Onions ‘Pyaz’ have layers of research based health benefits and are packed with nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Onion also referred to as the bulb onion is a vegetable (or fruit… the debate rages on) that forms an essential ingredient in Indian cuisines.
Scientifically, onions are called Allium cepa. In Hindi, they are known as Pyaz or Kanda. Onions can be consumed either raw, dried, or cooked. Onions offer a strong taste and a pungent flavour. They grow underground as bulbs.
The onion plant has bluish-green leaves, and the bulb is at the base which begins to swell after a fixed period. There are several different types of Onions available, they are yellow onions, sweet onions, white onions, red onions, shallots, green onions and leeks.
Onions are famous for making people cry when they are chopped. This tear-inducing effect is attributed to the enzyme reactions which triggers the release of a gas that irritates the lacrimal glands producing tears for the eyes. Onions are rich with several vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Consumption of onions offers numerous health benefits.
Onion is rich in healthy soluble fiber known as fructans. They contain small amounts of iron, calcium, folate, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants – quercetin and sulfur. They are exceptional sources of flavonoids, sulfuric compounds, polyphenols, and phytochemicals. It does not contain cholesterol and contains minimal amounts of fat.
100 gm of onion contains 40 calories, 89.11 gm of water, 9.34 gm of carbohydrate, 4.24 gm of sugar, 1.7 gm of fibre, 1.1 gm of proteins, 0.16 gm of fats, 0.046 mg of thiamine, 0.12 mg of vitamin B6, 7.4 mg of vitamin C, 23 mg of calcium, 0.21 mg of iron, 10 mg of magnesium, 29 mg of phosphorus, 146 mg of potassium, and 0.12 mg of manganese.
Potential Health Benefits of Onions…
1/7. Prevents cancer
1. The sulfur compounds and flavonoid antioxidants present in onions possess the cancer-fighting properties.
2. The diallyl trisulfide compound present in onion regulates several pathways linked with cancer development. They comprise of provoking the cancer cells to kill themselves, preventing the spread of cancer cells, and induces programmed cell death.
3. Quercetin compound present in onion is an effective anti-cancer agent that restricts cancer cells in certain cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, lung, ovarian, and endometrial.
4. The high content of quercetin in onions helps in decreasing inflammation and is effective in both, treatment and prevention of cancer.
5. Quercetin and S-allylmercaptocysteine compound of onion prevents the spread of cancer cells.
6. Fisetin and quercetin content of onion prevents the growth of tumors.
7. Onionin A, a sulfur-containing compound of onion reduces tumour development and slows the spread of lung and ovarian cancers.
8. Compounds of onion are known to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers such as breast, stomach, colorectal, oral, laryngeal, and oesophageal.
2/7. Boosts digestive health
1. Onions possess a high content of fiber and prebiotic, which are essential for optimal gut health.
2. Inulin, a type of fiber and fructooligosaccharides present in onion acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotic help in boosting the number of friendly microbes which boosts the digestive health and enhances bacterial balance in the gut.
3. Inulin content of onion also helps in boosting nutrient absorption and preventing constipation.
4. Oligofructose, another soluble fiber found in onions is known to treat and prevent different types of diarrhoea.
5. The phytochemicals present in onions reduces the risk of gastric ulcers.
6. The natural prebiotic present in onions is known to treat pain in the stomach and stomach worms.
3/7. Regulates blood sugar
1. Certain compounds such as quercetin and sulfur present in onions possess anti-diabetic effects.
2. The sulfur content triggers increased insulin production thus, reducing blood sugar.
3. The quercetin content interacts with the cells in the pancreas, small intestine, fat tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver to regulate whole-body blood sugar levels.
4. Biotin and chromium content of onion enhances regulation of blood sugar levels and also reduces insulin resistance. Biotin treats symptoms linked with type 2 diabetes.
5. Polyphenols content of onions play a major role in glycemic control.
4/7. Maintains bone health
1. Onions are known to decrease oxidative stress, accelerate antioxidant levels, and reduce bone loss thus, preventing osteoporosis and boosting bone density.
