• Benefits We Can Get From Onions

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  • The Onion, also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is used as a vegetable and is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. But it has many benefits that can give us.

    By Dr. Mercola

    If you’ve been eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away, you would be wise to add an onion a day to that regimen. This humble vegetable is a member of the Allium genus, making it closely related to other superfoods like garlic, leeks, scallions, and chives.

    This means onions are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that give them both their characteristic odor and much of their health-boosting potential.

    As one of the oldest cultivated plants, onions do not disappoint in terms of nutrition. They’re a very good source of vitamins C and B6, iron, folate, and potassium. But it’s their phytochemicals – including the flavonoid quercetin and allyl disulphide – that are most exciting to researchers.

    To date, onions have shown a wealth of beneficial properties; they’re anti-allergic, anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant, all rolled into one. And if you take even a quick glance at the available research, you’ll quickly understand why onions deserve to make a very frequent appearance at your dinner table.

    Onions Are Polyphenol Superstars

    Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. Onions have a particularly high concentration, with more polyphenols than garlic, leeks, tomatoes, carrots, and red bell peppers.

    In particular, onions are especially rich in polyphenol flavonoids called quercetin. Quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevent histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” As reported by The World’s Healthiest Foods:

    “…on an ounce-for-ounce basis, onions rank in the top 10 of commonly eaten vegetables in their quercetin content. The flavonoid content of onions can vary widely, depending on the exact variety and growing conditions.

    Although the average onion is likely to contain less than 100 milligrams of quercetin per 3-1/2 ounces, some onions do provide this amount. And while 100 milligrams may not sound like a lot, in the United States, moderate vegetable eaters average only twice this amount for all flavonoids (not just quercetin) from all vegetables per day.”

    Quercetin is available in supplement form, but there are a couple of reasons why getting this flavonoid naturally from onions makes more sense:

    • One animal study found that animals received greater protection against oxidative stress when they consumed yellow onion in their diet, as opposed to consuming quercetin extracts.
    • Quercetin is not degraded by low-heat cooking, such as simmering. When preparing a soup with onions, the quercetin will be transferred into the broth of the soup, making onion soup an easy-to-make superfood.

    Three onions on a white background.

    Eating Onions May Lower Your Risk of Cancer

    If you’re interested in using food to lower your risk of cancer, eat onions. People who eat more onions, as well as other allium vegetables, have a lower risk of many types of cancer, including:

    • Prostate and breast
    • Ovarian and endometrial
    • Colorectal and gastric
    • Esophageal and laryngeal
    • Renal cell

    Onions contain numerous anti-cancer compounds, including quercetin, which has been shown to decrease cancer tumor initiation as well as inhibit the proliferation of cultured ovarian, breast, and colon cancer cells. As reported by the National Onion Association, onions are considered a dietary anti-carcinogen:

    The inhibitory effects of onion consumption on human carcinoma have been widely researched… In a review on the effects of quercetin… persons in the highest consumption category versus the lowest had a 50% reduced risk of cancers of the stomach and alimentary and respiratory tracts.

    Organosulfur compounds [in onions] such as diallyl disulfide (DDS), S-allylcysteine (SAC), and S-methylcysteine (SMC) have been shown to inhibit colon and renal carcinogenesis… Mechanisms of protection ranged from induced cancer cell apoptosis and gene transcription inhibition to protection against UV-induced immunosuppression.”

    It’s unclear exactly how much onion consumption is necessary for cancer protection, but research shows benefit from even moderate consumption. Even one to seven servings of onions a week may be protective, although some research suggests a daily serving of onion (one-half cup) is best.

    Heart Health: Are Onions Responsible for the French Paradox?

    The so-called “French Paradox” — the low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite their relatively high-calorie diet – has often been credited to the antioxidants in the red wine they often consume.

    But onions, which are very popular in French cuisine, may be another contributing factor to their good health, particularly heart health. The sulfur compounds in onions, for instance, are thought to have anti-clotting properties, as well as, improve blood lipid profiles. The allium and allyl disulphide in onions have also been found to decrease blood vessel stiffness by enhancing nitric oxide release.

    This may reduce blood pressure, inhibit platelet clot formation, and help decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases, and stroke. The quercetin in onions is also beneficial, offering both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may boost heart health.

     


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