Onions are a staple in every kitchen – whether they are sautéed with vegetables, caramelized, added to sandwiches and burgers, or cooked underneath a roast – they pack a rich flavor that makes a dish complete. They can be savory, sweet, and pungent all at once, adding extra depth to any dish.
Onion is the world’s most common ingredient. Unlike wheat, it’s a staple of every major cuisine. The UN estimates that at least 175 countries produce an onion crop. If you want to know how to grow onions, the good news is you can grow them even at home. This vegetable is used mostly for flavoring dishes, and the good thing is, it’s good for the health.
This tasty vegetable is dense in nutrients, meaning they are low in calories but high in beneficial vitamins and minerals. It’s high in vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium.
If you like onions, that’s great! Keep adding it to your dishes. But if not, you may want to reconsider. Besides the tastiness and aromatic flavor that they can add to your food, onions are full of nutrients. Here are some of the benefits of cooking with onions:
1. Onions may support heart health.
Eating onions can have a beneficial impact on your cardiovascular health. Onions contain compounds and antioxidants that fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol levels, and decrease triglycerides – all of which can lower heart disease risk.
Research has found that the polyphenol called quercetin found in onions can help reduce high blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Quercetin, a type of flavonoid, is highly concentrated in onions, and since it’s a potent anti-inflammatory, it may help decrease heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Dark-colored onions, like red onions and chartreuse onions, contain the highest amounts of quercetin.
Onions also contain organic sulfur compounds that give onions a sharp and strong taste and smell. These sulfur compounds can help reduce the cholesterol levels in the body and may also help break down blood clots.
2. Onions are rich in antioxidants.
Onions are loaded with disease-fighting and free-radical-eradicating antioxidants, which help repair damaged cells in your body. One of the best sources of flavonoids is onions, which actually contain at least 25 of them. Yellow and red onions are richer in antioxidants than other types of onions.
When consumed regularly and in sufficient quantity, onions can help protect against chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer. Onions also have sulfur-containing compounds, which have been demonstrated to be protective against some kinds of cancers.
3. Onions may lower the risk of cancer.
Speaking of cancers, many kinds of onions contain a wealth of chemicals that help fight that disease. A study concluded that red onions are the most effective at reducing breast and colon cancer cells. Again, this is due to the high levels of quercetin present in onions and antioxidant flavonoids such as anthocyanin. A quercetin-rich diet has also been associated with a lower risk of developing lung cancer.
Another research found that one to seven servings of vegetables from the Allium genus like onions and garlic have been linked to a lower risk of cancers, including colorectal and stomach cancers. The organosulfur and flavonoid compounds found in onions are found to have tumor-inhibiting components.
4. Onions may boost bone density.
Dairy products get much credit for boosting bone health, but many other foods can help support stronger bones. It may be due to the antioxidant properties of onions, which reduce oxidative stress and appears to reduce bone loss.
A study that looks at the effect on peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women has shown that frequent consumption of onion decreases the risk of hip fracture. Another study on middle-aged women reported that middle-aged women who consumed onion juice boosted their bone density and reduced bone loss.
It is believed that onions can boost antioxidant levels, reduce oxidative stress, and decrease bone loss – all of which may prevent osteoporosis and improve bone density.
5. Onions may support gut health.
Onions are rich in fiber, especially the non-digestible type that helps maintain gut health. It also contains prebiotics, which are necessary for optimal digestive health. Prebiotics are non-digestible types of fiber that are broken down by helpful gut bacteria.
Though we can’t digest prebiotic fiber, the bacteria in our gut do, and they use it to create short-chain fatty acids, which include propionate, acetate, and butyrate. These fatty acids help strengthen gut health, enhance digestion, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity.
Consuming foods rich in prebiotics like onions help increase probiotics, which benefit digestive health. This prebiotics can also help increase the number of friendly bacteria in the gut and improve immune function.
6. Onions may help in controlling blood sugar.
Eating onions may be beneficial to people with diabetes or prediabetes. Both the quercetin and organic sulfur compounds in onions are known to promote insulin production, which can help people who have trouble controlling their blood sugar.
A study demonstrated that people with type two diabetes reduced their fasting blood sugar levels by consuming fresh red onion. Quercetin has been shown to interact with cells in the pancreas, small intestine, skeletal muscle, fat tissue, and liver to control blood sugar regulation in the whole body.
7. Onions have antibacterial properties.
Onions were used in folk medicine to relieve colds, coughs, and catarrh. But this has been backed by science, as studies support that onions come with valuable antibacterial properties against E. coli, S. aureus, Bacillus cereus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Also, onion extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of Vibrio cholera, which is bacteria that has become a major public health concern in the developing world.
Older, stored onions appear to be more potent in fighting bacteria. Once again, it seems that the higher level of quercetin is of value here, as this flavonoid has been found to have the ability to inhibit the growth of MRSA and Helicobacter pylori bacteria. MRSA is antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes infections in different body parts, while H. pylori are associated with stomach ulcers and certain digestive cancers.
This is good news for those who like to add many onions to their cooking!