Benefits Of Onions For Health: The benefits of onions extend well beyond their texture and taste. It is known for its strong flavor and sharp, pungent taste. Onions are loaded with vitamins B6 and C, folate, iron, and potassium. They contain allium and allyl disulfide. These compounds may help in cancer prevention and associated risks, maintain a healthy blood sugar level, soothe inflammation, and treat infections.
What Are Onions?
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions are cultivated and consumed across the world. They are usually served cooked. They can also be eaten raw and are used in pickles and chutneys. The onion has a strong taste and a sharp, pungent flavor. Though it is a temperate crop, it can be grown under a wide range of climatic conditions (temperate, tropical, and subtropical).
The bulb onion, as we discussed, is nothing but the short stem with fleshy leaves. It acts as a food reserve that helps the plant survive during harsh weather conditions.
Are Onions Good For You?
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Whether it is raw onions or cooked onions, they are loaded with benefits. And you can eat them whenever you want – day or night. The vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins C and B6, folate, iron, and potassium. Onions are also rich in manganese that offers protection against cold and flu.
Allium and allyl disulphide, two phytochemicals in onions, are converted into allicin post ingestion. Allicin, as per certain studies, has properties to fight cancer and diabetes. It can also reduce the stiffness of blood vessels and lower blood pressure levels. Even the other onion types like chives, leeks, and shallots have similar benefits.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions also contain quercetin, another antioxidant that fights inflammation. More interestingly, cooking onions in soup doesn’t diminish their quercetin value but simply transfers the antioxidant from the vegetable to the soup broth.
And not just the vegetable, even the essential oil from onions has benefits. The oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions, when combined with garlic, could have greater benefits. The two, together, are known to be effective antidepressants, painkillers, anticoagulants, and anti-inflammatory.
And though onions may not induce weight loss directly, substituting them for high-calorie foods can make some contribution.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, So, this answers your question — are onions good for you? But hold on – there’s more. The benefits are many. But before we get there, let’s discuss another important question.
Is It Better To Eat Onions Raw Or Cooked?
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Whether raw or cooked – onions are super healthy. However, when we talk about the benefits of eating raw onions, they might be slightly more as raw onions have higher levels of organic sulfur compounds. One study has found that the outer layers of onion flesh have the highest concentrations of flavonoids – hence, ensure you remove as little of this part as possible while peeling the vegetable.
Just like there are plenty of raw onion benefits, boiled onions are beneficial too. They serve as a good source of fiber and copper. Fiber helps keep digestive issues at bay while copper aids brain communication. Even pickled onions have most of the benefits onions provide. One point to be noted about pickled onions is – most brands contain additives and could be harmful.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, All of what we spoke about, all of these onion health benefits, are because of the nutrients present in them. Which is what we will look at now.
One small onion contains about 28 calories and 7 grams of carbs. Onions are also rich in vitamins A, B6, B-complex, and C, as well as iron, folate, and potassium. They are excellent sources of sulfuric compounds, flavonoids, phytochemicals, and polyphenols.
So, what are onions good for? Let us head to the real deal.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Onions?
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Allium and allyl disulphide, two phytochemical compounds in onions have been found to lower the risk of several types of cancer, assist in regulating blood sugar, reduce inflammation and heal infections. Here’s a quick look at the incredible onion benefits for health:
1. Fight Cancer
Benefits Of Onions For Health, As per a study conducted by the University of Guelph, red onions are the most effective in destroying breast and colon cancer cells. These onions have high levels of quercetin and anthocyanin – two compounds that contribute to the red onion benefits. Onions activate the pathways that provoke the cancer cells to kill themselves. They make the environment unfavorable for cancer cells to communicate, and this inhibits their growth.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, It was also found that people with the highest consumption of onions had the lowest cancer rates. As a preventative measure, you can have your burgers garnished with red onions.
2. Improve Heart Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The flavonoids in red onions can contribute to heart health. Onions are also rich in organosulfurs, which can help prevent heart disease. According to one Argentine study, intake of the organosulfur compounds found in onions can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease. Onions contain thiosulfinates that act as natural blood thinners and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The quercetin in onions also has the potential to fight heart disease. It offers both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that promote heart health. Onions are also a part of the French Paradox – they are an important part of French cuisine and are thought to be responsible for the low incidences of heart disease among the French despite their high-calorie diet.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions can also improve cholesterol levels, and this ultimately benefits the heart. As per a report by the Cambridge University Press, the flavonoids in onions help lower the levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) in obese people.
