminative properties that reduce intestinal gas – useful in case of abdominal swelling and areophagy – and the absence of fat, makes it one of the best foods to be included in the weekly diet.
Finally, it also has a decongestant effect on the respiratory system.
Use in the kitchen
In the preparation of leeks, usually only the whitish and light green parts are used, for this reason more than a third of them are wasted. Wrongly, because it would be enough to remove only the ends and use the dark green part as a side dish and the light one as an ingredient for recipes.
In the kitchen it lends itself to numerous preparations: when raw it has an intense taste of onion and sulfur and a light earthy aftertaste with a very delicate aroma of garlic and can be used in dips, seasoned with a vinaigrette obtained with extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice.
On the other hand, cooking makes its aroma more delicate, less bitter and a little sweeter. Ideal for a delicious soup, such as Cream of leeks, a dish with a unique and delicate taste, very light and digestible, perfect for autumn evenings or even in winter: it is prepared simply and quickly and is a real hymn to the genuineness and simplicity of diuretic properties. Properties that are emphasized when leek is paired with fennel, as in Leek and fennel cream.
Delicious with pasta (Spaghetti with leeks), leek reaches the highest gourmet peaks with gratin (Leeks au gratin), but it is also perfect to accompany fish for a more exotic taste (Prawns with leeks) or as an ingredient for a delicious Quiche with leeks and speck.