Onions (Allium cepa)
Early history of onions
The onion plant known as Allium cepa belongs to a family of Amaryllidaceae and it probably originated from central Asia, in modern-day Iran and Pakistan. And as early as the sixth century B.C., a medical treatise, the Charaka Sanhita, celebrates the onion as medicine, a diuretic, good for digestion, the heart, the eyes and the joints.
It is also important to note that in Egypt, onions were planted as far back as 3500 B.C. They were considered to be objects of worship and symbolized eternity because of the ‘circle-within-a-circle’ structure. In Egypt, paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of pyramids and other tombs and were believed to be buried with mummies because of their strong scent and/or magical powers which they believed would prompt the dead to breathe again.
Onions is so unique that even the Holy Bible made reference to it.
In Numbers 11:5, -“We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.”
Onions are best known for its scent and spicy nature to garnish our dishes. Its spicy cuisine gives dishes their flavorful taste, transforming any meal to an aromatic experience.
Apart from added an excellent taste to dishes, onions are also provides many health benefits to its users. In Chinese medicine, onions have been used to treat angina, coughs, bacterial infections, and respiratory problems. And even the World Health Organization (WHO) also supports the use of onions for the treatment of poor appetite and prevention of atherosclerosis.
It has also been proven that eating raw onions helps to provide therapeutic and antibacterial properties that cleanse and purify our bodies to eliminate diseases.
Nutritional value of Onions
A medium sized onion is composed of 89% water, 1.7 % fiber and 9% of carbohydrates. The table below displays other components found in a medium sized onion.
Onions are full of antioxidants and contain a number of sulfur-containing compounds. Onions also contain multiple vitamins and minerals. They are a known good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, folate, and potassium. There are multiple phyto nutrients that are found in onions. These are Anthocyanins, quercetin, sulfur-compounds, and thiosulfinates.
Amazing Health Benefits of Onions
It boosts the immune system
The defense mechanism of our body is our immune system and a healthy immune system will ensure we do not contract diseases that are caused due to bacteria, fungus, and viral infections. Nature has many natural ways to help prevent free radicals from affecting our body. Onions are one of these natural ways to build a stronger immunity.
According to Anne Mauney, a dietitian based in Washington, D.C., the polyphenols in onions act as antioxidants, protecting the body against free radicals.
The vitamin C present in onions is the reason onions are believed to protect us from many diseases. The phytonutrients present in onions help the antioxidant properties of the vegetable to take full effect.
The quercetin in onions has also been shown to reduce allergic reactions by stopping the body from producing histamines, which are what make you sneeze, cry and itch if you’re having an allergic reactions.
2. Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) occur when your blood sugar (also called glucose) is higher than your body needs to function normally. And this condition is known to cause both immediate and long-term problems.
However, the regular consumption of onions has been shown to lower the blood sugar levels, as it contains allylpropyl disulfide that helps to reduce the glucose levels by increasing the amount o f insulin.
A study in 42 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that eating 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of fresh red onion reduced fasting blood sugar levels by about 40 mg/dl after four hours.
It helps to promotes digestion
It is rich in dietary fiber, which acts as a natural laxative and ensures comfortable bowel movements. The fiber in onions promotes good digestion by helping to clean the intestines and remove waste from the body. Onions also contain saponins that help relieve stomach aches.
In addition, onions contain a special type of soluble fiber called oligofructose, which promotes good bacteria growth in your intestines.
Onions support healthy digestions because they’re rich in insulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. In a nutshell, prebiotics serve as food for probiotics, and help those beneficial microbes flourish. Insulin also helps prevent constipation, improve blood sugar regulation, boost nutrient absorption, and support healthy bone density. It’s possible it can support weight loss too, by curbing appetite.
4. It helps to fight cancer
Free radicals that enter the body usually cause abnormal cell growth that leads to cancer, and cancer is a disease that continues growing. Prevention is the cure in this case, and using foods that help reduce its chances is the best option. Therefore, onions contain phytonutrients such as quercetin and other flavonoids that help fight the free radicals. Sulfur-compounds found in onions are also helpful in fighting the effects of cancer.
According to a 2006 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found the combination of onions and turmeric creates a synergistic effect that reduces both the size and number of precancerous hosts in the intestine, therefore reducing colon cancer risk.
In another study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at how often people in Italy and Switzerland ate onions and another Allium vegetable, such as garlic. They found that among the populations studied, there was an inverse link between the frequency of use of these veggies and the risk of several common cancers—meaning the more onions and garlic people ate, the lower the cancer rate
Therefore, regular consumption of onions helps to reduce the risk of several cancers such as colorectal cancer, oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, and ovarian cancer.
