Superfoods: Onions

Superfoods: Onions

A superfood is a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.

ONIONS

Attributes that make onions SUPER

Onions are in the same family as leeks and garlic, and they grow underground as bulbs.

Onions are not just my choice as a superfood. In fact, I had no idea they possessed so many benefits before I started reading about  nutrition in general. I have found many articles proclaiming the virtues of onions.

Nutritional benefits include:

Onions are low in calories and nutrient dense. They are packed with antioxidants including flavonoids and polyphenols. In addition, they contain good amounts of vitamins C and B6 as well as folate and potassium. Onions are a good source of fiber, too. Health benefits from onions are mainly due to nutrients and antioxidants.    

Health benefits include:

  • help maintain improved blood sugar levels 

  • help build strong bones

  • protect against inflammation, thus lowers risk of arthritis

  • helps prevent cancer in that antioxidants combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer; and, regularly eating onions (daily) lowers running risk of stomach, esophageal and prostate cancer. Note: Studies show that those with the highest intake of Allium vegetables (onions, leeks, garlic, etc.) had a lower risk of prostate cancer.  

  • lowers risk of asthma

  • lowers risk of diabetes

  • lowers risk of obesity

  • Improves mood

  • promotes healthy skin and hair 

  • lowers risk of high blood pressure

  • lowers effects of histamines

  • Reduces risk of heart attack

  • due to levels of omega 3, helps regulate proper blood fat levels, and regulates blood cholesterol levels

  • they are particularly rich in the flavonoids called quercetin which acts as an antioxidant linked to cancer prevention. Quercetin is found mostly in red and yellow onions and in shallots. It contributes to: heart health, relief from asthma, reduction in bladder infection symptoms, prevention of plaque buildup, lowering of blood pressure, and promotion of prostate health

  • Antioxidants called polyphenols boost immune system, and they reduce allergic reactions by keeping the body from producing histamines which make you sneeze.

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Types of onions

Onions vary in size,  shape,  color and taste. Approximately 105 billion pounds of onions are harvested yearly throughout the world. Due to their health benefits, you may want to make them a staple in your diet.

  • Yellow onions- use a yellow onion if your recipe doesn't specify what type onion to use. They are mild and versatile.

  • Sweet onions- sweet onions,  like Vidalias, look white inside but are yellow. They taste good raw, so are good in salads.

  •  Red onions - remember during the Eating the Rainbow series, we talked about bright colors meaning nutrient density. Red onions have a peppery taste and are a little stronger than yellow  onions. They are good pickled as well as roasted.

  • White onions - on the slightly strong side but are often used in potato salads, guacamole, and salsa.

  • Scallions - we used to eat scallions raw with a little  salt. They can  also be used as a great addition when sliced and sprinkled on top of dishes.

  • Shallots - because they are mild and have a slightly garlic taste, they work well when making sauces or salad dressings.

Buying, storing, and using onions

Buying

When buying onions, look them over and avoid ones that are dented, bruised, or soft.

Storing

Depending on how you store them, onions can last several weeks. It is okay to store them in the refrigerator, but it is best to store them in a paper bag in a cool dark area. Since I live in Florida, mine go in the refrigerator, but in other states, you may want to store them in the pantry.

Do not store them in plastic bags as they make them soften quicker. Also, if you store them in the refrigerator, don't put them near potatoes as the gasses emitted from the potatoes will cause the onions to spoil quicker.

Using

When cutting onions, let them stand for 10 minutes after cutting because, magically, phytonutrients increase during that amount of time.

If your onions seem a little strong, slice them, immerse them in a bowl of water, and let them soak overnight. This will take the strong taste a bit.  

A couple fun facts about onions: There are more nutrients in the outside layers. And, the longer you cook them the sweeter they will taste

The onion is truly one of the most versatile vegetables. A little chopped onion added to a dish gives it just enough zip. If you're trying to reduce sugar and salt, some onion might just give your recipe a fresh taste to make you forget what you are missing.

Add raw onions to salads, cooked beans, or black-eyed peas, cold pasta dishes or top chilies and stews with a sprinkle of raw onions for a little crunch and flavor.

Add cooked onions to soups, chili, stews and roasted vegetables. And make onion the star of a dish by cooking large chunks of onions and covering with your favorite nutritional yeast sauce.

A couple of drawbacks 

Eating a large amount of green onions may interfere with blood thinning drugs as the vitamins in green onions decreases the thinning function.

Another caution is that some people are allergic to onions. Obviously those people should avoid using onions.

Also, if you have heartburn regularly or gastro-esophageal reflux, be careful with onions. If onions are one of your triggers, you also should avoid them.

Summary

Onions often cause us to tear up when we cut into them. Just take a look at the health benefits of onions and I imagine you'll agree with me that they are well worth a few tears. 

The onion is indeed a superfood. For best heart, blood, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes results work a serving of onions into your diet daily. Onions definitely go on my Eat 'em Everyday (EEE) list. Research shows their nutrients and antioxidants are the most helpful at that frequency.

Cut 'em, cook 'em, and eat 'em!

 

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