Onions also prevent the blood platelets from sticking each other, which can lead to clotting and eventually, heart attacks. They also can prevent high blood pressure, thereby averting heart danger. Another study on rabbits showed that onions could prevent atherosclerosisi. They achieve this by enhancing fibrinolytic (a process that results in the removal of small blood clots) activity.
3. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Benefits Of Onions For Health, One study has proven that onion extract can help lower blood sugar levels. The study was conducted on diabetic rats, and the results were encouraging. One of the sulfur compounds in onions (S-methylcysteine) and quercetin can have beneficial effects on blood sugar. However, it was found that onions exhibited the positive effect only when taken along with metformin, the antidiabetic drug.
In yet another study, polyphenols (especially the ones in onions) were found to play a role in glycemic control.
4. Promote Healthy Digestion
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The digestive benefits of onions can be attributed to inulin, a fiber present in the vegetable. Inulin acts as a food source for the beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Consuming this fiber helps your body maintain good levels of the healthy bacteria. However, the thiosulfinates in onions can cause harm to these beneficial bacteria (as they have antibacterial properties). Hence, if you are sensitive to the antibacterial properties of onions, do consult your doctor.
Another soluble fiber in onions, oligofructose (which is a sub-group of inulin), was found to prevent and treat different types of diarrhea. And the phytochemicals in onions can cut the risk of gastric ulcers.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The natural prebiotics in onions can also help ease constipation. They are also believed to help treat stomach ache and stomach worms, though more research is warranted.
Onion is known to cause migraine and flatulence in some people. Consult your doctor if this happens.
5. Maintain Bone Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Preliminary research suggests that onions can prevent age-related osteoporosis. According to Swiss researchers, a compound in white onions (called GPCS) can reduce bone loss to- Preliminary research suggests that onions can prevent age-related osteoporosis. A compound in white onions (called GPCS) can reduce bone loss. Though the study was conducted on rats, it does hold promise for humans.
Another study revealed that women who ate onions regularly had 5 percent more bone mass than those who ate less. Onion consumption was also found to have a beneficial effect on the bone density of women older than 50 years.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, According to the Arthritis Foundation, quercetin in onions can inhibit the activity of leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and histamines (all of which cause inflammation) in osteoarthritisi and rheumatoid arthritis. Onion intake was also found to help treat joint pains.
6. Prevent Inflammation and Other Allergies
Benefits Of Onions For Health, We have already seen quercetin (and other flavonoids) in onions can help prevent inflammation. Onions also treat allergies by preventing the cells from releasing histamine.
Cooking with onions can help open and drain your sinuses. And the antihistamine properties of quercetin can also aid in reducing nasal congestion. Even eating a raw onion at night can help relieve congestion – the sulfur-compounds in the onion can break down the mucous.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions also possess antibacterial properties. As per one study, onion extracts acted against Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus, the bacteria responsible for dental caries and other allergies. Onions also possess antibiotic effects that can accelerate wound healing.
7. Improve Immune System
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions contain selenium that stimulates immune function. The mineral also prevents excessive immune response, which can have adverse effects. Immune cells deficient in selenium develop and reproduce inefficiently, and here’s where onions come into the picture. Such cells also have difficulty in producing the important proteins and transporting calcium.
Onions are also considered herbal medicine in Russia, where they are used to treat cold and flu.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, We also want to talk about a popular remedy here – sleeping with onions underneath your feet, placing them in your socks. Does this have benefits? Certain sources say that it eradicates infection and hydrates your body. Doing so can also strengthen your immune system. The reason behind this could be that the feet contain the nerve endings of all the organs of the body.
Placing onions beneath the feet transfers their beneficial properties to your interiors. However, there is no research on this – and we don’t know how far the information is true.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, You can also make onion tea for treating colds. This tea gives you an immunity boost and helps prevent ailments. Making the tea is as simple as cutting an onion, boiling it in water, and drinking the juice. This acts as a quick remedy for your cold and other illnesses. You can also add other ingredients like ginger for taste.
Even onion-honey syrup works wonders for common cold symptoms. Just slice an onion and add it to a saucepan. To this, add half a cup of honey. Gently heat until the onions turn translucent and soft. Take a spoonful of this syrup every 3 to 4 hours. For prevention, you can take 1 or 2 spoonfuls during the flu season. You can also use white onion with honey for similar results.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The anti-inflammatory properties of onions can also help improve asthma. This effect can be attributed to quercetin (an average onion contains 50 mg of it).
