Onions along with garlic, leeks, shallots, and scallions, are members of the pungent sulfur-containing allium family. These foods all contribute as aromatics in culinary applications and potent detoxifiers in the food-as-medicine realm. Onions are a great source of antioxidants and polyphenols, two of the most potent are glutathione and quercetin. These compounds are being widely studied as anti-tumorigenic, having the ability to stop the growth of cancer or tumors in the body, while stabilizing and protecting our healthy DNA.
Beyond detox support and anti-cancer effects, the quercetin has a role as an anti-inflammatory antihistamine aiding with allergies and immune response. Food has synergistic effects and provides nutrients beyond those targeted for a specific function, whole foods are superior to supplements as they have a complex web of biological nutrients. When getting quercetin through eating an onion-we may end up getting better protection from oxidative stress and gain the nutritional benefits of other polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.
A wide variety of allyl sulfides are found in onions. These sulfur compounds are the source of aiding in regeneration of glutathione a potent antioxidant, detoxifier, and player in DNA synthesis/repair. The sulfur compounds also play a great role in regulating cholesterol levels and decreasing risk for cardiovascular disease as they regulate the blood flow in our vessels.
To gain the medicinal benefits of onions aim to consume at least one-half of a medium onion (about 1/2 cup chopped) daily. Use this goal to modify your recipes accordingly. Most recipes will start with sautee an onion or garlic, add more for additional benefits.
Also, the goal of 1/2 cup can be seen in combo with other allium options such as leeks and scallions, so feel free to mix it up! We once hypothesized that these potent polyphenols were the cause of tears or watery eyes when slicing; however, researchers discovered a special gas that has been named lachrymatory factor (LF). Although this gas does not have direct health benefits it does play a role in increasing the sulfur compounds necessary for cardiovascular protection and detox/anti-cancer effects!