Onions: Love’em or Hate’em, They’re Good For You!

Notable Personality Factors of Onions:

Due to their pungent odor, sharp taste, and tear-inducing ability, onions are the cause of much controversy.  It’s a love-hate thing.  There are those that admire the onion for its strength, and those who despise it for the exact same reason.  Looking back in history, however, the sentiment has been mostly love—whether it was for its culinary, therapeutic, or even spiritual properties.  Take the ancient Egyptians, for example, who worshipped the onion and believed it was a symbol of eternal life!  Like garlic, its fellow bulbous veggie, the onion is part of the Allium family of vegetables and is rich in sulfur-containing compounds that deliver a pungent punch, along with a healthy dose of nutritional and therapeutic benefits!

Therapeutic and Healing Properties of Onions:***

In many ways, the onion’s therapeutic properties are similar to garlic.  They protect the heart, bolster the body’s defenses against cancer, and are helpful in fighting off infections.  This is due in large part to their unique concentration of allicin—a health promoting, organosulfur compound—and their rich source of anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-viral flavonoids such as quercitin.

Perhaps the ancient Greek athletes, who ate onions in large quantities because they believed it lightened the balance of their blood, had it right all along.  Hundreds of years later we’ve been able to confirm that onions indeed “lighten up” the blood—they can help lower blood cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and lower blood pressure alike.  In this manner, onions can be a strong ally to healthy blood chemistry, a healthy cardio-vascular system, and a healthy heart.

Onions are also considered to be a natural anti-biotic and are great for aiding in upper respiratory complications.  Their sharp, spicy taste tends to clear out the sinuses, and onion-based soup has long been considered a folk remedy for sore throats, tonsillitis, and the common cold.  Meanwhile, raw onion relaxes the bronchial muscles, which makes it a useful food in the treatment of asthma.

Additional Nutritional Benefits of Onions:

In addition to being an excellent source of allicin and quercitin, onions are a good source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B-6, and many health promoting minerals such as molybdenum, manganese, and potassium.

Selection and Care of Onions:

Soft, damp onions are usually spoiled, and have lost their flavor.  Choose firm bulbs—yellow, green, or red-skinned—according to personal preference (although red onions are less acidic than other varieties).  When preparing onions, peel the outermost layers under cold running water—this will help prevent crying in the kitchen.  Try not to over-peel as a large concentration of the antioxidants and flavonoids are found in the outer layers.

Optimal Use and Combining of Onions:

Mild onions are best eaten raw, minced, or sliced in salads or sandwiches.  Stronger varieties can be baked, boiled, broiled, or steamed.  Onions can be used as a seasoning in small quantities to flavor all kinds of entrees, salsas, dressings, and sauces.

***This article is not intended to treat or diagnose any type of health condition or disease. Any nutritional considerations for any health complication should be discussed with your physician or healthcare provider.