We love leeks, garlic, onions, shallots and other allium vegetables for the pungent flavor they lend to so many recipes — but recent research suggests another reason to load up on allium vegetables: possible protection against osteoarthritis.
British researchers rounded up 654 sets of twins (average age 59) and compared a detailed assessment of dietary habits with x-rays of hips, knees and hands. Overall, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables was linked to significantly lower incidence of osteoarthritis (as indicated by less cartilage between the joints and more bone spurs). In particular, a high intake of allium vegetables translated into an 11% lower osteoarthritis risk. Wondering why this might be, the researchers took to the lab, where they discovered that one particular compound responsible for the pungent odor of garlic, onion and other allium vegetables inhibited enzymes which may undermine joint cartilage.
While more research is needed to confirm these benefits, there are plenty of other reasons to add more nutrition — and flavor — to your diet with leeks, onions, garlic, and other allium vegetables. For example, animal studies suggest garlic oil might reduce diabetes-induced damage to heart cells. Leeks are more nutrient dense than other allium veggies, and contain prebiotic fiber which helps support immune function and weight management.
Meanwhile, make sure you’re covering your bases when it comes to protecting your joints by losing excess weight — a diet of fruit, vegetables and fish can help you do this, while also offering multiple nutrients for additional joint support.
Published April 1, 2011