A member of the allium family — like garlic, leeks and chives — the onion has been appreciated for thousands of years. Egyptian slaves building the pyramids were fed a diet that included onions and onions were a prized food of the well-to-do in ancient China. Thanks to the powerful flavonoid quercetin and a host of sulphur compounds, onions can make anyone a winner. Onions, which also have some potassium, vitamins C and B, kill germs, helps your heart and fights cancer. Plus, they add great flavour and a pleasant aroma to almost any dish.
Wonders of onions
Zaps heart disease: Japanese women rarely get heart disease. That could be because they get plenty of flavonoids, including quercetin, in their diet. About 83 per cent of their quercetin comes from onions. Recent studies indicate that quercetin intake led to lower levels of total cholesterol and bad low density lipoprotein cholesterol. The study also suggests the beneficial effects of flavonoids. Men who ate the most flavonoids, mainly quercetin, were less likely to die of heart disease. More specifically, men who ate onions cut their risk by 15 per cent compared with those who didn't.
Wipes out cancer: Half an onion a day keeps stomach cancer away. People who ate at least half an onion a day were half as likely to get stomach cancer as those who never ate onions. The reason onions are so effective is probably because of their high levels of quercetin, which acts as an antioxidant which captures dangerous free radicals that can damage your cells and cause cancer. The sulphur compounds in onions may also inhibit tumours.
Kills bacteria: A Japanese study found that adding onions to ground beef helped neutralise Salmonella and prevent the formation of potential cancer causing compounds. Although quercetin might help, most of the credit goes to the sugars in onions. For tastier and safer burgers, just add a half cup to one cup of chopped onions to each pound of ground meat that you are grilling.
Onions come in many varieties. Some are seasonal, like the sweet Vidalia from Georgia, while others are available year round. You can find red, yellow or white onions in a wide range of sizes. Try different ones to discover what you like the best. You can also buy canned or frozen onions which are usually smaller pearl onions.
A word of caution
People who have gastric ulcers, hyperacidity and acid reflux should not have raw/fried onions as in some people it tends to aggravate the symptoms.
Stop crying over onions
Ever wondered why you cry when you chop an onion? When you crush the cells of an onion you release a sulphur compound. When this compound reacts with the moisture in your eyes, it turns into sulphuric acid which irritates your eyes. Your eyes then produce tears to flush out the sulphuric acid out.
You can try many tricks to avoid crying. Refrigerating an onion for an hour before you chop it or chopping the onion under running water are some options. Or try chopping the onion while chewing on a piece of onion or a stick of gum. Your best bet, though, might be to wear goggles or glasses to protect your eyes.