Are There a Lot of Carbs in Leeks?

A close cousin to onions, leeks are full of nutrients

bundles of leeks
Leeks are in the same family as onions and garlic, and have similar flavors. Tom Hopkins/Getty Images

Leeks are related to onions and garlic and come from the same scientific classification of plant bulbs, the Allium. Leeks contain many of the same beneficial phytonutrients as other members of this group, although there have not been many studies about the health benefits of leeks in particular.

Leeks have a mild, onion-like taste. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm. You usually do not eat the tough dark green leaves just the white and lighter green parts.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Leeks

Leeks are considered a lower-carb vegetable in the full spectrum of vegetables.

Preparation of leeksCarb, fiber and calorie counts
1/2 cup of raw leeks6.5 grams of net carbs, 1 of gram fiber, 28 calories
1/2 cup of chopped cooked leeks3 grams of net carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 16 calories
1 ounce of raw leeks3 grams of net carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 17 calories

Glycemic Index and Load for Leeks

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar. As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of leeks. Dietitians have made estimates based on some collected data.

The glycemic load of a food is related to the glycemic index but takes serving size into account. A glycemic load of one is the equivalent of eating 1 gram of glucose. Since the computation of the glycemic load is based on the index, it is somewhat difficult to assign a glycemic load to leeks.

Estimated Glycemic Load of Leeks
1/2 cup of raw chopped leeks: 3
1/2 cup of chopped cooked leeks: 2
1 ounce of raw leeks: 2

Health Benefits of Leeks

Leeks are a very good source of vitamin K. The more of the green part that is eaten, the more vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, vitamin C, and folate is ingested.

Leeks are also good sources of phytonutrients such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which can protect cells from damage, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and provide other health benefits.  Leeks are especially high in a phytochemical called kaempferol, which has been shown to be protective for the linings of our blood vessels.

How to Cook with Leeks

Leeks are used a lot in Europe, people in North America are less familiar with them. They have a flavor similar to onions, but somewhat milder. They can be used in most recipes where onions would be used, and are wonderful in soups and stews. 

To prepare leeks, cut off the toughest green parts, and then slice them lengthwise to clean, as sand is often caught between the layers down near the bulb. Slice and cook as you would an onion.

Low-Carb Recipes with Leeks

There are many low-carb meals that incorporate leeks, including soups and a crustless smoked salmon, leek, and mushroom quiche, for example.

How Do Other Food Groups Stack Up Carb-Wise?

Some choices are wiser than others in terms of selecting low-carb food options. Leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds seem to fare the best. Bringing up the rear are most fruitsgrains and some legumes and milk and dairy products.

Sources:

Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

United States Department of Agriculture. "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2. May 2010

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.

Xiao HB, Jun-Fang, Lu XY et al. Protective effects of kaempferol against endothelial damage by an improvement in nitric oxide production and a decrease in asymmetric dimethylarginine level. European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 616, Issues 1-3, 15 August 2009, Pages 213-222.

Continue Reading