Leek has been used medicinally for many years due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The edible parts of the leek are the white bulb, light green stalk, and the dark green leaf – which is often discarded. The dark green leaf part should always be eaten as it also has a high content of vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of fibre.
Leeks are an excellent source of nutrients including Folate (vitamin B9), which is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Good levels of Folate are essential before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Like Onions and Garlic, Leek is traditionally regarded as an aphrodisiac and is also good to support ovulation.
Key nutrients of Leek:
Vitamin A: Is necessary for the growth and repair of many body cells including bones, teeth, collagen and cartilage. It’s also involved in cell differentiation where cells become specific types of cells such as a liver cell or a blood cell. This is vital for the development of your healthy baby, and so Vitamin A should be sufficient in your diet in a food form. Supplementation does not offer balanced forms of Vitamin A.
Vitamin B1: Thiamin is involved in the production of energy through the breakdown of sugars and carbohydrates. This is important for cellular health, which may also influence the health and energy of sperm and egg cells. Vitamin B1 helps turn starch and sugar into usable energy that your body needs and plays an important role in nerve transmission. It’s also important for energy support during pregnancy. Muscular and nerve health are also affected by Thiamin.
Vitamin B2: Riboflavin is necessary for energy production and normal cell function and growth. It supports the other B vitamins to make the chemical changes that allow them to become useful to your body. Research shows that vitamin B2 can act as an antioxidant, which help to combat against harmful free radicals. Free radicals are known to negatively impact sperm and egg health, and so antioxidants are a vital part of the human diet.
Vitamin B2 is also needed by your adrenal glands for the production of steroid hormones, which balance stress levels.
Vitamin B3: Niacin as with most other B vitamins is also involved in energy production within the mitochondria of your cells (the powerhouse of the cell). Pregnancy requires good levels of niacin, as does breast feeding. Adolescents also need sufficient sources. B3 is an important part of the entire Vitamin B complex, which should be adequate in your diet to support your general and fertility health.
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic acid is needed for the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and is used in the production of coenzyme A. this is an enzyme that’s involved in a variety of processes in the body – particularly the breaking down of fatty acids.
B5 is also involved in the production of hormones, along with cholesterol, and so is vital for maintaining fertility health.
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine is involved in breaking many types of chemical bonds and is a component of many enzymes – which are involved in breaking down foods and substances, and also regulating steroid hormones.
B6 also helps in the production of neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that allow brain and nerve cells to communicate – and this ensures that metabolic processes such as fat and protein metabolism happen properly. B6 is also a strong component of the immune system, which makes it vital to have in your diet.
Vitamin B9: Folate is essential for human growth and development and it encourages normal nerve and brain function. It’s involved in the creation of DNA as well as building of proteins, and many other important functions including the healthy development of your baby’s’ spinal cord.
Folate has long been known for its protection against spina bifida, but many people don’t realise that it’s also important for their day-to-day health.
During pregnancy folate also supports the growth of the placenta and helps to prevent several types of birth defects, especially those of the brain and spine. Folate is an important nutrient for general and fertility health.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps to repair and regenerate tissues, help with the absorption of iron, prevent scurvy, and decrease total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.
Research shows that vitamin C protects against free radicals due to its antioxidant nature. It also helps neutralize the effects of nitrites (a group of commonly used preservatives), which many people come into contact with daily.
For fertility health vitamin C is important in the process of absorption and also in its ability to support the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
Supplement forms of vitamin C are usually inferior compared to natural sources and my advice is to obtain this nutrient from your diet daily through fresh vegetables and fruit.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is an essential nutrient necessary for responding to injuries as it regulates normal blood clotting. By assisting the transport of calcium throughout the body Vitamin K may also be helpful for bone health. It may reduce bone loss, and decrease risk of bone fractures. It also may help to prevent calcification of arteries and other soft tissue.
Vitamin K can be particularly useful if you suffer from heavy and/or painful periods as it can help slow down the blood flow and reduce cramping.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. This nutrient is really helpful in protecting sperm and egg cells from free radical damage, which can damage the DNA of the cell and may lead to morphology issues – in sperm and eggs.
Vitamin E also assists in the formation of red blood cells and helps to maintain stores of vitamins A and K, iron, and selenium. It’s also thought to have a positive effect on immune health. All round Vitamin E is an important nutrient to have in your fertility diet and it’s available in many food sources.
Potassium: Is an electrolyte which counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to maintain consistent blood pressure levels – another important element for pregnancy. Many processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this current.
