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Like onions and garlic, leeks are members of the allium family, but have a much more subtle flavour. Nutritionally, leeks are often overlooked but there’s no good reason why they should be and a lot why they shouldn’t! The white part of the vegetable is the part usually eaten with the green sections (leaves) usually discarded. Soil is easily trapped within the leaf coils, and so they do require a good wash before preparing for cooking. This can be done by either slicing the leeks and then washing, or scoring a slit down the shaft of the leek to the white part and rinsing layer by layer under a running tap.
· Only 31kcal per 100kg
· Very good source of vitamin A and vitamin K
· High in protein quality.
· Good source of vitamin B6, folate and vitamin C
· Good source of iron, magnesium and manganese
The allium family also belong to a category of foods known as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which have known prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are the preferred food of the beneficial bacteria that reside in our gut and leeks are a rich source of fructans, a type of FOS.
Many fruits and vegetables contain unique compounds called “polyphenols” that are showing to have strong antioxidant properties. In leeks , this particular compound has not been well researched, but it is believed that it may have strong anti-atherogenic properties which means that leeks may help protect against heart disease.
Most people think of leek and potato soup when considering recipes, but leeks can be used in stews, pies and tarts but here is a healthier option, marrying it up with a great oily fish: mackerel!
Leek and mackerel penne bake (serves 2)
2 leeks, trimmed washed and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
200ml low fat crème fraiche
1 tbsp capers
2 small mackerel fillets, skinned and flaked into large chunks
1. Fry the leeks in the oil until soft; boil the pasta.
2. When leeks are soft, stir in the crème fraiche, capers and fish and heat for about a minute.
3. Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce, then tip into a baking dish and coat with the breadcrumbs
4. Grill until golden and crisp
Nutritional value per portion:
35g fat (14g saturated fat)
>100% omega-3 requirements
High in vitamins A, B3, B12, & E
High in minerals Selenium, phosphorus
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com