Onion (Allium cepa L) is a widely cultivated and consumed plant due to its pungent flavors; it is part of the allium family of plants which includes chives, garlic, shallots, scallions and leeks. It is believed that onions were first domesticated in Central and Western Asia; onions were also pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments around 5,000 years ago. Onion is a nutrient-dense food containing enormous health and medicinal properties; it contains incredible polyphenols such as quercetin compounds that have powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and antimicrobial effects. It also contains sulfur compounds that possess anti-carcinogenic properties. Some of the beneficial ingredients include vitamins E, C and B-complex and minerals such as calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Some of the benefits of onions include:
Onions provide effective prevention for cancer. A study in “Nutrition Health” shows that it is rich in organosulfur compounds that inhibit tumor growth, mutagenic reactions and reduce the DNA damage to cells. Besides, Onion is a source vitamin C, a strong antioxidant that protects one from free radicals known to cause cancer, especially esophageal cancer, renal cell cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, stomach and colorectal cancers. Besides, Quercetin compounds contained in onions have potent and diverse anti-cancer effects.
Treatment of Acne
A Journal in “Wound Care” shows that onions extracts contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial qualities that help reduce acne scar and prevents inflammation and discoloration on the skin. Their anti-microbial effect acts as a potent antiseptic that protects the skin from acne infections caused by bacteria; it helps reduce redness and swelling related to acne. Onion extracts applied regularly to a scar helps to minimize the amount of collagen production which lowers the fiber content in the skin. Thus, it lessens the appearance of a scar making it less noticeable on the face.
Reduce Glucose Levels
Daily intake of onions helps regulate the blood sugar level. Publication in “The Endocrine Society” has shown that the trace amounts of chromium in onions have significant blood sugar-lowering action. Quercetin, an active compound contained in the onions help to actively regulate the blood sugar and cholesterol levels by increasing glucose metabolic rates and appetite levels; it also boosts glucose tolerance and minimize fasting sugar level.
Promotes Cardiovascular Health
Onion exhibits potent cardiovascular benefits; studies from “The University of Wisconsin-Madison” found that onions provide protection to the heart that helps decrease the risk of coronary artery and peripheral vascular diseases. The sulfur compounds, vitamin B complex and chromium compounds in onions helps prevents a heart attack by lowering homocysteine levels, a potential risk of cardiac stroke. The sulfur compounds contain anti-clotting effects that inhibit thrombocyte biosynthesis, thus helps prevent the clumping together of platelets and clot formation. The allium and allyl disulfide decrease blood vessel stiffness. Also, quercetin in onions offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that boost cardiovascular health.
Onions contain anti-ageing benefits; a publication on “Natural Cures and Healing” shows that the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E in onions help to prevent free radical damage and excessive exposure to harmful UV rays that are responsible for causing premature ageing. Quercetin compound is an excellent antioxidant and a detoxifier; it enhances the elimination of toxic chemicals which helps to keep your skin wrinkle-free. The presence of sulphur-rich phytochemicals in onions boosts the anti-ageing qualities; it keeps the skin supple and ensure a smooth, youthful and radiant appearance. Besides, regular massaging of the skin with fresh onion juice facilitates a continuous blood circulation that improves the overall appearance of your skin.
Cold and Respiratory Benefits
Onions are rich in essential vitamins A and C that help alleviate respiratory conditions. Sulfur contents in onions have beneficial effects for colds, coughs, and bronchitis; it boosts the melting of phlegm in individuals suffering from severe coughing. A Journal on “West Indian medical” states that onions contain antimicrobial properties that destroy active microbes including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas and Candida found in the throat which is responsible for sore throats and infections that cause coughs. Onion syrup is regarded as a household antimicrobial remedy for croupy coughs.
Possible Side Effects
Notably, onions are known to cause eye irritations and for making people cry; it do not contain severe side effects on consumption. However, it is important to note that, onions cause allergic reactions to some individuals; one may experience a reddish, itchy rash when an onion is into contact with the skin. It may also cause a breathing problem, oral swelling, tingling, and a drop in blood pressure in patients suffering from anaphylactic allergic reactions. Individuals with gastrointestinal gas production are advised not to consume onion food. Besides, American Journal of Gastroenterology suggested that patients having chronic heartburn or gastric reflux disease should not take onion since it worsens these symptoms.
There have been numerous diet-based studies conducted in journals of agricultural and food chemistry have confirmed that onions are one of the richest sources of flavonoid; Quercetin and sulfur compounds contained in onions contributes to its anti-cancer, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Onions are naturally low in calories and abundant in vitamins and minerals. Other benefits of onions include improvement of digestion, protection against allergies, treatment of anemia, maintenance of bone health and prevention of oral infections.
Onions are one of the most widely used ingredients in cooking and for good reason. They provide a strong kick, great texture, and are easy to prepare. But not only do they add to the taste of your favorite recipes, but they can also do a body good. Hopefully, after seeing the tremendous positive impact that they can have on your health, you will find more ways to use this versatile vegetable in your kitchen.