I always knew there must be something special about onions, given the amount of tears I would shed over my chopping board. My snorkel and mask was once a commonly used tool in my kitchen, helping to combat the assault on the tear ducts! Nowadays I’ve exchanged snorkel and mask for a big sip of water, which I then hold in my mouth while I chop the onions. This helps with the tears because it blocks the fumes from going in through the mouth into the sinuses.
It wasn’t until we started researching both red and white onions that we discovered the incredible properties that these bulbous beauties actually possess. Onions belong to the Allium genus (think leeks, shallots, garlic and chives). They have been around for centuries and have been constantly praised for their healing properties.
A powerful phytonutrient found in onions, called quercetin, is known to play a role in lowering cancer risk. Quercetin protects DNA by collecting around the our cells’ nuclei, offering powerful antioxidant protection. It is also helpful in reducing high blood pressure and helps to ease pollen allergies. It works by blocking histamine from being released during allergic reactions. The cool thing about onions is that cooking them does not affect the quercetin levels, so it is not always necessary to eat them raw!
In red onions, higher concentrations of quercetin are found in the outermost rings and in the part closest to the root. I know it can sometimes be a little tricky, but you can take advantage of this higher concentration by peeling off as little of the fleshy, edible portion as possible when removing the onion’s outer paper-like layer.
While all different kinds of onions provide good benefits, we tend to favour the red over the white. The rule is that onions with a sharp, stronger taste, such as red onions, contain a higher amount of antioxidants. Due to the higher amount of antioxidants in red onions compared to white, they provide stronger protection against cancer, and they contain less sugar.
The phytonutrients in onions improve the work of vitamin C in the body, therefore providing us with improved immunity. Onions also contain vitamins A, B6 and E, as well as minerals such as sodium, iron and potassium, and they are an awesome anti-inflammatory!