(Natural News) Onions are a staple ingredient in the kitchen. These superfoods belong to the Allium family of flowering plants, and are cousin to another kitchen staple – garlic. Onions are rich in powerful sulfur-containing compounds responsible for their pungent smell, as well as their health benefits. Whether it’s white, yellow, red or purple, and green – all onion varieties are shown to be a healthy addition to your diet.
- They are rich in antioxidants – Onions are loaded with potent antioxidants. They provide dozens of different types, including quercetin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound.
- They may prevent cancer – You can avoid the threat of cancer by simply adding more onions to your diet. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined how often people in Italy and Switzerland consume onions and garlic. Researchers found that those who consumed the most onions and garlic had the highest reduction in cancer risk. They concluded that the more onions and garlic people consumed, the lower the cancer rate. (Related: Red onions found to fight cancer more powerfully than yellow or white onions.)
- They improve bone density – Consuming onions may improve bone density, especially in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. In one study, researchers looked at perimenopausal and postmenopausal Caucasian women age 50 and older and found a link between onion intake and bone health. They discovered that women who ate onions more often had better bone density than those who never ate onions. They also reduced their hip fracture risk by over 20 percent.
- They lower cholesterol – Research shows that onions can lower cholesterol levels. One study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research examined overweight or obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The participants consumed either a diet with raw red onions or a low-onion diet for eight weeks. Results showed that both groups had lower cholesterol levels, but the decline was greater among those who followed a red onion diet. Another study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition examined 24 women with mildly high cholesterol and found that those who drank onion juice every day for eight weeks had lower levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol than those who drank a placebo. In addition, onion juice drinkers had reduced waist measurements.
- They support gut health – Onions are rich in inulin, a prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics serve as food for probiotics and help these beneficial bacteria flourish. In addition, inulin prevents constipation, improves blood sugar control, enhances nutrient absorption, and supports healthy bone density. It may also aid in weight loss by suppressing your appetite.
- They enhance the benefits of tomatoes – If you’re eating tomatoes, eat them with onions. Eating these foods together can enhance their benefits. Researchers believe that sulfur compounds in onions increase the absorption of lycopene, an antioxidant commonly found in tomatoes that are known to prevent cancer and heart disease, as well as support brain, bone, and eye health. Tomatoes and onions make a delicious pair in omelets, salads, sautes, and soups.
To reap the maximum health benefits of onions, you need to cook them right. Cooking methods affect the nutrient composition of onions. Some destroy certain nutrients, while others enhance nutrient content. Still, onions are healthy whether they’re raw or cooked. However, raw onions have higher levels of organic sulfur compounds that offer many health benefits. If you prefer onions cooked, avoid cooking them longer than 30 minutes to avoid destroying most of the onions’ beneficial compounds. One of the most delicious ways to eat onions is to caramelize them. They can be added to salads, sandwiches, sauces, or pizza. When peeling an onion, you may want to be careful to remove as little of the edible part of it as possible because the outer layers of an onion flesh contain the highest levels of flavonoids, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.