(A nutritionist and lifestyle coach who has specialized on handling cases like obesity and cancer)
Staple to our Indian diet for years, i urge everyone to keep eating onion on a daily basis, in it’s raw form or even cooked ( raw is always better). I’m happy to see how my clients across Europe and the United States have started ending each meal with a bowl of raw onion or homemade pickled onion. Most of my diets for treating cancer globally revolve around onion, garlic, turmeric, ginger and of course other foods, but these are primarily cancer fighting and immunity boosting gifts from nature. Many drugs that are being developed in line with immunology and micro nutrition to treat deadly diseases and increase immunity contain the above. Back to the good old onion now..
While quinoa, bee pollen, goji berries, chia seeds, get the spotlight for being ‘ super foods ‘ they can never beat the inexpensive and easily available ‘ onion’ which i consider one of the post powerful super foods along with garlic, turmeric/curcumin, ginger, wet milled coconut oil and many others..
Onions are often avoided because of its pungent odor and taste, along with the after effect of “onion” breath. The strong smell and taste come from the sulphur-containing compounds in onions which are also responsible for the amazing health benefits in onions.
Onions are in the same family of root vegetables as garlic (a known superstar), shallots, leeks and scallions. They are a great source of B vitamins, especially B6, B1, folate, and biotin. They also contain copious amounts of vitamin C, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium and a massive amount of phytonutrients and antioxidant polyphenols.
Onions contain even more powerful polyphenols than their cousins, garlic and leeks, as well as tomatoes, carrots and red bell peppers.
These antioxidants make onions a natural anti-histamine (similar to medicine for colds and allergies), anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. The powerful polyphenols in onions benefit the whole body, and make them extremely effective in preventing or fighting diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and neuro-muscular diseases.
One of the primary polyphenol antioxidants in onions is Quercetin. Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that not only protects against heart disease, blood clots, hypertension, urinary disease, prostatitis, and cancer, but also is one of the most powerful and natural anti-histamines, helping to prevent or lessen allergic reactions and asthma.
A powerful cancer protocol that i use for patients involves the calculated dosage of quercitin, curcumin and coconut oil that has the possible ability to target stem cells and rapidly boost immune function.
The National Onion Association considers onions a major dietary anti-carcinogen. Onions, like garlic and other allium vegetables are warriors against many types of cancer including: breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers, laryngeal, esophageal, gastric, colon, renal and prostate cancers. This is due in part from the quercetin, as well as the sulphur compounds such as: diallyl disulfide (DDS), S-allylcysteine (SAC), and S-methylcysteine (SMC). Although the exact physiology is not known, it is thought that these compounds inhibit tumor growth and gene mutations, while fighting free radicals.
Cholesterol and Heart
Onions, like garlic, go a long way towards helping prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. The sulphur compounds in onions are very efficient in preventing clumping of blood platelets which result in clots, meaning they are highly effective in preventing heart disease, strokes, and blood clots in other parts of the body (peripheral vascular disease). Allium and allyl disulphide also help to create more flexible blood vessels which result in lower blood pressure. Onions have also been shown to help lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, especially when eaten as part of a diet high in vegetables and fruit.
Quercetin maintains top level status as an anti-inflammatory, along with its anti-histamine properties. This means it helps with most inflammatory conditions, including asthma, allergies, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and more. Onionin A, one of the sulphur compounds, inhibits macrophage formation that trigger immune reactions and inflammatory responses, helping those with autoimmune conditions as well.
Bone, Connective Tissue, Gut Health, and Diabetes Benefits
Several human studies have shown that frequent (daily) consumption of onion can actually help to increase bone density in post-menopausal women, and help prevent fractures related to osteoporosis. What’s more, the high sulphur content of onions helps to strengthen and support strong connective tissue in the body including tendons, ligaments, cartilage and collagen—and even hair.
Onions supply healthy antibacterial properties, helping to prevent everything from cavities and gum disease, to ulcers from h. pylori and food-borne illnesses.
Onions contain a prebiotic fiber, inulin, that helps to feed and encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria which creates a stronger immune system, assists in healthy absorption and assimilation of food, and actually helps your mood and brain function. Inulin is also thought to be responsible for helping to prevent obesity and lower your risk of diabetes.
In those with type 2 diabetes, inulin helped to improve blood sugar reactions and maintain a more stable glucose level. Another compound in onion, allium cepa, was shown to have a significant effect on lowering blood sugar in another study with rats, although more research needs to be done.
Sleep and Mood
Onions have a positive effect on sleep and mood as well, due to the folate content in them. In fact, it is thought that onions may help with depression, by decreasing the amount of homocysteine, an inflammatory agent in the body. Besides being dangerous for heart and blood vessels, excess homocysteine may also interfere with brain hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which are ‘feel-good’ hormones. These hormones also have a huge effect on sleep and appetite as well.
Colds and Flu
Native Americans and Indians recognized the power of the onion to treat colds and flu and have used it for years and years. Even the World Health Organization recognizes the power of onions for coughs, congestion, bronchitis and respiratory infections. Onions have also been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for colic and vomiting.