Onions have been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in various dishes by many cultures around the world.
These vegetable can be eaten raw, cooked, fried, dried or roasted. They are commonly used as a flavoring and seasoning agent in many dishes. Apart from added an excellent taste to dishes, onions are also provides many health benefits to its users.
In Chinese medicine, onions have been used to treat angina, coughs, bacterial infections, and respiratory problems.
And even the World Health Organization (WHO) also supports the use of onions for the treatment of poor appetite and preventing atherosclerosis.
So lets move on from the benefits of onions and lets look at the history first:
According to the National Onion Association:
Onions probably originated in central Asia, in modern-day Iran and Pakistan. Prehistoric people probably ate wild onions long before farming was invented. Onions may have been among the earliest cultivated crops.
Onions also grew in Chinese gardens as early as 5,000 years ago, and they are referred to in the oldest Vedic writings from India. As early as the sixth century B.C., a medical treatise, the Charaka Sanhita, celebrates the onion as medicine, a diuretic, good for digestion, the heart, the eyes and the joints.
A Sumerian text dated to about 2500 B.C. tells of someone plowing over the governor’s onion patch.
In Egypt, onions were planted as far back as 3500 B.C. They were considered to be objects of worship, and symbolized eternity because of the circle-within-a-circle structure. Paintings of onions appear on the inner walls of pyramids and other tombs.
Onions were buried with mummies. Some Egyptologists theorize that onions may have been used because it was believed that their strong scent and/or magical powers would prompt the dead to breathe again.
Onions are mentioned in the Bible.
In Numbers 11:5, the children of Israel lament the meager desert diet enforced by the Exodus: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.”
The Greeks used onions to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games. Before competition, athletes would consume pounds of onions, drink onion juice, and rub onions on their bodies.
The Romans ate onions regularly. Pedanius Dioscorides, a Roman physician of Greek origin in first century A.D., noted several medicinal uses of onions.
Pliny the Elder catalogued Roman beliefs that onions could cure poor vision, induce sleep, and heal mouth sores, dog bites, toothaches, dysentery and lumbago.
Pliny wrote of Pompeii’s onions and cabbages, and excavators of the doomed city found gardens where, just as Pliny had said, onions had grown. The bulbs had left behind cavities in the ground.
By the Middle Ages, the three main vegetables of European cuisine were beans, cabbage and onions. Onions were prescribed to alleviate headaches, snakebites and hair loss. They were also used as rent payments and wedding gifts.
The Pilgrims brought onions with them on the Mayflower. However, they found that Native Americans were already using wild onions in a variety of ways: eating them raw or cooked, as a seasoning or as a vegetable. Onions were also used in syrups, as poultices, as an ingredient in dyes, and even as toys.
Slicing onions makes you cry because when you cut into it, the onion produces a sulfur-based gas. The gas reacts with the water in your eyes and forms sulfuric acid. To rid your eyes of this fiery irritant, your tear ducts work overtime.
For no more (or fewer) tears, try moving your face farther away from the onion so the gas disperses before reaching your eyes.
Another suggestion for reducing tears is to first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact.
Bulb onions are yellow, red or white. In the United States, about 87 percent of the commercial onion crop is yellow onions, 8 percent is red and 5 percent, white.
Onions range in size from less than 1 inch to more than 4.5 inches in diameter. The most common sizes sold in U.S. markets are 2 to 3.75 inches.
Scallions, or green onions
Scallions, or green onions, are actually immature yellow, red or white onions, harvested before the bulb begins to form. “Spring onions” and “salad onions” are other aliases for immature onions.
A scallion is not a shallot. This misnomer probably occurs because “échalion” is another name for the shallot, derived from the French échalote. Shallots have a distinctive taste, but the flavor is closer to that of mature onions than to that of scallions.
The largest onion ever grown weighed 10 pounds, 14 ounces (about 5 kilograms), according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
U.S. farmers plant about 125,000 acres of onions each year and produce about 6.2 billion pounds a year. The top onion-producing areas are Washington state, Idaho, eastern Oregon and California.
