Diuretic, purifying, anti-cholesterol, antibiotic, leek is a real panacea for your health. Relative of garlic and onion, but with a more delicate flavour, in the kitchen it is a versatile, tasty and waste-free ingredient that offers goodness and well-being. Let’s get to know this vegetable better to find out because it’s good e how to cook it to enjoy its properties.
The nutritional properties of leeks
The leek, scientific name Allium ampeloprasumis a vegetable of the family of Amaryllidacee, the same as garlic, onion and shallot, with which it shares many nutritional properties. IS very rich in water (equal to 87% of its weight) and represents aexcellent source of fibercon very few calories: just 29 per 100 grams of raw product. It also brings a fair amount of vitamins, especially C, E and B9 (folic acid), and mineral salts, above all potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The leek also stands out for the good antioxidant content, in particular of flavonoids and carotenoids. But the most interesting nutritional element is the presence ofallicina, a substance with extremely valuable properties for health. Let’s discover all the virtues of leeks.
The benefits of leeks
With their richness in water and potassium, leeks play apurifying, diuretic and draining action which makes them useful for counteract water retention.
The high fiber content contributes to keep cholesterol under controlespecially LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, protecting the arteries and the heart health. Flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin E, with an antioxidant action, also contribute to this positive effect for the cardiovascular system.
The fibers are also very useful for promote bowel regularity and, with their high satiating powermake the leek a vegetable ideal to be included in slimming dietsalso thanks to its very low calorie intake.
Source of vitamin C, leek is excellent ally to strengthen the immune system. It is also very beneficial for the digestive system thanks to the presence of essential oils which, by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices, they promote digestion. Finally, it has carminative effects, that is, it contributes to reduce intestinal gasso it’s a good natural remedy in case of swelling and meteorism.
As we have anticipated, some of the most interesting positive effects of leeks derive from their allicin content. Let’s delve into what this substance is and why it is so beneficial.
The virtues of allicin
L’allicina it’s a sulfur compoundi.e. containing sulfur, which is present in all plants of the family Amaryllidaceeso also in garlic, onion, chives and shallotsas well as leeks.
In reality, these vegetables contain the precursor of allicin, allin, which is transformed into allicin thanks to a chemical reaction that occurs when we cut, chop, crush or chew them.
As ARTOI, the Foundation for the Research of Integrated Oncological Therapies, and IEO (European Institute of Oncology) point out, allicin is a substance with many pharmacological propertiesamong which the potential anti-tumor role, the protection of the cardiovascular system and the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, stands out.
In more detail, these are attributed to allicin beneficial effects:
- stimulation of the immune system e anti-inflammatory action
- antimicrobial action; among the potential effects that have emerged from various scientific studies, there is the inhibition of a bacterium, theHelicobacter Pyloriwhich causes stomach ulcers and gastritis that can lead to the development of cancer
- reduction of cholesterol and blood pressure and antiplatelet action
- antioxidant properties
- improved insulin function e antidiabetic effect.
Naturally, this active ingredient is present in foods in very low concentrationstherefore the quantities that we can take while eating are still small, but this does not diminish the importance of regularly including leeks, garlic and onions in one’s diet, both to vary it and to enjoy their beneficial properties.
A curiosity: allicin is also responsible for characteristic smell of leekas well as that of garlic: once produced, in fact, this substance is rapidly transformed into diallyl disulphide, the molecule responsible for the typical aroma of these vegetables.
Recipes with leeks
Leek is widely used to add flavor and aroma to many recipes. It can also represent agreat alternative to garlic for those who have difficulty digesting it or prefer vegetables with a more delicate flavor to flavor dishes.
But don’t think of leeks as just an extra touch for your dishes: in fact, there are many specialties in which this vegetable plays a leading role.
Sliced or blendedleek is the perfect ingredient for risottos, soups e velvety and a tasty condiment for the pasta. It also makes a great foundation for quiche, omelettes e flanslike ours leek cake.
It’s delicious on its own, stewed, sautéed, braised or baked au gratin with béchamel sauceto eat like contour fanciful.
But it also goes perfectly with many ingredients: among the pairings tastier there are those with fish and shellfishcome salmon, salted cod, shrimp e scallopscon verdure as the pumpkini fennel they asparaguswith tubers like the potatoeswith sausages such as lo speckwith the dried fruitsuch as walnuts and almonds.
You can also use these vegetables to prepare a concoction leek sauceto be flavored with butter and cream, perfect as a condiment, for example for polenta or for meats with a strong taste such as pork.
The leek is also great raw, sliced and eaten in salads. A very tasty solution that allows you to make the most of its precious nutrients, many of which are lost with prolonged cooking at high temperatures. For this reason, as well as raw, it is advisable to consume leeks blanched briefly in a little boiling water or sautéed in a pan for a few minutes.
The green of the leek? Don’t throw it away, recycle it!
Usually, only leeks are used white part, which is the heart of the plant, while the green one, which is found on the top, is generally discarded. Actually the leek green he is not alone edible and tasty, it is too very rich in vitamin Cso don’t throw it away: recycle it to prepare many recipes.
Apart from the few centimeters of the upper part, which is rather woody, everything else can be eaten and is ideal for many uses.
You can use the boiled green parts of the leek to flavor soups, stews and casserolesin omelettes or in savory pie filling. A very nice idea is to steam them and use them, as if they were threads, to tie some bundlesperhaps stuffed with leeks like the ones with bacon that we offer you in our recipe.
In short, the leek is a vegetable of which practically nothing is thrown away. Luckily, because with its unmistakable taste and countless nutritional properties it would be a real shame to waste it!
Discover more recipes with leeks in the “Ingredients” section of Buonissimo.