8. Cure Ear Disorders
Benefits Of Onions For Health, As per one report, though research is limited, most parents swear by onions to cure ear ailments. They insist that onion juice can work great to relieve earache. One way to do this is to heat up the onion, extract some of the juice, and pour a few drops into the infected ear. And this remedy, believe us, goes back to the 19th century.
All you need to do is place the onion in an oven at 450o F. Let it be for 15 minutes or until it becomes soft. Take out the onion – once it’s cool, cut it in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl. You can strain the juice once, and using a medicinal dropper, pour a few drops of the juice into your infected ear.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, An alternative is to place onion packs on the infected ear. Though the remedy is not scientifically proven, some people believe they might work.
9. Promote Respiratory Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, According to an American study, patients with respiratory issues like asthma and allergic rhinitis can benefit from certain fruits and vegetables, onions being one of them.
The anti-inflammatory properties of onions can also help soothe respiratory ailments. If you are suffering from a respiratory illness, you can simply include onions in your diet (in addition to your medication) for quicker relief. Include onions in your salads and other foods.
10. Improve Sleep
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions contain prebiotics, which, as per a study, can improve sleep and even reduce stress. When the beneficial bacteria in the gut digest the prebiotic fiber, they multiply and improve gut health – and more importantly, release metabolic byproducts. These byproducts can influence brain function and induce sleep.
11. Enhance Eye Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The sulfur in onions improves the health of the lens of the eye. It stimulates the production of a protein named glutathione, which acts as an antioxidant. Higher levels of glutathione mean a reduced risk of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts.
The selenium in onions supports the vitamin E in the eye (which protects the cells in the eye).
As per an Iranian study, onions can inhibit the growth of normal eye flora. This highlights the possibility of onions being a potential cure for common eye infections like conjunctivitis and blepharitis. In the study, onion juice was used as eye drops – which resulted in the benefits. You can try that too, but we recommend you consult your health care provider first.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onion extracts can also aid in preventing the development of corneal haze.
12. Are Good For Oral Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions contain thiosulfinates and thiosulfonates (the sulfur compounds) that help reduce bacteria that cause tooth decay. And eating those raw is best – as cooking might destroy some of these beneficial compounds.
The vegetable is also rich in vitamin C that can keep the teeth healthy. It is also believed that onions can relieve tooth pain. However, there is less research on this.
Benefits Of Onions For Health, But one downside of onions is that they can cause bad breath. Hence, wash your mouth thoroughly after consuming onions – especially if you are heading to a social gathering.
13. Aid In Cholera Treatment
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions were found to have an inhibitory effect against V. cholerae, the microbe responsible for cholera. This can be attributed to the antibacterial effects of the vegetable.
14. Prevent Blood Clots
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions contain a compound called rutin, which can help prevent blood from clotting. In numerous mice studies, rutin was found to be the most potent anti-thrombotic compound. Clots occur in the arteries and veins – in arteries, the clots are platelet-rich while in veins they are fibrin-rich.
The rutin in onions helps block an enzyme (protein disulfide isomerase), which is released very quickly when blood clots form.
15. Give an Energy Boost
Benefits Of Onions For Health, The fiber in onions slows digestion and keeps the energy levels stable. The inulin in the vegetable helps maintain your stamina levels.
16. Improve Sexual Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onions are one of the herbal medicines used in western Uganda for managing sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction. Even otherwise, the vegetable is known to have benefits for men. Taking onion juice with honey is known to increase fertility in men.
17. Enhance Brain Health
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Research suggests that the antioxidants in onions bind with the harmful toxins in the brain and flush them out of the body. And the sulfur-containing compounds in onions can slow down age-related memory loss. The extracts of onions have been found to maintain the hippocampus. However, a part of these memory fighting properties might be lost upon cooking. Hence, try your best to eat the fruit raw.
Another sulfur-compound in onions, named di-n-propyl trisulfide, improves memory impairment. Onions are also believed to treat dizziness, epilepsyi, and vertigoi – though we have limited research on this.
18. Help Cure Fever
Benefits Of Onions For Health, Onion can be included as a food ingredient to cure fever. It can also prevent or treat nose bleeding, given its natural fumes, which can help the blood clot (externally).