Potassium is required to keep the brain, heart, kidneys, muscle tissue, and other important organs in good condition. Its health benefits are; boosting the immune system, Improving bone health, improving muscle strength, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure regulation, maintaining optimal nerve and brain function.
Common sources of potassium are: Dried apricots, banana, broccoli, bell pepper, chicken, cod, citrus fruits, Kiwi, potatoes, salmon, sardines, sweet potatoes ,strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon
Iron: Is a mineral that the body uses to carry oxygen in the blood and plays a key role in strengthening the immune system and helps regulate body temperature.
Common sources of Iron are: Leafy green vegetables, fish, meats, broccoli, brussel sprouts, Legumes, lentils and whole grains
Magnesium- Supports a healthy immune system as well as keeps bones strong. It is also great for stress, and combined with vitamin B6 can help induce sleep and alleviate symptoms of bloating and weight gain associated with PMS.
Stress levels are often high nowadays and magnesium is difficult to obtain in your diet. It is helpful for cell function, and if you become deficient you can quickly experience increased stress levels and disturbed sleep. Muscle cramping can be a sign of magnesium deficiency, as is disturbed or erratic sleep patterns.
Common sources of Magnesium are: artichoke, barley, fish, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
Manganese: is a naturally occurring mineral which aids in the formation of connective tissue, bones, blood-clotting factors, and sex hormones. It is a powerful antioxidant which neutralises the damaging particles of free radicals. It plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.
Common sources of Manganese are: Almonds, Bananas, Beetroot, blackberries, cucumber, Green vegetables, Garlic, Grapes, leeks, pineapple, raspberries and strawberries
Selenium: is one component of antioxidant enzymes and is also used by the body to help support thyroid health, particularly conversion of thyroid hormones from one to the other. This can help support your thyroid health, which is fundamental for fertility health and pregnancy.
CHINESE FERTILITY MEDICINE USES IT TO:
- Clear Stagnation
- Expel External Coldness
Clear Stagnation: stagnation is the accumulation or collection of the body’s Qi (energy), Fluids, or Blood in any part of the body. These 3 aspects of the body should always be flowing and circulating, but when something impedes their flow they stagnate and create specific symptoms.
Here’s more info on the 3 types of stagnation:
- Qi stagnation is a common issue for many women. Women can identify it clearly in the menstrual cycle during either the pre-period or pre-ovulation phases.
Typical symptoms are: breast tenderness, temple headaches, bloating, changeable bowel movements (loose to constipation), mild pains around the ovaries, mood changes with irritability, anger or crying, general feelings of tension, restricted feeling of the rib cage, increased sighing and PMS symptoms. Men can also experience issues with Qi stagnation that present with many of the same symptoms, but particularly tension and stress.
- Blood stagnation is another common issue for many women and is known to be involved in the following presentations:
Blood clotting disorders, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Polyps, Hemorrhagic Cysts, PCOS, Blocked Fallopian Tubes, dark menstrual blood, clotted menstrual blood, painful menstruation (usually sharp, stabbing, fixed site pain) and thick consistency of menstrual blood. If men present with fertility issues and experience Blood stagnation they will usually have circulatory issues and particularly in the Testes. This usually presents with Varicocele or masses in the Testes or Prostate.
- Fluid stagnation is often involved with Qi and Blood stagnation and is seen by an accumulation of fluids in the body, such as with the presentation of ovarian or uterine cysts. If men experience Fluid Stagnation in the reproductive system it will usually cause some form of swelling or blockage.
Expel External Cold: If you catch a cold your body will typically respond with either symptoms of coldness, or heat. Clearing the cold out of your body properly is vital for general health and fertility as pathogens can linger and cause ongoing health issues. Over time they can move deeper into the body and cause a variety of health and potential fertility imbalances.
If you experience symptoms of coldness you can use this food to help expel the cold and treat against the cold that you have. Most colds enter through the nose or mouth and go into the respiratory system.
When a food, such as this one, has an expelling quality then it will expel the cold by warming the Lungs and respiratory system and help it to eliminate the pathogen (virus). The garlic and onion family are particularly good for clearing cold from the Lungs. They should be consumed as soon as possible when you think you’ve been exposed to a virus. You can also use them if the illness is already present.
Wet, cold and windy weather can also cause symptoms of coldness in your body and again this food can be used on days like this to gently warm your body.
Season available: Spring, but can be bought all year round.
How it’s typically cooked: either stir fry (towards the end of cooking), cook in soups, stews or broths, or steam until tender.
Cautions: Leeks can be irritating for people with stomach and intestinal issues and cancer.
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