What’s So Great About Leeks?

What’s So Great About Leeks?

In this month’s Vanity Fair Magazine Lady Gaga makes pasta sauce for her interviewer while wearing Chanel. Many readers may have noted this detail and lingered a while with that image, perhaps missing an even more intriguing tidbit, (at least to my mind) her secret ingredient … leeks!

So, actually not all that crazy since leeks belong to the allium family along with onion and garlic; two standard ingredients for most spaghetti sauces. And you could trade an onion for a leek in most recipes and it would turn out just fine. But I don’t do this, while I love leeks, I tend to only use them for recipes that call for them. I may just have to start using them a little more liberally, and not just because they’ll add that lovely mellow oniony flavour to whatever I’m dishing up.

Along with some dubious weight loss claims, leeks possess impressive health benefits.  Allium vegetables have largely been researched with regards to cancer prevention and immune boosting abilities. While leeks are lower in antioxidant polyphenols than garlic, they come in at a higher range than other good-for-you veggies. It’s sort of like buying the smallest house on the block in a great neighbourhood.

In a Canadian study lead by Dr. Richard Béliveau, (who has spent his life dedicated to cancer research) leeks were credited with actually halting the growth of breast cancer cells. Béliveau and his team “currently estimate that lifestyle and nutrition are responsible for more than one third of newly diagnosed cancers”. Many other studies claim leeks along with garlic and onion are implicated in preventing cancers like prostate, stomach, gastric and colon cancers.

As with any research of this nature one has to keep in mind balance and not run out and start eating leeks morning, noon and night. But it does act as a good reminder that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will help prevent cancer-causing free radical damage. I came across a list of 20 New Anti Cancer Rules by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber the author of Anti Cancer A New Way of Life. I found rule #2 quite interesting. “Mix and match your vegetables: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together — broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Get in the habit of adding onions, garlic or leeks to all your dishes as you cook.”

If the good Drs haven’t convinced you, perhaps this will. Leeks are high in the ever-important B vitamin, folate, folate, folate, can’t get enough of folate! They are also high in calcium, magnesium, Vitamins C, A and K. And, because they are high in fiber, we can credit leeks with helping to lower bad cholesterol and inflammation too.

As for the dubious weight loss claims, it most likely stems from their low calorie content (even in relation to other fruits and vegetables) and their flavour. You can add leeks to almost anything… like let’s say, water, and improve the flavour and only minimally increase calorie content. Of course if you eat nothing but leek soup you will lose weight. I however, do not recommend this.

I’m quite fond of my spaghetti sauce and I have a secret ingredient or two of my own, but somehow when Lady Gaga says leeks are her secret I feel like she must know something I don’t. My curiosity about Lady G’s sauce will now no doubt require endless leek experiments. Fortunately, this is a lot less pricey than trying to master a red sauce in Haute Couture.

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7 Comments

  1. Jan @ Family Bites
    January 17, 13:39 Reply

    I love leeks and try to use them as often as possible (I just made a leek and cheddar bread – heaven). Love all the health info here, too.

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