Leeks belong to the same family as onions, shallots, scallions, chives, and garlic.
They look like a giant green onion but have a much milder, somewhat sweet flavor and a creamier texture when cooked.
Leeks are usually cultivated, but wild varieties, such as the North American wild leek — also known as ramps — are gaining popularity.
Ramps are popular with foragers and top chefs alike due to their potent flavor, which is a cross between garlic, scallions, and commercially grown leeks.
All varieties of leeks are nutritious and thought to offer a host of health benefits.
Here are 10 health benefits of leeks and wild ramps.
Leeks are nutrient-dense, meaning that they’re low in calories yet high in vitamins and minerals.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked leeks has only 31 calories (1).
At the same time, they’re particularly high in provitamin A carotenoids, including beta carotene. Your body converts these carotenoids into vitamin A, which is important for vision, immune function, reproduction, and cell communication (2).
They’re also a good source of vitamin K1, which is necessary for blood clotting and heart health (3).
Meanwhile, wild ramps are particularly rich in vitamin C, which aids immune health, tissue repair, iron absorption, and collagen production. In fact, they offer around twice as much vitamin C as the same quantity of oranges (4, 5).
Leeks are also a good source of manganese, which may help reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and promote thyroid health. What’s more, they provide small amounts of copper, vitamin B6, iron, and folate (
Summary Leeks are low in calories but high in nutrients, particularly magnesium and vitamins A, C, and K. They boast small amounts of fiber, copper, vitamin B6, iron, and folate.
Leeks are a rich source of antioxidants, particularly polyphenols and sulfur compounds.
Antioxidants fight oxidation, which damages your cells and contributes to illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Summary Leeks are rich in antioxidants and sulfur compounds, especially kaempferol and allicin. These are thought to protect your body from disease.
Leeks are alliums, a family of vegetables that includes onions and garlic. Several studies link alliums to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke (
For instance, the kaempferol in leeks has anti-inflammatory properties. Kaempferol-rich foods are associated with a lower risk of heart attacks or death due to heart disease (
Moreover, leeks are a good source of allicin and other thiosulfinates, which are sulfur compounds that may benefit heart health by reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and the formation of blood clots (
Summary Leeks contain heart-healthy plant compounds shown to reduce inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure, the formation of blood clots, and your overall risk of heart disease.
Like most vegetables, leeks may promote weight loss.
At 31 calories per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked leaks, this vegetable has very few calories per portion.
What’s more, leeks are a good source of water and fiber, which may prevent hunger, promote feelings of fullness, and help you naturally eat less (
Additionally, research consistently links diets rich in vegetables to weight loss or reduced weight gain over time. Adding leeks or wild ramps to your diet can boost your overall vegetable intake, which may increase this effect (
Summary The fiber and water in leeks can promote fullness and prevent hunger, which may aid weight loss. Furthermore, this vegetable is very low in calories.
Leeks boast an array of cancer-fighting compounds.
For instance, the kaempferol in leeks is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases, especially cancer. Test-tube research shows that kaempferol may fight cancer by reducing inflammation, killing cancer cells, and preventing these cells from spreading (
Leeks are also a good source of allicin, a sulfur compound thought to offer similar anticancer properties (26).
What’s more, human studies demonstrate that those who regularly consume alliums, including leeks, may have up to a 46% lower risk of gastric cancer than those who rarely eat them (
Keep in mind that more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Summary Some studies suggest that leek compounds may fight cancer and that high intake of alliums, including leeks and wild ramps, may lower your risk of this disease. Still, more studies are needed.
Leeks may improve your digestion.
That’s in part because they’re a source of soluble fiber, including prebiotics, which work to keep your gut healthy (
Research suggests that a prebiotic-rich diet may aid your body’s absorption of important nutrients, which can boost your overall health (
Summary Leeks are a good source of soluble fiber, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. In turn, these bacteria reduce inflammation and promote digestive health.
Although leeks aren’t studied as rigorously as onions and garlic, emerging research suggests that they may offer additional benefits.
- May lower blood sugar levels. The sulfur compounds in alliums have been shown to effectively lower blood sugar levels (
- May promote brain function. These sulfur compounds may also protect your brain from age-related mental decline and disease (
- May fight infections. Research in animals shows that kaempferol, which is present in leeks, may protect against bacterial, virus, and yeast infections (
Although these results are promising, more studies are necessary.
Summary Leeks may help lower blood sugar levels, promote brain function, and fight infections. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Leeks make a delicious, nutritious, and versatile addition to any diet.
To prepare them, cut the roots and dark green ends off, keeping only the white and light green parts.
Then, slice them lengthwise and rinse under running water, scrubbing away the dirt and sand that may have accumulated between their layers.
Leeks can be eaten raw, but you can also poach, fry, roast, braise, boil, or pickle them.
They make a great addition to soups, dips, stews, taco fillings, salads, quiches, stir-fries, and potato dishes. You can also eat them on your own.
You can refrigerate raw leeks for about a week and cooked ones for around two days.
Unlike cultivated leeks, wild ramps are incredibly pungent. Just a small amount of ramps can add a burst of strong, garlic-like flavor to your favorite dish.
Summary Leeks are versatile and easy to add to your diet. You can eat them on their own or add them to a variety of main or side dishes.
Leeks and wild ramps boast a variety of nutrients and beneficial compounds that may improve your digestion, promote weight loss, reduce inflammation, fight heart disease, and combat cancer.
In addition, they may lower blood sugar levels, protect your brain, and fight infections.
These alliums, which are closely related to garlic and onions, make great additions to a healthy diet.