Super Food: Onions

Optimizing your health with onions is not a statement you hear every day!

We dug a little deeper on this subject and found that onions do have layers of nutritional benefits. Onions are so packed with healthful compounds that it will literally bring a tear to your eye. The two components responsible for these benefits include flavonoids and sulfur containing compounds. These compounds can be recognized as the yellow tinge and purple colors of some onions, as well as the potent flavor and pungent mist that sprays from the bulb as you slice your knife through each layer.

Large bulb onions are categorized into two groups. Spring/summer onions are bright and sweet in flavor are grown in warmer climates (e.g.. Maui onions). Storage onions have a more pungent flavor and you would find grown in Alberta or in colder regions (e.g. red, yellow or white onions).  Onions have been incorporated into cultures and traditional dishes across the world despite the fact that they make you cry when preparing them. However onions have a long history starting with cultivation for thousands of years in Asia and the Middle East. The ancient Egyptians found the shape and structure of the onions rings were spiritually significant and signified eternal life. In the Middle Ages, people in India and Greece would use onions in their medicine and therapeutic applications.  Maybe the ancient populations were on to something…

Why is it healthy?

Onions contain potent flavonoids that function to protect our cells from free radical damage or oxidative stress. The result is a potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer effect when our cells can multiply with less chance of damage or mutation. Our heart and blood vessels are also protected by these antioxidants.  Other sulfur containing compounds found in onions have shown to inhibit unwanted macrophage activity, lowering unwanted long-term systemic inflammation. Some research shows that these sulfur compounds may also help maintain our connective tissues!

Other benefits of Onions:

  • High in vitamin C that protects cells from oxidative damage, supports collagen formation in wound healing and promotes a healthy immune system
  • Good source of fibre, vitamin B6 important for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and folic acid that important for cellular division and DNA synthesis

Including onions in your diet:

A tip to avoid tears when preparing onions is to use a very sharp knife that glides through the bulb easily, lessening the amount of pungent mist released. You can chill your onions before cutting to slow this gas production from the flesh of the onion.

Raw: Dice onions, tomato, bell pepper, avocado, and toss with olive oil, lemon juice and minced garlic for a bright guacamole salsa. Thinly slice red onions and add to a spinach salad. For a classic Italian side dish combine raw sliced onions with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella!

Cooked: Onions are often incorporated into hearty warm dishes like French onion soup or stews. They can also be prepared on their own like onion chutney, pickled onions, or caramelized onions to add flavor to a meal. Try slicing some thick onion rings, place on a lightly oiled skillet, and crack an egg in the middle. This onion-ringed egg goes well on toast for breakfast!

Chopped green onion and sesame seeds add texture and zest to any cooked grain pilaf like quinoa, rice or barley. Dehydrated onion powder is also widely used to spice up a dish when the fresh version is not on hand. Some great options to add flavor when cooking minus the extra sodium!

*In this month’s newsletter, we’re sharing a recipe for Ecuadorian Onion Salad*

Did you know that…

Although onions have unique positive contributions to human nutrition, they are considered a poison to other mammals such as cats and dogs, even guinea pigs and monkeys. The sulfur containing molecules in cooked and raw onions are not properly digested and become toxic to these animals. So think twice before letting your dog lick up your left over spaghetti sauce or stir-fry if you added any trace of onion!

November 1, 2013
Revive Wellness