The Ieading onion production countries are China, India, United States, Turkey and Pakistan.
The average American eats 20 pounds (9 kg) of onions per year.
To avoid “onion breath,” eat a sprig of parsley, or rinse your mouth with equal parts lemon juice and water, or chew a citrus peel.
Some health benefits of onions are as given below:
Onion extract is rich in a variety of sulfides, which provide some protection against tumor growth. Some studies have showed, regular consumption of onions helps to reduce the risk of several cancers such as colorectal cancer, oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, and ovarian cancer.
It is suggested to consume one onion serving per day (approximately 1/2 cup).
This is attributed to the sulfur compounds, chromium, and vitamin B6 in onions, which helps prevent heart disease by lowering high homocysteine levels, another potential risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
The regular consumption of onions also have been shown to lower the blood sugar levels.
A study found that, onions contain allyl propyl disulfide that helps to reduce the glucose levels by increasing the amount of insulin.
Promotes Gastrointestinal Health
Onions packed with enormous flavonoids, these flavonoids help to reduce the risk of colon cancer. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors in animals and to protect colon cells from the damaging effects of certain cancer-causing substances.
Good for Skin
The onions help in stimulating the circulation of blood in the mucous membrane. It can be applied as poultice to boils, bruises, wounds, etc. Onion juice mixed with honey also can be the best home remedy for acne.
Stimulate Hair Growth
Onion is rich in sulfur which is one of the essential nutrients in promoting hair growth. A study has shown that applying onion juice on scalp twice a week for 2 months will stimulates hair regrowth.
Onion is an effective remedy for cholera. Grind about 30 grams of onions with 5-7 black peppers. Have 2-3 times of the mixture a day.
This is effective treatment for cholera. On the other hand, this also helps to lessens diarrhoea and vomiting.
Maintain Bone Health
A study revealed that onions also possess the ability of building connective tissue and bone health due to a newly identified substance in it called growth plate chondrocytes (GPCs). Hence onions are very beneficial for women who are at a risk for osteoporosis.
There is also evidence to suggest that the risk of hip fracture in menopausal women may be lowered through regular consumption of onions.
Remedy for Cold and Flu
Onion is also a great remedy for cold and flu. The Native Americans used them to ward off the common cold and flu.
The World Health Organization has even recognized the onion for its ability to help relieve flu symptoms such as coughs, bronchitis, congestion, and respiratory infections.
Relieve Tooth Disorders
Recent research shows that onions may kill bacteria that cause tooth decay and other dental problems. Chewing a raw onion for two to three minutes could kill all the germs in the mouth.
Placing a small piece of onion on the affected tooth or bad tooth can also help in relieving toothache.
Treat Urinary Disorders
Onion has diuretic properties, which are useful in treating urinary disorders. For those suffering from burning sensation during urination, drink water boiled with 6 to 7 gm of onion, this may relieve the symptoms.
Prevents Blood Clot
Onions are considered as natural anti-clotting agents. The sulfur contents in the onions can suppress clumping of platelets thereby help in preventing blood clot.
Improve Digestive Function
Onions are a good source of dietary fibre and prebiotics that encourage the growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive system, thereby improving digestive function.
Protect against Allergies
The onions such as red onions are rich in Quercetin, an antioxidant which is known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties. Flavonoid contained in them blocks the allergy creating histamine and other substances.
According to a recent study, eye symptoms associated with hay fever are greatly reduced by quercetin. Suggested dosage is 200-400 mg thrice a day.
The quercetin found in onions, along with other substances, help promote a healthy immune system. These substances act as anti-inflammatory agents, which reduce the effect of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
When buying onions, choose the fresh ones that are clean, well-shaped, and have no opening at the neck. Avoid those that show sprouting or have signs of black mould as they indicate that the items are old.
In addition, poor quality bulbs often have soft spots, moisture at their neck, and dark patches, which may all be indications of decay.
We hope you enjoyed our 15 health benefits of onions..