The best part of about onions is peeling them layer by layer.
Onions are nearly never eaten on their own, but there many layers to their benefits to human health.
Each part of the vegetable has its own benefits, so make sure to slice through multiple layers when preparing your meals.
Layer 1: antioxidants, antibacterials, and other phytonutrients make the onion a powerhouse for promoting health inside and out.
Layer 2: onions are a significant source of B and C vitamins; copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium; and dietary fiber.
Layer 3: these pungent edible bulbs contain sulfur compounds that make you cry but they also have been shown to prevent Parkinson’s and cardiovascular disease, regulate blood sugar and prevent cancer (1). Not a bad trade-off for a few tears!
Here are five other layers of benefit we derive from onions—a few of which may surprise you.
1. Fights Inflammation
The genesis of most disease is chronic inflammation.
There are many dietary and environmental causes of inflammation within the body: sugar, refined grains, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, trans fats, inadequate nutrition from fresh produce, personal care products with toxic ingredients, air pollution, and more.
The phytochemicals in onions counteract excessive inflammation, promoting general health and especially efficacious for arthritis, asthma, and other respiratory ailments.
2. Fever Reducer
Onion is one of the main powerhouses of chicken soup, but you don’t always have to eat them to get their benefits. Sticking half an onion in each sock overnight will help bring down your fever.
The medical journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology published a study that found when onion is coupled with turmeric, a synergistic chemical reaction occurs that causes pre-cancerous cell death:
“A decrease in polyp number was observed in four of the five patients at three months and four of the four patients at six months. Side effects were minimal [mild diarrhea].” (2)
Other cancers that respond to the allicin and antioxidant quercetin in onions:
- Stomach (3)
4. Heart Health
Anthocyanin is the pigment that gives red onions their distinct color. It’s also a potent flavonoid antioxidant that has been found to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) blood cholesterol, with the ability to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease (4). Sulfuric compounds prevent blood platelets from clumping and clogging your blood vessels, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack (5).
5. Skin Burns
The sulfur and quercetin in onions relieve pain and inflammation and inhibit the formation of blisters. Apply a freshly-cut union directly to a fresh burn or sunburn to induce healing.
Other Onion Options
When peeling the top layers from the bulb, take off as little as possible—antioxidants are more densely concentrated in the outer layers. Use what you do remove in soups and stews to add the nutrients to other dishes you make, removing them before serving.
The health benefits of onions peak when you cut them and quickly dissipate; if you’re not going to immediately use the whole onion, chop it and store it raw in the freezer.
Place it in an airtight glass container after removing as much air as possible. You can add the chopped bits right from the freezer to future meals.