Health benefits of onions are much more extensive than one might think. The onion, also called the ‘king of vegetables’ is a member of the lily family, a close relation of garlic. Garlic and onion are two vegetables that make various dishes so delicious and put some great smelling aroma in your kitchen. Onions are what we call ‘pungent’. The smaller the onions, the more pungent they are…they make your eyes water when you cut them due to the release of organic sulpher. There are many varieties of the onion: white, yellow, red and green globes. They also differ in size, color and taste. The smaller onions come in many varieties such as the green onion, or scallion which includes chives, leeks and shallots.
Onions are surely on the list of super foods and when you learn about their amazing health benefits you may want to include them in more meals!
Nutritional and health benefits of Onions:
There is considerable variation in composition between different varieties and they also vary with the stage of maturity and the length of storage.
Onion is a powerful anti-septic that is rich in vitamins A, B and C. It’s a potent source of folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chromium, iron, molybdenum, potassium, copper and dietary fiber.
In general, the stronger the onion, the healthier. More tears when cutting equals more protection against disease and infection. Also, the best benefits are received when onions are eaten raw. You just have to get the good information past the bad breath!
Ancient records reveal that onions have been used as far back as 4000 B.C. as a cure-all for many illnesses. In WWII, the vapors of onion paste were used to reduce the pain and accelerated the healing of soldiers’ wounds.
Even now, we find many medicinal properties from this dynamite bulb:
Anemia: The high content of iron in onion makes it beneficial for the treatment of anemia.
Anti-coagulant: Just by eating half a medium raw onion daily can significantly lower cholesterol and help prevent heart attacks. Onions may also lower triglycerides.
Anti-inflammatory: The anti-inflammatory agents in onion are useful in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout.
Anti-septic, anti-bacterial: Fights infection bacteria, including E.coli and salmonella, and is effective against tuberculosis and infections of the urinary tract, such as cystitis.
Blood pressure: Whether you eat it raw or cooked, onions help to lower blood pressure naturally. It also thins the blood, dissolve blood clots and clear the blood of unhealthy fats.
Cholesterol: Eating half a medium raw onion daily significantly helps to correct thrombosis, lower the LDL cholesterol and prevents heart attacks.
Colon and ovarian cancer – prevention: Fructo-oligosaccharides in onions stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the colon and help reduce the risk of tumors developing in the colon.
Constipation and flatulence: Add plenty onion in your cooking to help relieve chronic constipation and flatulence.
Diabetes: Chromium in onion helps diabetics’ cells respond appropriately to bringing down the insulin level and improve glucose tolerance.
Diuretic and blood cleansing: Help counter fluid retention, urinary gravel, arthritis and gout.
Ear disorder: In some culture, cotton wool is dipped into onion juice and put into the ear to stop ringing in the ear.
Hair loss: A study has shown that applying onion juice on scalp twice a week for 2 months will cause hair re-growth. Definitely cost much less that those hair tonic.
Immune booster: The pungency increases blood circulation and causes sweating. Useful in cold weather to ward off infection, reduce fever and sweat out colds and flu.
Osteoporosis: A compound has recently been identified in onions which prevents the activities of breaking down bone. Therefore onions are especially beneficial for women who are at risk for osteoporosis as they go through menopause.
Respiratory: Mix equal amounts of onion juice and honey and take 3-4 teaspoons of this mixture daily. It helps liquefy mucus and prevents its further formation. It is also one of the best preventative potions against the common cold, flu and asthma.
Sexual debility: Onion is a potent aphrodisiac and stands second only to garlic. For this, the white variety is most effective.
Urinary tract infection: Boil some onion in water till half of the water evaporated. Sieve the onion water, leave to cool and drink. The anti-bacterial properties help to relieve the burning sensation in urination.
Onion Consumption Tips
When buying onions, choose onions that are well-shaped, have dry and crisp outer skins. Avoid those which are already sprouting or have signs of decay, wilting or discolored tops. Choose the strongest-smelling onions provide the most health benefits. The best choice is shallots, followed by yellow onions, red onions, and then white onions. As a general rule, the more an onion makes your eyes water, the better it is for your health.
Uncut onions should be stored in a cool (or room temperature), dark (to prevent the roots from growing), dry (well-ventilated) place, while cut onions should be either placed in a sealed container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated immediately. If cut onions aren’t covered, their nutrient content diminishes rapidly due to oxidation (use them within 2 days). Freezing chopped onions is not recommended because they lose much of their flavor. Do not put onions together with potatoes as they will absorb the moisture and ethylene gas from potatoes and rot faster.
To prevent tears when cutting onions, chill the onions for about an hour before peeling, or peel them in a tub of water. It’s the sulfur compounds that are released in the air that irritate the eyes.
As with other herbs, spices, and produce, raw and fresh onions provide maximum health benefits. However, many people can’t tolerate raw onions. Research studies have indicated that the beneficial flavonoid ‘quercetin’ (also found in caffeinated teas and red grapes) isn’t destroyed by most cooking methods, though it is decreased by boiling. However, other compounds may be destroyed by heat, so onions should be cooked just long enough to make them tolerable in order to preserve their health-promoting phyto-nutrients.
Even though onions have many health benefits, they are also very potent. As in anything good, always remember to take only in moderation.
Yours in Optimal Health,
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