Onions Without Tears

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OK, so maybe you’ll dab your eyes a time or two at the cutting board—and postpone that kiss. The many uses and benefits of the unglamorous onion make it all worthwhile. The onion family includes red, yellow and white varieties as well as scallions and shallots. Ancient Egyptians, who were among the first cultivators of this pungent plant (Allium cepa), lauded the onion’s spherical shape and concentric rings for their symbolism of eternal life. Today we praise this sharp flavored vegetable as the savory savior of many a bland dish. It’s a take-charge ingredient (watch that amount!) or a joy by itself when fried, boiled, roasted, sautéed, pickled or raw. And thanks to the organic sulfur compounds they contain, onions are good for you. So what have you got to cry about?

This is America’s most popular onion, accounting for more than 85 percent of domestic onion production. However they’re served, yellow onions offer a huge nutritional boost to any meal. A half a cup of cooked or raw yellow onion contains more than 1 gram of soluble dietary fiber, which helps control cholesterol and lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Yellow onions are rich in minerals and contain 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of manganese, which helps build bones and prevent arthritis.

White onions boast uber-healthy nutrients such as fiber, sulfur and flavonoids, including quercetin. Flavonoids contain anticoagulant properties that help the heart with blood circulation. And the onions’ sulfur content provides relief for asthma sufferers and staves off the common cold.

This variety is the onion family’s quercetin champ. Quercetin acts as an anti-inflammatory and eases the swelling and stiffness of arthritis. Canadian research indicates that compounds in red onions can help kill cancer cells. And this food’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties combine to help curb the symptoms of viruses and airborne illnesses. When chopped, this onion releases allicin, which has antifungal properties great for reducing dandruff. Red onions are super-rich in chromium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body.

Did You Know?

  • One serving of onion contains 45 calories.
  • Scallions, a member of the onion family, are originally native to China.
  • A cup of scallions, with nearly 2 grams of protein, has only 32 calories.
  • The notion that leaving a cutopen onion in the room with you overnight can banish a cold or the flu? A myth, alas. —Parker Stack

FAST FACT In the late 1800s, the area now known as the Celery Farm in Allendale was known to locals as Oniontown. The land earned the name because onions were among the first principal crops grown there.

Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features