Health Benefits of Onions
1. May Help with Thyroid Health
Onions or Allium cepa, especially the red ones, contain phosphoric acid that is of great benefit to the thyroid gland. One known folk remedy is to rub the juices of a raw red onion all over the neck to stimulate the thyroid gland into producing the right amount of hormones.
Natural compounds in red onions such as antioxidants slow down premature aging and lower blood pressure, which puts less stress on the thyroid gland.
What Is Phosphoric Acid? An acid made from phosphorus, a mineral. It is also naturally occurring in the human body; it helps calcium to form strong teeth and bones and supports kidney function, energy storage, and thyroid health.
2. Full of Antioxidants
One of the foremost onion benefits is their high antioxidant content. This slows down the oxidation process, a reaction that damages cells and causes long-term diseases like diabetes and cancer.
Onions, including white onions, contain over 25 different varieties of antioxidants and flavonoids. These include anthocyanins that are particular to red onions and are responsible for giving them their deep, vibrant color.
Multiple studies have shown that people who have a diet rich in anthocyanins have a greatly reduced risk of developing heart diseases.
What Are Flavonoids? These are a diverse group of plant chemicals present in fruits and vegetables that we eat. They help produce their vivid colors and contain powerful antioxidant agents.
What Are Anthocyanins? These water-soluble pigments are a type of flavonoid with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. They have different shades (purple, red, or blue) depending on their pH level.
3. Good for Your Heart Health
The antioxidants in onions not only help combat inflammation. They also help lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides, which leads to a lowered risk of heart disease.
The anti-inflammatory health benefits of onions also help with the reduction of high blood pressure and dangerous blood clots.
Studies show that ingesting quercetin-rich onion extract reduced the blood pressure of 70 overweight patients. The same research study also revealed that 54 women saw a huge reduction of LDL cholesterol upon consuming large amounts of raw, red onions.
What Is Quercetin? It is a plant pigment present in foods such as red wine, red onions, berries, apples, as well as green and buckwheat tea. It has antioxidant properties that fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and lower high blood pressure.
4. Full of Beneficial Nutrients
Onions are dense in nutrients, but quite low in calories, making them a healthy ingredient in any diet. A medium-sized onion has measly 44 calories but packs quite a punch of fiber and loads of vitamins and minerals.
Onion benefits include a high vitamin C content, which helps regulate the immune system to fight the common cold, boosts the production of collagen, repairs tissues, and helps the body to absorb iron.
Expect a hearty dosage of B vitamins when eating onions as well, including the folate B9 and B6 (pyridoxine). B vitamins are crucial in metabolism, the production of red blood cells, and nerve function.
Potassium is also a surprising mineral found in onions. It is an important ingredient in the body’s task of balancing bodily fluids, transmitting nerves, helping kidneys function, and contracting muscles.
5. May Help Lower the Risk of Tumor Development
Vegetables in the genus Allium (of which garlic and fresh onion are the most popular) have links to decreased risks of stomach and colorectal cancers. Studies show that those who consumed the most allium vegetables had a 22% lower chance of being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
These potent cancer-fighting properties are linked to sulfur compounds present in onion and garlic, as well as their high flavonoid antioxidant content.
Onions are full of onionin A, which is a compound that contains sulfur and has been known to slow down tumor development, as well as the spread of lung and ovarian cancer.
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6. May Control Blood Sugar Levels
People with diabetes can revel in onion benefits as eating them has been shown to help control blood sugar.
A study shows that consuming 3.5 ounces of fresh red onions brought down blood sugar levels in just under four hours. This is because quercetin and sulfur compounds found specifically in onions have anti-diabetic properties.
Quercetin has even been shown to control blood sugar by interacting with cells in the liver, pancreas, small intestine, fat tissue, and skeletal muscle.
7. Onions Help Fight Infection
Another of the helpful health onion benefits is its potent antibacterial properties. They can help fight off E. coli, S. aureus, and Vibrio cholerae.
The compound quercetin has been shown to inflict damage to the cell walls of E. coli and S. aureus. Quercetin that has been extracted from the skin of yellow onions also inhibits the growth of H. pylori and MRSA.
What Is MRSA? Also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, this bacterium is difficult to treat as it is resistant to common antibiotics.
What Is H. Pylori? Short for Helicobacter pylori, this type of bacteria can enter your body to live in your digestive tract. It can cause ulcers and sores in your stomach and upper small intestine lining over time.
What Is S. Aureus? Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterial pathogen that doesn’t normally infect healthy human skin but upon entry to the bloodstream can cause serious infections. They are responsible for Staph infections.
What Is Vibrio Cholerae? A bacterium whose natural habitat is in brackish water or saltwater. It is notorious for causing cholera, a disease that is a prevalent health risk in many developing countries.
8. May Help Boost Digestive Health
Red onion benefits include their being rich in prebiotics and fiber, two ingredients that are crucial for a healthy digestive system.
The way it works is that prebiotics — a nondigestible fiber — is processed and broken down by good gut bacteria. They, then, form short-chain fatty acids that help keep your gut strong, strengthen immunity, and lower inflammation.
Onions, in particular, are full of inulin and fructooligosaccharides. They are prebiotics that assists in increasing the population of good bacteria in the gut to improve immune function.
9. Onions Boost Bone Health and Density
Just when you thought milk and dairy products were the only way to strengthen your bones, those onion ninjas come sneaking in to make your eyes water with more health benefits of onions.
