Leeks are a member of the onion family and have been cultivated since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Asian and European cultures have been growing and cooking leeks for more than 3,000 years. Leeks have a sweet flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked.
A cup of leeks is low in sodium and has almost no saturated fat or cholesterol. Leeks are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium, and a very good source of folate as well as vitamins A, C, and K.
Health Benefits of Leeks
- Contain many flavonoid antioxidants (including diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, allyl propyl disulfide).
- Have antioxidants, antimicrobial properties, and liver-protecting properties.
- Reduces the level of liver enzymes.
- Reduce fatty liver (liver triglyceride accumulation) caused by high-fat diets.
- Improves the lipid profile by decreasing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels while raising good cholesterol levels.
- Improve high blood pressure by increasing the production of nitric oxide, a naturally occurring gas that helps dilate and relax blood vessels.
- Decrease production of asymmetric dimethylarginine (a substance that blocks the production of nitric oxide).
Tips for Using and Storing Leeks
- Leeks are a great addition to many dishes including soups, salads, and casseroles.
- To wash leeks, cut them in half lengthwise, keeping the root intact. Run water over the whole leek, rifling through the layers to give them a good rinse. If needed, do this a few times to make sure all of the fine sand is removed.
- Store fresh leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for 1 to 2 weeks. Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help retain moisture.
- Leeks should have firm, crisp stalks with as much white and light green regions as possible. Do not eat leeks with yellow or withered tops.
- Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator will only stay fresh for about 2 days.
- Leeks can be frozen, pickled, canned or dehydrated. To freeze leeks, trim and then blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes in boiling water. Cool rapidly, towel dry, and place in freezer bags.
Recipe of the Week: Leek and Potato Soup from Jamie Oliver
2 sticks of celery
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
14 oz. leeks
14 oz. potatoes
2 organic chicken or vegetable stock cubes
60 oz. water
Trim, peel and roughly slice the carrots and celery. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and finely slice the garlic.
Cut the ends off the leeks, quarter them lengthways, wash them under running water and cut them into 1cm slices.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan on high heat, add all the chopped and sliced ingredients and cook with the lid ajar for 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1cm cubes.
Put the stock cubes into a jug or pan, pour in 60 oz. of boiling water and stir to dissolve, then pour into the vegetable pan.
Add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Remove from the heat.
Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Serve as-is or pulse until smooth using a stick blender or liquidizer.
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Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N