Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that onions health benefits play a big part in helping to treat and prevent a whole host of medical conditions.
Onions are packed with nutrients, but primarily they are a good source of vitamin C which helps boost the immune system, a very good source of chromium which aids in regulating blood sugar levels, and contain plenty of heart friendly dietary fiber.
They are also good sources of manganese, vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus and copper. They contain only trace levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and one medium onion contains a mere 60 calories. How’s that for starters?!
Onions have spent thousands of years being a staple in many household dishes. The popularity of the onion was due to its low cost, variety, and ability to be served in multiple ways. Those who were considered poor were able to add flavor to their dishes easily and inexpensively.
However, throughout those same years many cultures have learned of the health benefits of onions. As early as the sixth century various civilizations were using this vegetable for medicinal purposes such as treating common ailments such as colds, coughs and asthma.
Onions are among those vegetables known as alliums and belong to the lily family. Garlic, leeks, shallots and scallions are also in the lily family. Alliums are used throughout the world for both their culinary and medicinal purposes.
So What Are The Health Benefits of Onions?
Not only is the onion a significant source of healthy nutrients, it also contains a substantial amount of flavenoids and quercitin. Both of these are antioxidants that have different healing properties.
Flavenoids help fight tumors and boost the immune system, while the benefits of quercitin are more far reaching. Known to block cancer, thin blood, fight infections and help diabetes; this antioxidant provides much of the healing properties that are associated with onions.
Studies revealing the cardiovascular benefits of onions have been primarily conducted on animals. This has a lot to do with the fact that most of us don’t eat onions on their own, but rather add them to foods.
Interestingly though, the animal research has shown that the anticoagulant properties – namely sulfur compounds, found in onions helped to reduce blood clotting and clumping of blood platelet cells. The sulfur was also responsible for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides levels – all of which can help to prevent heart disease.
Human studies have come in the form of an overall diet that includes onions with other vegetable and fruit. Not surprisingly they reveal that heart related illness is significantly reduced when a combination of fruit and vegetables are consumed more often.
The most significant protection against heart attack was afforded to those participants who ate significantly more vegetables, including onions.
Helps Protect Against Cancer
Many of the nutrients in onions work well to help the body protect against tumor growth and prevent various forms of cancer. There are compounds inside the onions that work to block the growth of cancerous cells in the body. This can alleviate the risks of developing specific types of cancer when onions are used properly in the diet. Like the cardiovascular benefits, many of the cancer fighting properties will only be found if onions are consumed regularly.
Moderate consumption of onions, or three to six servings a week, can help the body to fight the cells that cause colorectal, laryngeal and ovarian cancers. Other cancers such as oral and esophageal cancers need a more frequent use of onion in the diet. To see the best prevention of these cancer types one must consume a daily diet of at least one-half cup of onions.
With age and the onset of menopause many women find that they lose bone density in their body. This can lead to osteoporosis and other issues with the bones. Frequent consumption of onions will help to increase that bone density and many women at the age of menopause will see the benefits. Those who are older may find that they have a reduced risk of fractures to the hip as well.
The antioxidants in onions help to provide many anti-inflammatory properties. This works because the antioxidants prevent oxidation of the fatty acids that accumulate in the body. This helps individuals keep their inflammation under control and prevents problems with many inflammatory diseases. Those who have opted to use onions for their health benefits will see that conditions such as arthritis and gout improve over time and cause less pain and problem.
For many centuries onions have been used to fight a number of infections. The anti-bacterial properties that come with onions are strong enough to battle bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella while also being able to treat things such as the common cold.
Those with a urinary tract infection will find that onions can help alleviate the burning that often comes with urination. In addition, the ability to increase blood circulation means that the body will sweat more and fight off fever, infection and other symptoms that often come with a cold or flu.
Onions can also be used to treat respiratory problems such as coughing and breathing issues that may be common whenever infection is present.
In order to truly benefit from the use of onions medicinally, one must first understand the how to choose and store the right ones. The skin should be dry and crisp. Always avoid onions that have sprouts, mold, soft spots, moisture or dark places. These are signs of the onion going bad.
Onions come in red, yellow, white and green varieties and can be flavored anywhere from extremely strong to sweet. As a general ‘rule of thumb’ the stronger the onion, the more potent the benefits will be. Remember that when you’re shedding ‘tears of joy’, cutting one up!
When storing onions to preserve the nutrients, keeping them well ventilated and dry is vital. They should be stored at room temperature and not exposed to direct light or heat. It is best to never refrigerate the onions and to ensure that they are not stored for too long.
It is important to note that the health promoting flavanoids contained in an onion are located in the outer skin layers. When peeling, it is vital you don’t remove too many layers. Over-peeling will often mean you lose these essential flavanoids.
How To Chop An Onion
If you want to know the best way to cut an onion and how to avoid crying while doing so, watch the video below by chef Gordon Ramsay:
Take Advantage of the Healing Properties
There are so many ways you can incorporate onions into your diet and benefit from their extensive, health promoting nutrients.
They are great when added to cold dishes such as salads which also helps to maintain their healthy properties. They can be added to a whole variety of cooked recipes simply because they add a great flavor to food. How many recipes do you know that contain onions as an ingredient? Plenty, right?
By incorporating onions in as many meals as possible and remembering not to over-peel them, you’ll be taking advantage of all the health benefits mentioned above.
If you have any questions or comments about the health benefits of onions, please drop them below.