“The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul.”
Charles Dudley Warner – ‘My Summer in a Garden’ (1871)
“Life is like an onion: You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”
I am not sure if an onion can be said to have a soul, however, there are times when I’ve definitely felt my heart was something of an onion and that I wept peeling back the layers!! A trick to help with all of those tears is to keep a lit candle nearby. It will interact with the fumes from the onion and diminish it’s teary effects!
Onions bloom! Did you know that the onion is actually a member of the lilly family? Onions tend go to harvest prior to the bloom, because it makes the bulb tough and less tasty. But if you’ve ever seen an onion flower, it’s something like snowflake. Onions are also a member of the allium species and share many of the same medicinal qualities as garlic, scallions, leek, chives and shallots. Allium vegetables are a staple in the base for any broth and also spice up anything from vegetables, stews and of course salsa! Onions are delicious baked, fried, pickled or raw, but also are part of a healthy diet.
Onions originated in central Asia in the regions of Iran to Pakistan and northward into Russia and have been used widely throughout time for their culinary applications as well as therapeutic properties.
There are more than 500 species of onion, but the most familiar are red, yellow, sweet vidalias and of course those cute little cipollini & pearl onions and chives.
Health Boosting Qualities of Onions
- Diminishes Growth of Cancer Cells Onions are one of the richest sources of the flavonoid – quercitin. Quercetin, is an antioxidant that may be linked to preventing cancer – inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. It also inhibits the growth of leukemia cancer cells. Studies have shown the quercitin halts the growth of tumors in animals and protects colon cells from the damaging effects of certain cancer causing substances.
- One human study evaluated onion consumption and stomach caner in more than 120,000 men and women who were between the ages of 55 and 69 years of age. After a 3 year follow up, researchers found a strong inverse association between onion consumption and stomach cancer incidence, but no association with the use of leeks or garlic. (Textbook of Natural Medicine)
- Promotes Heart Health Frequent or regular consumption of onions has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels as well as high blood pressure. High
blood pressure and high cholesterol are implicated in heart disease and atheriosclerosis. Quercitin thins the blood and raises HDL cholesterol.
- Boost Blood Sugar Stability Both experimental and clinical evidence reveals that there is a direct correlation between onion consumption and blood glucose levels. In other words, the higher the consumption of onions, the lower the levels of blood glucose found during glucose tolerance tests. This is due to the phytonutrient found in onions called allyl propyl disulfide. Allyl propyl disulfide competes with insulin (also a disulphide) to “occupy the sites in the liver where insulin is inactivated. This results in an increase in the amount of insulin available to usher glucose into the cells, causing a lowering of blood sugar.” (The World’s Healthiest Foods)
- Chromium Aids in Blood Sugar Regulation Onions are a good source of chromium ( 1 cup – 21% of your daily value) and chromium is helps normalize blood sugar levels
- Aids in Detoxification Onions contain a good variety of sulfur compounds and those provide health benefits, particularly for detoxification, as it facilitates the sulfation pathway of phase II detoxification.
- The amino acids methionine and cystine promote detoxification of heavy metals.
- The Vitamin C in onions promotes detoxification and also the phytochemicals in onions improve the working of Vitamin C in the body. The aides detoxification and promotes enhanced immune function.
- Onions are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Chromium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Tryptophan, and folate.
- Excellent Source of Polyphenols These are compounds that are disease preventing antioxidants. Onions contain more polyphenols than garlic, tomatoes, leeks, carrots and red bell peppers.
- Hair Tonic In patients with alopecia areata (a patchy, non scarring hair loss condition) topical application of crude onion juice compared with tap water was shown to generate regrowth of hair after 2 weeks of treatment.
The modern pharmaceutical industry is shaped around dissecting and isolating the beneficial components of nature and then packaging them in pill, liquid or powder form – and the properties of the “active ingredient” marketed for our health. While there certainly are useful and therapeutic applications for this, it is important to note that within the healthful properties of any particular food there exists a synergy. A synergy is the harmonious and even efficacy boosting interaction of all that comes prepackaged from Nature’s Pharmacy.
There are so many uses of onions, and they are widely used as garnishes and the base for soups and stocks , where they add great flavor, but are not quite the highlight of the meal. This potato onion galette highlights the onion as much as the potato and it is a delicious side dish!
Potato Onion Galette
- 2 vidalia onions, sliced thin and – lightly saute’d
- 2 large yukon gold potatoes (about 3/4 pound) Parboil it for about 10 minutes. Cool and then slice thin. Do not peel the potato… that is where all the potassium and other valuable nutrients are found.
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme or rosemary
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 eggs beaten, with 1/4 cup heavy cream
- optional : 3 slices naturally cured bacon or pancetta sautéed and crumbled or cut into bite sized pieces
Place all ingredients except chicken broth in bowl. Toss to incorporate spices evenly.
Add contents of bowl to baking dish. Pour chicken broth over.
Cook in a 350 oven for approximately 1 hour. The chicken broth will absorb into the potatoes and onions, which will give this a heartier quality.
Looking for more ways to incorporate this allium veggie into your meal plan? Saute a large onion until golden brown and add to hummus, garnish your Lemon Pasta with Tuna and Capers with a teaspoon or two of finely chopped red onions, chives or shallots! Check out this Baked Whole Onion, or Rustic Onion Tart, Lebanese Roasted Stuffed Onions, Onion Tomato Pizza, and who can forget, French Onion Soup.
Onions are nothing to cry about – include them in your diet! For more on the benefits of onions, visit the National Onion Association where you can download their guide on the Phytochemical and Health Properties of this allium powerhouse.
Pizzorno, J., & Murray, M. (2006). The Textbook of Natural Medicine (3rd ed., Vol. 1). Saint Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone.
Mateljan, G. (2006). The world’s healthiest foods: Essential guide for the healthiest way of eating. Seattle, Wash.: George Mateljan Foundation.