Health and beauty benefits of leeks
Belonging to the same family as onions and garlic but with a much milder flavour, leeks are a wonderful and versatile vegetable that are in season throughout the long, cold winter months and into early spring. Originating in central Asia and now grown widely throughout the northern hemisphere, leeks have a rich history. The Romans believed that eating leeks was very good for the throat, Emperor Nero was even named ‘Parrophagus’ (Leek Eater) for his love of eating leeks to improve his singing voice. Often associated with Wales, this hardy vegetable became the country’s national emblem when the Welsh soldiers stuck them in their helmets to differentiate themselves from the Saxon enemy. With such an amazing past, and the ability to survive seriously cold temperatures, it’s perhaps no wonder that there are so many benefits of leeks for our wellbeing.
Health benefits of leeks
Support your heart
The high levels of polyphenols and kaempferol in leeks help protect our blood vessels from free-radical damage and the presence of vitamin B folate (folic acid) also means that they are good for our hearts. This wonder vitamin helps regulate the homocysteine amino acids in the body and as the levels of folic acid are roughly the same throughout the whole leek – they’re a heart healthy veg from top to bottom!
Keep your skin clear
Vegetables in the allium family are rich in interesting antioxidants and leeks are no exception. Antioxidants are vital for neutralising harmful excess free-radicals and can help delay the ageing process the body, working wonders on our skin. Beta-carotene, vitamins C and E help repair sun damage and also assist our bodies in absorbing iron, which leads to healthier, stronger hair and nails.
When sliced, certain antioxidants in leeks turn into allicin. This compound, also found in garlic, is highly anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and has anti-viral properties, making it excellent at helping to fight infections. Garlic’s reputation for supporting the immune system is due to its allicin content – and leeks have similar bug-fighting properties. Combined with folic acid, which helps transport white blood cells and oxygen around the body, leeks help fight infections, keeping our body’s defences at their highest.
Speed up the healing process
Green leafy vegetables are one of the best sources of vitamin K and this doesn’t exclude leeks. This vital vitamin helps with blood clotting and can speed up the healing process of minor cuts and grazes. Each adult only needs 0.001mg of this vitamin per kilogram of their bodyweight each day, so it’s relatively easy to make sure we have enough in our day-to-day diet.
Grow your own leeks
Sow leeks under a cloche in fine soil from March for harvesting throughout the next winter. Although these veggies take a long time to mature, they’re worth it as little else grows in the vegetable garden over the colder months. If you’d prefer not to sow the seeds yourself, you can buy baby leek plants from garden centres in May and June and plant these outside.