Trivia question! What’s the green and white vegetable that’s reminiscent of a very large, structured green onion?
The beloved leek, of course! You may have only passed them in the cold produce section of the grocery store, or you might even be a lover of leeks yourself.
While notably not as popular in America as their glamorous cousin’s Onion and Garlic, leeks make a delicious addition to a meal! But are they keto-approved?
On a keto diet, we’re always wondering whether the veggies we know and love are appropriate for our lifestyle. There are a ton of vegetables to choose from when following a keto diet.
Some vegetables, however, have too much starch to be considered keto-friendly and will throw you off track of your specialized diet. Thankfully, leeks happen to be keto-approved!
Leeks make great additions to recipes, with their light oniony flavor and delicate, buttery taste when cooked. Chock-full of nutrients and moderate to low in carbs, these versatile veggies are safe for the keto diet, but there is a catch.
Are leeks the best choice for keto-minded people to consume? Let’s find out the ‘deets’ on leeks.
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Are leeks really keto-friendly? I heard they have carbs.
You can eat leeks when following a keto diet! They are keto-approved when you eat a small amount of them in your diet.
Since the veggie does have carbohydrates, it is possible to overstep your daily carb count if you eat too many, which can take your body out of ketosis.
But since leeks tend to be used to add flavor and garnish to a dish, similar to shallots or spring onions, not much leek needs to be used to add some excellent flavor to your keto meals.
Here’s the nutritional profile of leeks:
Serving Size: 1 cup
NET CARBS: 11g
As you can see, leeks do have some carbs that we need to worry about when adding them to our recipes. However, if using less than the standard serving size of leek, say, ¼ cup, the net carbs get cut down to under 3 grams!
If you’re looking to get most of your daily carbs from highly nutritious veggies and enjoy a mild green onion-like flavor, leeks are perfect to add to your diet!
Are leeks good for you?
Leeks are full of nutritional value, being high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. They actually contain more Vitamin C per serving than oranges!
Leeks are also particularly rich in Vitamin A, including beta-carotene, which aids in the health of the eyes, skin, and teeth. The Vitamin K1 content found in leeks helps maintain strong bones and can reduce Osteoporosis risk.
Leeks also contain small amounts of zinc, folate, copper, iron, potassium, manganese, and Vitamin B6 to support general health.
Leeks are part of a family of vegetables known as the allium family. This family of veggies includes onions, garlic, shallots, chives, and spring onions, as well. You may notice that all of these vegetables share a similar flavor.
This is because they all contain sulphur compounds that contain the natural element of sulfur and give the veggies their signature pungent smell and taste.
Sulphur compounds offer great benefit when consumed in the form of allium vegetables.
It has been found that allium vegetables may lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer such as prostate, esophageal, and breast cancers, and also aid in repairing DNA.
In addition to these incredible benefits, the allium family of veggies has been shown to contain antioxidants which boost the immune system, helping to keep you from getting sick!
What can I make with leeks?
The first thing to think about when looking for keto-friendly recipes is the carb count of the dish.
You have to consider how many carbs the dish has and plan for how many carbs your other meals of the day will contain, not to total over 20-50 grams of carbs maximum.
So when cooking with leeks, it’s important to look for recipes that do not have an excessive amount of carbs. Think of leeks not as the base of your meal, but as an addition that provides flavor, nutrients, and fiber.
Look for recipes that base the meal around sources high in fat and protein, the food groups which are essential to the keto diet.
Some good options are soups with heavy cream, or creamy chicken dishes with cheese. Leeks add a delicate, balanced oniony flavor to a dish that compliments other ingredients beautifully.
You can also simply sautee the leeks in oil or butter and eat them on the side of your main keto meal. Be sure you are counting the amount of carbs consumed so that your body stays in ketosis.
Can I eat leeks by themselves?
You can eat leeks by themselves, but it is not recommended on the keto diet. If you are hungry and cook up a snack of leeks, you may not feel full due to the low calories and lack of protein and fat in leeks.
This may cause you to eat too many carbs, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to do with a keto lifestyle!
Instead, make sure that whenever you’ve got a craving for leeks, you’re eating a good source of protein and fat at the same time, preferably carb-free.
Some great sources of fat on Keto include:
- Olive Oil
- Nuts and Nut Butters
- Coconut Oil
- Egg Yolks
- Bacon and other fatty meat
Some great sources of protein on Keto include:
- Greek Yogurt
- Fatty Meats
Can leeks help me lose weight?
Since leeks have the benefit of being low in calories per serving, they are a stellar food to include in your weight-loss journey. They’re also easy to add to most dishes, considering their light flavor profile.
At 54 calories per serving, leeks are unlikely to make you go over your calorie count if you add them to your diet. Just be cautious about the carb content of leeks as they will take you out of ketosis if you eat too much.
What are some alternatives to leeks?
If you’re not so keen on the idea of eating leeks or you can’t get leeks in stores near you, you have options. Leeks can be substituted with other veggies that will still make your meal taste just as good.
Some of the options even have less carbohydrates, giving you a little more wiggle room in your diet.
Green Onions look very similar to leeks, although they are not as large and have a slightly different flavor. As a plus, these vegetables have less calories and less net carbs per cup than leeks do!
Nutrition facts per one cup of green onions are as follows:
NET CARBS: 4.7g
Shallots are less pungent than onions, but more pungent than leeks. Shallots have a hint of sweetness about them and they can even be eaten raw. Shallots won’t look like leeks in your dish, but will still add a similar flavor.
Nutrition facts per one shallot are as follows:
NET CARBS: 5.8g
Celery may not taste very similar to leeks at all, however it’s still a great option for a replacement in a pinch. This veggie has a similar texture to leeks when cooked, and adds a healthy pop of green to your dish!
Nutrition facts per one cup of celery are as follows:
NET CARBS: 1g
Are Leeks the Best Choice for a Keto Diet?
Leeks have lots of nutritional value and are very tasty. However, if you’re looking for the best vegetables for a keto diet, leeks don’t quite make that list. There are vegetables with less carbs and similar nutritional benefits that can make meal planning a little easier.
Vegetables with the lowest amount of carbs include:
Leeks and the Keto Diet
If you happen to be a huge leek-lover, worry not! Leeks are approved to eat on a keto diet under specific conditions. When deciding if eating leeks is right for your keto goals, ask yourself the following:
- Leeks have a low to moderate amount of carbs. Will I be able to accurately measure and eat an amount of leeks that keeps me under my maximum daily carbs?
- Do I like the taste of leeks?
- Will my meals contain enough fat and protein to keep me full?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you shouldn’t have any problem incorporating leeks into your diet while staying within keto guidelines.
While leeks are a delicious, healthy vegetable with numerous benefits, you aren’t required to eat them on a keto diet, nor are they the best option with the lowest amount of carbs.
So if you’d rather forgo leeks altogether and eat veggies with less carbs and a similar texture or flavor, that’s perfectly acceptable! But don’t be afraid to break out the leeks when it comes time for dinner.
That is, if you want to!