Health Benefits of Onions

Written by Jody Smith in Nutrition
Viewed by 78 readers since 07-29-2009

Onions are uniquely aromatic and are often shunned due to their pungency. People have a marked tendency to back away from the individual with evidence of onions on their breath. But the lowly onion, as you will see, is actually extremely beneficial to your health.

The onion belongs to the lily family, or “Allium Cepa”, along with chives, garlic, leeks, scallions and shallots.

Onions contain powerful ingredients called flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. That is to say, flavonoids reduce oxidative damage to our cells, thus reducing our risk of serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that can lead to blindness. Flavonoids are antibacterial and antiviral, having properties that destroy viruses and bacteria in our bodies. They are anti-inflammatory, which means they help reduce painful inflammation in the body. They are anti-allergic (preventing or relieving allergy symptoms).

Research shows that the stronger the onion, the higher the flavonoid content. And the higher the flavonoid content, the greater the antioxidant and anticancer factors. This means that the onion that has a greater impact on your taste buds (and the people around you) also has a more beneficial effect upon your health.

The ability of the onion to bring tears to our eyes is caused by its sulfur compounds. And while this may be an annoyance it is also well worth the inconvenience and irritation. The higher the sulfur content, for instance, the greater will be the resultant anti-clotting effect on the blood. This helps to keep blood platelets from sticking together and aids in the circulation of the cardiovascular system. Sulfur compounds can raise HDL cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol), and help keep cholesterol-related plaque from sticking to our artery walls, thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Sulfur compounds also lower the levels of dangerous fats called triglycerides, thus helping prevent or reduce high blood pressure.

Onions contain fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). FOS occurs in just a few fruits, vegetables and grains. FOS is a type of natural sugar which does not cause the typical “spike” to our blood sugar. Bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and other healthy bacteria naturally found in the gut will then proliferate (which is beneficial), and unhealthy bacteria and fungi will be diminished. This has an enormous effect beyond the digestive tract, and translates into greater overall health for the entire body.

Eating onions may be a beneficial treatment for coughs and colds, for asthma and for bronchitis. This practice improves lung function in the case of asthma, and lessens bronchial spasms in the case of bronchitis. Old wives’ tales have long insisted that there is great health benefit in the ingestion of onions, and this advice has long been looked down upon. But research suggests that here is one old wives’ tale with some foundation for it.

So the next time you are strongly tempted to turn your nose up (or away) from the homely and odiferous onion, keep all its benefits in mind, and have yourself a big healthy bite.


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