Health Benefits of Eating Onions
Are onions good for you? Yes! There are so many Health Benefits of Eating Onions. The compounds found in onions provide anti-carcinogenic, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Besides all that – they add so much flavor to a dish.
There are many benefits of eating onions for the prevention and treatment of disease, so much so that they are often considered a medicinal food. While consuming raw onions is the most beneficial, even when cooked they offer superior benefits in protective compounds, immunity support and overall health.
What Are They
They’re part of the allium family of vegetables which include garlic, scallions, leeks and chives. Besides adding flavor to dishes, they provide therapeutic and antibacterial properties that cleanse and detox our bodies.
Are Onions Good For You
Yes! Onions are a powerful superfood! According to a study found in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, onions provide powerful benefits against certain types of cancer cells. Whether you eat them raw or cooked, they offer tremendous health benefits by consuming them. Eating one small onion a day equals about a cup of chopped onion. You can easily add them to soups, stews, salsas and salads. And just to note – while onions are good for us, they’re very bad for dogs.
Health Benefits of Onions
Let’s unpack the health benefits of onions.
- Rich source of antioxidants. Red onions contain a higher amount of antioxidants and flavonoids than the yellow or white onion, and they’re a rich source of quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that may help fight chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer and it is beneficial for eliminating free radicals in the body. It may also prevent the release of histamine, making onions a natural antihistamine. (1)
- Antibacterial. They may act as powerful anti-bacterial by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Helicobacter pylori and S. aureus (staph) and Cholerae. (2) (3)
- Anti-inflammatory. They act as powerful antioxidants which stimulate immune responses and reduce inflammation in our bodies.
- Rich source of sulfur. They are a rich source of sulfur. (4)
- Improves immunity. They are a rich source of both vitamin C and phytochemicals which helps to strengthen our immune systems. Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that our bodies need to make collagen. Collagen is a type of protein that plays a role in wound healing and immunity support.
- May help to lower cholesterol. Eaten raw, they also promotes production of HDL, which is the good cholesterol that’s needed for optimal health, and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. (5)
- Blood Pressure. Good source of sulfur which acts as a natural blood thinner and it prevents blood platelets from clotting, which may help to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attack or stroke. Rich source of the powerful antioxidant Quercetin which may also help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by preventing plaque buildup in our arteries and enhancing elasticity of blood vessels. (6)
- May help to ward off certain types of cancer. Due to the high amount of antioxidant properties found in red onions compared to white or yellow, red onions provide stronger protection against certain types of cancer, such as stomach, colorectal, oral, laryngeal, esophageal and ovarian cancer. For the most benefits, it is recommended that we eat at least 3 onions each week (or half an onion a day). The quercetin abundant in red onions have been shown to reduce inflammation and is beneficial for both the prevention and treatment of cancer. (7) (8)
- May help to regulate blood sugar levels. Rich source of biotin. Besides being good for healthy skin and hair, biotin has many positive impacts on our health, one of which is combatting symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. A combination of biotin and chromium may help to improve regulating blood sugar levels and even decrease insulin resistance. (9)
- Detoxifying. Rich source of sulfur, which helps to facilitate the detoxification process in our bodies by removing toxins and heavy metals.
- Decrease bone loss. Adding onions to your daily wellness plan can decrease risk of bone loss, which may help prevent osteoporosis and hip fracture, and may actually boost bone density. (10) (11)
Types of Onions
When looking at the health benefits of onions, red onions are superior to other types of onions! Generally yellow and white onions contain more fiber and a higher amount of sulfur, but red onions contain a higher amount of antioxidants (quercetin and anthocyanin) and cancer prevention properties. According to a 2017 found in Food Research International, red onions are far superior to other types in onions with the potential of possibly killing certain types of cancer cells in humans due to the high content of antioxidants.
- Yellow Onions – probably the most commonly used onion. They’re great grilled or simmered in soups and stews.
- White Onions – have a slightly more sharp flavor than the yellow version. They are a little more tender with a thinner skin. They’re also great simmered in soups and stews and added to a salsa.
- Sweet Onions – either Walla Walla or Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. They have a little less of a bite to them than the yellow or white versions, and they taste a little on the sweet side.
- Red Onions – are similar to the rustic yellow onion. They’re great added to salads and salsas. I always soak my slices of red onion in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes before serving. It mellows the flavor tremendously.
- Green Onions – also known as scallions, are typically added to salads, salsas and stir-fried dishes.
- Shallots – are typically added to salads and vinaigrettes. They’re also delicious when roasted (whole in their skins like garlic), or caramelized or sautéed slowly on low heat.
How to Store Onions
They’re best stored in a pantry or another dark and dry room with some ventilation. And they’ll start to sprout if the temperature and/or humidity rises.
- Peeled. Once it’s peeled, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up 1o 10-14 days.
- Chopped. Once they are sliced or chopped, they can be wrapped in plastic wrap or a plastic ziplock baggie in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
- Cooked. Once cooked they can be stored in an airtight container or plastic ziplock baggie in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How to Cook with Them
Besides all the great health benefits of eating onions, they also add tremendous flavor to so many dishes. They can be sautéed, roasted, grilled or caramelized. They’re also great when added raw to sandwiches, salads and salsas. Mix chopped celery, carrot and onion to make a flavorful mirepoix as a base for soup (which is a staple in my house). And during the summer months, they’re a popular addition to grilled chicken burgers and kebabs. There’s so many ways to add them to your daily wellness plan to achieve all the health benefits of eating onions. And if you’re eating them raw, here’s a little tip to mellow the flavor. Chop or slice them and place them in a bowl of chilled water for up to 10 minutes. Drain well and pat dry then add to your dish.
- Garnish – Use them as a garnish to Mexican dishes like Greek Chicken Bowl, tacos, fajitas, Chicken Fajita Quesadillas, posole, soups and stews.
- Salsa – Make homemade salsa and pico de gallo.
- Guacamole – Toss in with avocados, jalapeno and cilantro to make delicious Homemade Guacamole.
- Mirepoix – Make a mirepoix, which is a mix of onions, carrots and celery that are often referred to as “aromatics” that adds incredible flavor to soups, sauces and stocks.
- Salad dressings – Add them minced or blended with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil for a simple dressing.
- Chili and Soups – They add a ton of flavor to soups like this Immune Boosting Chicken Soup and chili like this White Bean Chicken Chili.
- Side dish – Combine them with vegetables to create delicious side dish recipes like this Sauteed Zucchini.
- Salads – Add them to salads like this Tuna Salad and Italian Chopped Salad.
- Pickled Onions – These Quick Pickled Onions are amazing! Add them to salads, tacos, burgers, etc.
- Stir-fry – Toss in to your favorite stir fry dishes.
How to Cut an Onion
The most abundant part of the onion containing antioxidant flavonoids is in the outer most layers. So try not to over peel.
- Cut in half from root to root.
- Cut about half an inch off the top discarding the root
- Peel off the papery layers and discard
- Slice vertically
- Take one half and lay it flat on a cutting surface
- Slice and chop horizontally
How to Chop an Onion Without Crying
- Slice it in half leaving the roots intact
- Peel the thin papery layers away
- Slice vertically in rounds until you near the root
- Discard the root
- Chop the rounds
Recipes Using Them
- Avocado Egg Salad
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- Vegetarian Caramelized Onion Quinoa
- Hearty Lentil Stew
- Roasted Garlic Chicken Soup
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- Easy Italian Chicken Skillet
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