Onions are highly nutritious, featuring good amounts of protein and fiber as well as vitamin C, selenium, folate, and various antioxidants.
Today, onions are one of the most versatile ingredients around, and they appear in tons of savory recipes.
You might not even know they are there in many cases, but we can guarantee there is some amount of onion in the majority of the foods you eat, even if it is just the onion powder in your favorite spice blend.
So before you think, “I just don’t like onions,” and scroll by, know that there are tons of ways to get onion into your diet, and just as many reasons why you really should. Some of these, especially #5, are truly incredible.
1. Lower Cancer Risk
Onions contain certain organosulfur compounds that give them their distinctive smell, but also work to detoxify the carcinogens that we consume every day. That translates to a lower lifetime risk of cancer. Research suggests that the more onions you eat, the greater the protection.
But before you start an all-onion diet, know that combining onions with turmeric has a synergistic effect, and that garlic offers similar protection. It’s still a great idea to eat onion every day, but you can add these other ingredients to extend the benefits, rather than eat all onions, all the time.
2. Lower Diabetes Risk
Onions are also fantastic for lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes occurs when insulin become ineffective at processing glucose. It typically happens due to a diet chronically high in sugar.
When you eat onion, it increases the amount of available insulin in your system. The allyl propyl disulphide in onions take up some of the spots in the liver where insulin become inactivated, thereby leaving more insulin in the bloodstream to process glucose.
3. Better Cardiovascular Health
Onions are high in an antioxidant called quercetin, which like all antioxidants, benefits health by neutralizing free radicals that otherwise cause cellular damage. But quercetin is special in that it keeps arteries soft and elastic.
It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure and lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in people at risk for cardiovascular disorders. Eating some onion every day, therefore, supports cardiovascular health and minimizes the risk of heart disease.
4. Enhanced Immune Function
The quercetin in onions does more than support heart health. It works in conjunction with the selenium that onions also contain to strengthen the immune system. Selenium and quercetin together have been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
This power combo also seems to moderate immune function, stimulating a response and then scaling it back as necessary. Overactive immune function can actually cause a host of problems, not the least of which is the chronic inflammatory disease of arthritis.
5. Allergy Relief
Seasonal allergies cause itchy eyes, runny nose, and scratchy throat. They’re really uncomfortable and lead many people to rely on allergy medications for relief. But these medicines come with their own side effects that can be troubling as well.
Next time you’re suffering with allergies, try eating some onion before you pop a pill. Quercetin blocks allergy-causing and inflammatory compounds and can therefore provide a significant reduction in symptoms. If you really can’t stand the taste of onions, try quercetin supplements instead.
6. Lesser Food Poisoning Risk
You may have heard that cut onions are the unrecognized source of food poisoning in all kinds of foods. The story goes that onions are so prone to bacterial growth that it is not safe to cut and then store them any length of time.
But don’t believe everything you hear, because the truth is actually the exact opposite. Onions contain antibacterial compounds that slow bacterial growth. Not only are they safe to cut and store for up to 7 days, but eating onion with any meal makes you less likely to get sick from other ingredients.
7. Reduced Risk Of Blood Clots
Clotting is an important function for blood because it seals injuries and prevents excessive blood loss. However, when a clot forms within an artery or vein, it can be deadly. Technically called thrombus, a blood clot in the wrong place can block critical blood flow and starve other parts of the body of the oxygen and nutrients they need. A thrombus may also migrate to the heart or lungs and cause death.
Onions contain something called rutin that can prevent the formation of these dangerous clots. Interestingly, clots that form in an artery are rich in platelets, but clots found in veins are high in fibrin. Rutin has actually been found to dissolve both kinds.
8. Improved Sleep And Mood
There are a lot of chemical processes involved in sleep. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine work together to stabilize mood, regulate appetite, and promote healthy slumber. But certain chemicals can hinder your ability to sleep soundly, such as homocysteine, an amino acid produced as the body breaks down proteins.
Too much homocysteine hinders the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Onions support healthy sleep because they contain a good amount of folate, which can stop homocysteine from building up in the system.
Evidence suggests that you get the greatest health benefit from onions if you eat them raw. Not everyone can hang with raw onion though, as that is when it is the crunchiest and most powerfully flavored. Raw onions are responsible for the dreaded “onion breath” that we all want to avoid in public. Luckily, you can still see positive results from eating them cooked. Cooked onions are soft and sweet in flavor.
If it’s the crunch of onions that bothers you more than anything, try grating some into your meals. Your mouth won’t even notice that it’s there, but your body will. Onion powder is another option that delivers the benefit of raw onion, but in smaller amounts. As a last resort, look for quercetin supplements at the store. Any way you get ‘em, onions are a boon to your overall health and well worth eating every day.