This post may contain affiliate links. View our disclosure policy here.
There are several staple foods I always have in my kitchen. Onions are one of them. Lets talk about the benefits of eating onions!
I started cooking more with onions (and garlic for that matter) many years ago – long before we as a family actually stopped eating the traditional American diet and started eating less processed foods and tossed out artificial ingredients. I learned that onions were highly nutritious and did a lot more for our health than I had ever known. There’s a lot more to onions than making us cry and offering bad breath. In my explorations of reading for this post, I learned a lot more!
What’s an onion?
The Amaryllidaceae family includes onions, garlic and leeks. They are considered vegetables as the portion of the plant we eat is the bulb. They have a characteristic layered structure and are one of the world’s oldest known cultivated plants. Onions include white, yellow and red onions, shallots, scallions (green onions), pearl onions, Spanish onions, Vidalia onions as well as leeks and chives. They all have various differences in nutrients but are all beneficial.
What are the benefits of onions?
Onions are nutritious
Onions are nutrient dense. One cup of raw onion contains two grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Onions are a good source of prebiotic fibers, feeding beneficial bacteria in your gut. Onions contain fiber, vitamin c, vitamin B6, manganese, folate, potassium, phosphorus, quercetin, and thiamine. There are also smaller amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, niacin, calcium, selenium, and other minerals.
Onions may help fight cancer
An onions rich supply of antioxidants prevent cell damage and thereby may reduce the risk of colon, ovarian and mouth cancers. Some studies indicate the sulfur compounds may help prevent the growth of tumors and cancer development, especially for cancers affecting the digestive system.
Onions may help blood sugar regulation
Studies show evidence that many beneficial compounds found in onions may help lower blood sugar levels. One such study reported that people with type 2 diabetes that ate 3.5 ounces of raw onions per day had a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels.
Onions may protect your heart
Onions provide protection to the cardiovascular system by reducing the risk of blood clot formation. They also limit free radicals within blood vessels, lowering oxidative stress. This in turn, leads to improved blood circulation and blood pressure levels. Onions also play a role in lowering cholesterol levels. Studies have indicated that people who eat foods such as red onions, containing anthocyanins (a type of plant pigment which gives red onions their color) have a reduced risk of heart disease.
Onions may improve bone health
An observational study among women aged 50 and over demonstrated that daily onion consumption appears to be linked to increased bone density. Onions have also been indicated to help reduce oxidative stress and boost antioxidant levels in addition to decreasing bone loss.
Onions may help symptoms of arthritis
According to the National Arthritis Foundation, these anti-inflammatory vegetables contain quercetin which may inhibit prostaglandins and histamines that intensify pain and swelling in those with arthritis.
Onions may boost our immune system
This is the benefit I knew most about. I’ve often read in the many books and articles about the immune system, that eating onions when you are sick is a good idea. The phytonutrients (chemicals in plants that protect them and may help prevent disease in those who eat those plants) of onions can increase immune defense. They also play a role in reduction of mucus in the respiratory system. Onions also have antibacterial properties.
Onions may help the digestive system
Because onions are so rich in their prebiotic fiber, they help the digestive system. Prebiotics increase probiotics. A person’s body will more readily absorb minerals with prebiotics present, thereby the entire body.
Did you know? In ancient times, onions were often used to treat intestinal parasites. Also, pharaohs were often buried with onions!
Easy ways to add onions to your diet
The benefits of eating onions are tremendous. This would be an easy addition to your wellness basket. Try one new thing from the following list!
- increase the amount of onions in your own recipes (when it calls for a medium onion, use a large onion or, possibly, two medium onions)
- cook a side of caramelized onions next time you have steak or hamburgers (this recipe looks scrumptious: I’m printing it out right now!)
- add raw or roasted onions to omelets
- add onions to a sandwich or wrap
- add raw or roasted onions to salads
- add onions to salad dressings
- add onions to soups and stews
- serve onions and cucumbers in a bowl covered with vinegar ( a small amount of natural sweetener could be added)
- have a side dish of roasted onions with roasted root vegetables as a side dish along with rosemary and other tasty herbs
- cook onions with lots of fresh veggies in a stir-fry
But Onions Make Me CRY
Onions would be an easy add to anyone’s wellness basket. However, when an onion is cut, enzymes within the onion immediately produce allicin, a sulfur-containing compound. The allicin fumes meet the moisture fil in our eyes and produce sulfuric acid, making our eyes burn and then our tear ducts try to wash the irritants out of our eyes. Even with a good explanation though, it doesn’t take away the problem! What are we to do? How do we still get the benefits of onions?
For whatever reason, some of us are more sensitive to this process. My husband is not one of them. When he’s around, I get him to cut my onions. But here are some tips since you don’t all have that luxury! And because he’s not always around for me either! I don’t want you to miss the benefits of eating onions!
- chill your onions before chopping. Chilled onions lessens the compounds abilities to move through the air. I do feel this one works when I remember to do it!
- use a sharp knife. Again, this lessens the chance of the compounds to spread through the air.
- light a candle. The theory is that the compounds from the onions move toward the flame.
- cut the onion under cold water. I find this one difficult to do. I have been known to cut and rinse often. I’m not sure it helps but feel free to give it shot!
- if all else fails, wear goggles! I just learned this method and think it’s funny I never thought of it. Sounds funny but I just may try next time I have several onions to cut!