5. Good for the Heart
According to a 2007 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, it was found out that the quercetin found in the onions is significant in reducing high blood pressure in hypertensive adults.
Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant that’s highly concentrated in onions, and since it’s a potent anti-inflammatory, it usually helps to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
Onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels — all of which may lower heart disease risk.
6. It boost bone density
A study revealed that onions also possess the ability of building connective tissue and bone health due to a newly identified substance in it called Growth Plate Chondrocytes (GPCs). Hence onions are very beneficial for women who are at a risk of osteoporosis. There is also evidence to suggest that the risk of hip fracture in menopausal women may be lowered through regular consumption of onions.
Generally, eating vegetables is great for your body because they all are an amazing natural source of vitamins. Onions are rich in calcium which is a necessary element for the bones. Those people who consume these vegetables in the raw state easily reduce the possibilities of bone fractures by about twenty percent. This is really nice, so think about adding this vegetable to your family meals.
Relieve Tooth Disorders
According to Naturalsociety.com, eating raw onions can actually improve our oral health. Simply chewing a raw onion can strengthen teeth and eliminate bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. Two to three minutes of chewing on an onion can kill most germs in the mouth.
Therefore, it is advisable to always chew onions, to abate the effect of germs in our teeth. Although chewing onions may make our mouths stink, but the benefits attached to it can be overwhelmed.
8. Diabetes management
A 1975 study published in the journal Clinica Chimica Acta; International Journal of Clinical Chemistry found onion’s essential oil led to a significant fall in blood glucose levels, and a significant rise in the serum of insulin levels after being administered to six normal volunteers after a 12-hour fast.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can hit at anytime if you lead a sedentary lifestyle and eat processed and junk foods. The biggest problem in managing diabetes is maintaining a safe blood sugar level. Raw onion consumption is recommended to keep your sugar levels in check and prevent them from getting out of hand.
9. Hair Growth
There are often instances when we start losing hair or it starts going gray. This may be due to age, stress or lack of specific nutrients. Eating protein and potassium-rich foods is helpful in preventing these complications. There are many hair masks that can be made with onions to apply, which you can apply to your hair and scalp. Onion as we know it is rich in sulfur which is one of the essential nutrients in promoting hair growth, and not only is onions known to promote hair growth, but is also a good remedy for dandruff. Mixing onion juice with yogurt and leaving it on the hair for half an hour can help strengthen your hair and cleanse your scalp.
Moreover, Onions are high in vitamin C, which is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.
Remedy for Cold and Flu
The World Health Organization has even recognized onion for its ability to help relieve flu symptoms such as coughs, bronchitis, congestion, and respiratory infections. Onion is also a great remedy for cold and flu. The Native Americans used them to ward off the common cold and flu.
When suffering from a cough or flu virus, we often brew teas to find some solace. It is recommended to add an onion in hot water when preparing tea. Onion juice added to honey can also be taken to help reduce any swelling in your throat.
11. Loaded with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation, a process that leads to cellular damage and contributes to diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Onions are an excellent source of antioxidants. In fact, they contain over 25 different varieties of flavonoid antioxidants. One medium onion, which contains about 44 calories, provides 20% of your daily vitamin C needs and between 5 and 10% of the DV for B6, folate, potassium, and manganese.
Aging is caused by the accumulation of the harmful elements that our skin absorbs and also by the effects of free radicals. Onions, with their detoxifying and antioxidant properties helps boost the internal production of antioxidants in your body.
It serves as a treatment for Asthma
Onions help to relax your muscles, and this can result in easier breathing. For example, if you have asthma, you might ease its symptoms if you eat raw onions every day. However, it is extremely important for every patient with asthma to talk to their doctor before trying to eat onions as a treatment against such condition.
Onions have antihistamine effects due to quercetin, an antioxidant that acts like an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory agent. In test tubes, quercetin has proven to prevent immune cells from releasing histamine, which are chemicals that cause allergic reaction. Based on this observation, researchers believe the antioxidants may reduce histamine, and other allergic or inflammatory chemicals in the body, and can be a promising asthma treatment.
Treat Urinary Disorders
Onion has diuretic properties, which are useful in treating urinary disorders. For those suffering from burning sensation during urination, drink water boiled with 6 to 7 gm of onion, this may relieve the symptoms.
Helps in the treatment of Cholera
Onion is an effective remedy for cholera. Grind about 30 grams of onions with 5-7 black peppers. Have 2-3 times of the mixture a day. This is effective treatment for cholera. On the other hand, this also helps to lessens diarrhea and vomiting.