The Pungent Goodness of Onions
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
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
GOOD FOR THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
The WHO also states that onions can help improve
appetite. Onions have naturally rich
(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
Onions are a rich source of flavonoids - one of
which is quercetin, a powerful antioxidant with
Quercetin is also recognised for its anti-tumour
properties. To get the most out of quercetin in
onions, take more of the outer layers.
LOWERING CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
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.
EAT LOTS OF ONIONS
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!