Studies show that women who drank 3.4 ounces of onion juice every day for a total of eight weeks improved their bone mineral density, as well as their antioxidant activity. Frequent onion consumption has also been linked to the decreased risk of hip fractures in older women.
Ways to Cook Onions
Aside from the many onion benefits you can take advantage of, there are also several ways you can enjoy consuming the vegetable with. In most types of onion cooking, you need one medium-sized onion.
1. Caramelized Onions
You can cook varieties of onions with brown sugar over low heat for a long period to caramelize them. This creates sweet onions and breaks down the vegetable’s natural sugars, perfect for risotto, frittata, and onion tartlets.
How to do it:
- Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp cooking oil in a non-stick pan over a high flame.
- Mix 3/4 tsp brown sugar and 1/2 tsp salt in the pan.
- Add sliced onions in the pan and lower heat to low.
- Stir the onions in the pan until well mixed.
- Continue cooking for 50 minutes or until onions are brown and soft.
2. Sauteed Onions
You need to cook onions with a little bit of oil over high heat to sautee them. This allows concentration in their natural sugars, bringing out a savory but sweet taste, great for pizza, pasta sauce, salads, and burgers.
How to do it:
- Heat a non-stick pan over a high flame and add 1 tsp oil, spread evenly on the base.
- Add the sliced onions to the pan and stir-fry.
- Cook for 7 minutes until evenly brown and tender.
3. Roasted Onions
Roasting onions makes them smooth and soft, providing sweet, mellow, and subtle flavors. It’s wonderful for a roast dinner, steak, and sausages and mash.
How to do it:
- Put the sliced onions in a bowl.
- Mix 1 tsp golden caster sugar and 1 tsp oil in the bowl and combine well.
- Arrange the slices on a baking tray and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.
- Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool.
4. Sweated Onions
Sweating onions gently softens them and increases their mild but fruity sweetness, excellent for white sauces, cheese on toast, and rice pilaf.
How to do it:
- Add a few teaspoons of oil to a non-stick pan, enough to grease the base.
- Put the sliced onions in the pan and cook them over low heat.
- Cover the pan to moisten it.
- Stir the onions from time to time but don’t let them become brown.
- Cook onions until they are soft and radiant but not brown.
5. Boiled Onions
- Use as many onions as you like, remove the root end of each onion, and peel off their skin.
- Place the onions without slicing them in a saucepan with water and bring them to a boil.
- Simmer the onions over low heat for 20 minutes.
- Drain and cook the onions again in the saucepan over low heat until they are tender.
6. Grilled Onions
Grilling onions provides a charred and sweet flavor and creates a tender and supple texture, incredible for hot dogs, kebabs, and burgers.
How to do it:
- Use as many onions as you like, start peeling each, and cut every onion into quarter slices.
- Place the onion quarters in a skewer (you might need a lot of skewers if there are many slices).
- Coat the slices with oil.
- Place the skewer in the grill and start cooking.
- Turn the skewer every 5 minutes to make sure the sides are well-cooked.
- Cook until the slices are lightly charred, crisp, and tender.
7. Roasted Whole Onions
Roasting onions with their skin provides a flavor of rich but brown creamy sweetness. It also creates a soft and spreadable texture, best for sandwiches, enchiladas, and tacos.
- Gather as many onions as you like and remove the root end of each onion. Don’t remove the skin.
- Place the onions in a baking dish and drizzle them with 2 tsp butter and 1/4 cup oil.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake the onions at 375°F for 25 minutes or until they are tender and bubbling.
- Cook the onions at a higher temperature (400°F) for 15-20 minutes more or until they are tender and the top is brown.
8. Pickled Onions
Pickling onions using vinegar can provide fresh, tangy, and zesty flavors to pies, plowman’s lunch, and fish and chips.
How to do it:
- Place a lot of onions in a large bowl and pour boiling water on them.
- Leave the bowl to cool onions before removing the skin.
- Sprinkle salt over the onions in the bowl and mix well. Leave them overnight.
- Rinse the onions with water the following day and let them dry.
- Heat vinegar in a large pan over low heat.
- Place the onions in jars and pour the vinegar in them.
- Wait until the vinegar becomes less hot before covering the jars.
- Store the jars in a cool temperature for one month before consuming them.
How to Cut Onions Without Crying
Onions do make us cry every time we try to chop or cut them, but there are simple ways you can do to avoid this.
- Chill onions before using them – Place the onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to lower the acid enzyme level they release in the air when you cut them.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut onions – Crushing onions releases the acid enzyme into the air, but cutting them with a very sharp knife prevents this.
- Wear gas-tight goggles – You can simply protect your eyes from the acid enzyme with some air-tight glasses on.
- Use a candle when cutting onions – Lighting a candle near your cutting board allows the acid enzyme from the onions to be drawn in the candle flame.
- Slice the onions under some amount of water – The acid enzyme released from the onions will be absorbed into the water. Make sure to scoop out the onions bits each time you cut a slice so they don’t get in the way as you chop more.
Don’t cry — while onions are known for drawing a tear from even the toughest of people, they actually help toughen you up, albeit healthwise. The various onion benefits should neither be dismissed nor ignored when preparing your healthy meals from now on.
Cook the vegetable whichever way you want them to not just get the maximum health benefits but also to enjoy your every meal!
Do you have any tasty recipes using onions? What other onion benefits can you add to the list above? Share them with us in the comments section below!
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