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Onions – Allium cepa

Key Attributes: blood sugar, blood pressure, improved circulation, infection, allergenic, vitamins, minerals, energy, antioxidants


Onions lend their flavor to almost every regional cuisine in the world.  While their taste is extraordinary and unique, onions also contribute to health and wellness, providing many phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins.  Onions have been coined the “rose among the roots” due to medicinal value known since ancient Egypt and commonly prescribed by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. Eating onions on a regular basis can lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, lower cancer risk, and reduce asthma and hayfever due to allergies. Nutritionally they are natural “uppers” providing beta-carotene, vitamin A, potassium, B1, B2, Vitamin C and a host of potent antioxidant and anti-cancer phytonutrients. Add fresh onion to nearly any dish to punch it up in taste and nutrition. Better yet, add onion, garlic and a dash of cayenne or chili pepper. Well your at it toss in some anti-viral mushrooms.onion 150x150 Onions   Allium cepa


Onions, along with garlic, are part of the “allium” family. Onions are native to Asia and the Middle East.  They have been cultivated for thousands of years, and were once used as currency in Egypt.  They are nutrient rich, containing impressive levels of chromium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, carotenoids, flavonoids, and sulfur containing nutrients.  One cup of onions contains only 61 calories, making it a great food to include in weight management regimens.

Poet Robert Stevenson dubbed the onion “the rose among roots” for good reason. The Egyptian medical papyrus Ebero listed over 8000 onion alleviated ailments. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, prescribed onion as a diuretic, wound healer, and pneumonia fighter. In Asia, onions have long been used for infection, hypertension and more.

The National Cancer Institute confirms some of the 25+ secret nutrient ingredients in an onion help prevent cancers. Most notably is quercetin (read more on quercetin below), an antioxidant flavonoid, a potent carcinogen deactivator according to Dr. Dorsch of the University of Munich medical school.

Onion’s allyl propyl disulphide also can help lower blood sugar as effectively as some prescription drugs. Onion’s sulfur containing nutrients provide a myriad of health benefits.  Scientifically known as “allyl sulfides,” these compounds have been clinically shown to reduce blood sugar levels, control inflammation, support immune function, and promote heart health.  These phytonutrients are responsible for the onion’s pungent aroma, as well as the eye irritation experienced while cutting onions.  To maximize the amount of allyl sulfides produced in the onion let it sit for 5-10 minutes after slicing or chopping and before cooking and do not overcook as heat destroys nutrients (See microwave article).

Another unique phytonutrient found in onions is quercetin.  Quercetin has been studied and shown to restrict tumor growth in animals and to have cancer protecting abilities in colon cells.  Quercetin is also well known for its ability to reduce symptoms brought on by allergies, including hayfever and asthma, and is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

scallions 150x150 Onions   Allium cepaOnions are even believed to help prevent hair loss due to scalp circulation benefits. Applied topically onions are even believed to help skin and reduce age spots.

There are two types of onions – spring/summer onions, and storage onions.  Spring/summer onions have a mild, sweet taste, and are generally not used in cooking; rather they are typically used raw in salads.  This type of onion includes Walla Walla, Vidalia, and Maui Sweet.  The nutritional value of spring/summer onions is lacking compared to that of storage onions, and they contain fewer phytonutrients, including sulfur containing compounds.

Storage onions include white, yellow, and red varieties.  White onions have the mildest flavor and lowest nutritional value of the storage onions.  Yellow onions contain the highest concentration of quercetin, which gives them their yellow color.  Red onions contain high levels of quercetin as well, and additionally contain anthocyanins, antioxidant flavonoids which give these onions their red color.

Sauté onions over medium heat for no longer than seven minutes to reap ultimate nutritional benefits.  Avoid over-cooking.  If grilling or broiling, sprinkle onions with lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper to protect against the formation of harmful compounds.

Watch this interesting video on identifying and finding wild onions.0 Onions   Allium cepa

Recipe (using onions, chili, tumeric, and much more – we suggest holding the salt unless using sea salt, and use organic brown or wild rice):0 Onions   Allium cepa

For an amazing recipe loaded with nutritional tips and secrets using seaweed with onion visit our Seaweed page.


The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

Super Healing Foods, by Goulart

OWC research staff: Thomas Cifelli and Jennie Evans

This entry was posted in Herbs, Nutrition

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