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Five reasons to eat leeks

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The humble leek may have been popular fare with the Welsh Saint David, and even touted as having magical powers - girls, sleep with a leek under your pillow and you may just dream of your future husband - but we're more interested with the benefits of this onion like vegetable.

Here are five reasons to add this winter vegetable to casseroles and soups:

1. Leeks are low in calories

If you want to cut down on your carbs, up your intake of leeks. To put it into context, 100g of leek stalks is the equivalent of 61 calories. They're also packed full of soluble and insoluble fiber. In other words, leeks help keep your regular.

2. Helps keep your heart healthy

Leeks have been shown to lower cholesterol and have the same heart healthy properties as onions and garlic - hardly surprising considering that leeks belong to the same Alliaceae family of bulbous plant.

It's the flavanoid called kaempfero, found in leeks, that provides protection to the blood vessels. Kaempfero also helps to increase production of nitric acid, which relaxes the blood vessels and therefore reduces the risk of hypertension.

3. Good source of iron and folate

You can 14.2 percent of your daily folate and a tenth of your daily iron in just one cup of leeks (around 80g). This is needed for healthy red blood cells as well as supporting healthy cell production and function of the nerves.

If you're suffering from fatigue, then try adding the nutrient-rich leek to your diet.

4. Protect against cancer

The leek also contains quercetin - a plant antioxidant which is known to have anti-cancer properties because it inhibits the growth of cancer-causing carcinogens (the nasties that cause the deadly disease).

5. Rich in vitamins and minerals

As well as iron and folate, leeks are rich in vitamin C, which helps with the absorption of iron. They are a good source of a number of nutrients, including calcium, manganese, B-vitamins, zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamins C, A and K and nickel. This combination of flavanoids and antioxidants help protect the body against infection and boost the immune system.

Why not try this haddock fillet with leek and spinach?
Veggie, here's a tasty leek, pea and feta frittata.