2. Quercetin content in onions, restricts the activity of histamines, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes thus, reducing chances of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
3. White onions contain a compound known as GPCS, which decreases bone loss.
4. Consumption of onion helps in enhancing bone mineral density, treating joint pains, preventing bone deterioration, increasing bone mass, and reducing bone loss in postmenopausal women.
5/7. Fights heart disease
1. The allyl sulphides present in onions prevents heart disease.
2. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Quercetin present in onions reduce inflammation and blood pressure. It also decreases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by averting plaque build-up in arteries.
3. Thiosulfinates present in onions act as a natural blood thinner, preventing blood platelets from clotting thus, reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
4. The vitamin C, fibre and potassium content of onion play a role in enhancing heart health.
5. The antioxidants in onions decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Raw onions promote the production of good cholesterol.
6/7. Improves immune system
1. The high content of vitamin C and phytochemical in onions strengthens the immune systems.
2. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin required to make collagen. Collagen is responsible for immunity support and wound healing.
3. Selenium present in onion helps stimulate the immune function. It also averts excessive immune response.
4. The polyphenols in onions protect the body against free radicals. Removal of free radicals encourages a strong immune system.
7/7. Other possible health benefits…
Onion produces numerous health benefits, apart from the health benefits mentioned above, it also produces few more such as, protects the colon, shield the kidneys from damage, protects the voice, prevents inflammation and other allergies, cures ear disorders, promotes respiratory health, improves sleep, enhances eye health, effective for oral health, aids in cholera treatment, prevents blood clots, offers energy boost.
Onion also improves sexual health, enhances brain health, helps cure fever, reduces oxidative stress, eases menopause symptoms, makes the skin glow, fights the effects of ageing, treats acne, removes dark spots, treats skin pigmentation, treats stings and bites, helps get rid of moles, promotes hair growth, treats dandruff, reverses grey hair, maintains hair colour, eliminates head lice, facilitates detoxification process, reduces obesity risk, and improves memory.
Onions have layers of research based health benefits and are packed with nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Onion is a must in Indian cooking due to its amazing nutritional benefits.
How to use Onions?
Onions are used either in the raw or cooked form. They are used in several different types for culinary purpose, some of them are as follows:
- For Sauté.
- As a Tea Flavour.
- Roast or grill them.
- In homemade salsa.
- Adding in egg dishes.
- Sauté them for soups.
- Used in stir-fry dishes.
- In pickles and chutneys.
- In homemade salad dressing.
- Added to savoury baked goods.
- Add slices to salads or sandwiches.
- Pickled in vinegar and eaten as a snack.
- Topping meat or chicken with sautéed onions.
- Add diced onions to pasta, stews, soups, sauces, and dips.
How to make Cucumber and Onion salad?
Take 2 peeled and sliced cucumbers and place them in a large bowl. Cut ½ medium onion into long, thin strips and place them too, in the bowl.
In a measuring cup, add ½ cup of white vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1 clove of finely minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, fresh ground, 2 tsp of sugar, and ½ cup water. Mix them thoroughly and pour it over the cucumber and onions.
Tightly cover it using a plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour, before you serve.
How to make Onion Tea?
A latest research article published in European Clinical Nutrition’s journal by traditional healers agree that the immune system can be strengthened by consumption of Onion tea.
Though there are various types of onion teas but what works for us is simple onion or onion and ginger tea because of their complimentary taste.
For simple onion tea, bring the half an onion to a boil. Let it simmer for 2 to 4 minutes and add jaggery/sweetener according to your test and flavour preference.
For those trying the honey ginger tea… Take a few slices of ginger and half an onion.
Mix them in a pot with green tea. Let it simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, according to the potency and taste you can manage.
Sieve the concoction, your immunity boosting tea is ready. Add sweetener to your taste.
Please Note… People also make onion tea out of onion peals. Some also add bay leaves to this concoction. Try your own taste.