The Pungent Goodness of Onions   

The Pungent Goodness of Onions

Apart from bringing tears to your eyes and adding flavour to food, what else do onions do? Nutritionist Grace Kang reveals some interesting facts about onions.

One of the most important ingredients in the culinary world is the onion. In fact, after tomatoes, onions are the most important horticultural crop on earth. Apart from having gastronomic value, onions also have medicinal and therapeutic properties. Since antiquity, onions have been recognised for their anti-bacterial and anti-fungal power.

Onions are of the Allium genus and are rich in sulphur compounds, which are responsible for the strong pungent odour. The Chinese took advantage of these compounds and introduced them into their traditional medicines. The Chinese still use onions to treat coughs, colds, asthma, bronchitis, bacterial infections and heartburn.

These treatments are definitely not old wives' tales, because the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that onion extracts provide relief for coughs and colds, asthma and bronchitis-especially allergy-induced bronchial constriction. The WHO also agrees that onions are good for preventing atherosclerosis-the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.

The WHO also states that onions can help improve appetite. Onions have naturally rich fructooligosaccharides
(FOS), which encourage the growth of bifidobacteria, one of the major genera of good bacteria that make up the gut flora in the colon.
Onions also prevent harmful gut bacteria from reproducing. It has been found that consuming onions at least twice a week can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Onions are a rich source of flavonoids - one of which is quercetin, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Quercetin is also recognised for its anti-tumour properties. To get the most out of quercetin in onions, take more of the outer layers.

One of onion's health-promoting properties, and which is especially beneficial for diabetic patients, is a trace mineral known as chromium. This mineral may help to enhance the interaction of insulin with cells.

Scientists have also discovered that a regular intake of onions may lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Once again, it is the sulphur compounds, chromium and vitamin B6 that break down and lower the levels of known as plasma homocysteine.

Onions are among the small number or vegetables and fruits that have been identified as highly beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin Madison found that there are anti-platelet activities in onions which may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, the more pungent the onions are, the more health benefits they have.

Finally, use lots of onions, especially when grilling or roasting meats. The onions will work on the meat and reduce the amount of carcinogens caused by the high heat. Onions are more effective for your health when eaten raw. So, the next time you order satay, ask for lots of raw onions!

Happy reading,

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