Onions: A Vegetable and an Herb
Onions are most commonly thought of as a vegetable, but they are also an herb! (See Onion as an Herb). Plus, they are good for you.
Do Onions Fight Cancer?
Onions may make you cry, but there is an upside to those tears. The same substances that give onions their pungency are believed to help fight cancer.
A study from the National Cancer Institute found that individuals who ate the most allium vegetables (onions, scallions, garlic, chives and leeks) had a nearly 50 percent lower cancer risk than those who ate the least. Some laboratory studies have shown that the natural substances in these vegetables have anti-tumor effects. Other studies link the vegetables with a lower risk of cancer of the colon, stomach, prostate, esophagus, breast and endometrium (lining of the uterus).
Onions are low in calories yet add abundant flavor to a wide variety of foods.
With only 30 calories per serving (1/2 cup), onions are:
- Sodium free
- Fat free
- Cholesterol free
- Provide fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and other nutrients.
Onions, an underground bulb related to the lily, are prized in most cultures for the flavor and piquancy they add to a wide variety of dishes. Because onions are available year round, they can be used in many dishes in all seasons.
Onions come in many sizes, shapes and flavors. Mild-flavored onions include the white or yellow Bermuda onion, yellow Spanish onion, red onion and pearl onion. The stronger-flavored globe onion can have a yellow, red, or white skin. Special varieties include the sweet Vidalia onion from Georgia.
When buying onions, choose those that are heavy for their size, with papery, dry skin and no scent or moistness. Strong-smelling onions have probably been bruised. Also, avoid onions that have started to sprout, as they are well past their prime.
Onion Health Benefits
Research shows that onions may help guard against many chronic diseases. That is probably because onions contain generous amounts of a flavonoid called quercetin. Other sources are tea and apples, but research shows that absorption of quercetin from onions is twice that from tea and more than three times that from apples.
Studies have shown that quercetin protects against cataracts , cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
In addition, onions contain a variety of other naturally occurring chemicals known as organosulfur compounds that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels .
Onions Aid Detox
Onions thin and cleanse the blood and lower LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL cholesterol. Onions also help detoxify the respiratory tract and help fight asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, and diabetes. Onions help cleanse the body of viruses and the intestines of harmful bacteria.
Onion Rings: Make 'em Healthy!
Onion rings are so popular there is a "day" for them! June 22 is "National Onion Rings Day".
Onions are a good source of vitamin C, are fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free. But when we fry them in oil ... well, let's just say we're pretty much losing the health benefits. Fried onion rings aren't a great "diet" food; however, you can enjoy them by giving up the frying and baking them instead. Try our Baked Onion Rings Recipe.
The origin of fried onions is obscure, but here's a recipe that appeared in the New York Times in 1933, on November 5, 1933, at the height of the Depression.
"Cut large onions into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Separate slices into rings. Dip rings into milk, dredge with flour... Fry onion rings until brown."
Quick pickled onions: Thinly slice red onions. Marinate in white vinegar for ten minutes and enjoy!
Welsh Bunching Onions:
Bunching onion is a perennial with stately clusters of stalks. Use them in the same manner you would use other onions. To grow, harvest from the outside of the bunch; the center will keep producing offshoots.
The Antique Onion
Onions are interesting and date way back in time for more than just a food - the onion has been used medicinally since antiquity for:
- The inside of an onion skin placed on cuts and scratches acted as a wound ointment.
- An onion placed on a wasp or bee sting soon took the pain away.
- A mixture of onions and sugar in water was a cure for whooping cough. Rubbed on the head it was believed a cure for baldness.
Onions were also thought to repel evil spirits, and bunches of onions were often hung outside the door or over the manger in the barn to keep witches and bad fairies away.
Onions were also used to predict the weather:
Onion skin, very thin, Mild winter's coming in.
Onion skin, thick and tough, Coming winter cold and rough.
"I will not move my armies without onions". --General Ulysses S. Grant, in a dispatch to the U.S. War Department
"For it is every Cook's Opinion,
No savory Dish without an Onion,
And, lest your Kissing should be spoil'd Your Onions must be thoroughly boiled:
Or else you may spare, Your Mistress a Share,
The Secret will never be known; She cannot discover
The Breath of a Lover, But think it as sweet as her own."
--Jonathan Swift's translation of Martial's "Xenia 18"
"Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in.
Onion skins very tough, coming winter very rough."
-old English rhyme
"For this is every cook's opinion,
No savoury dish without an onion;
But lest your kissing should be spoiled, Your onions should be thoroughly boiled."
-Jonathon Swift, Irish satirist
Cucumber and Onion Salad Recipe Card
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