Consider the Onion

Onions are gross. That may seem unfair, but a small group of Well & Wisers from HCLS were having a discussion one day, and, as it will when you work in a library and discuss almost everything, onions came up. And the consensus was, whether because of taste, texture, or both, onions are not a a crowd favorite. Now there was defense of this poor, maligned bulb. Some declared that onions are a necessity for mirepoix, others admitted that caramelizing made onions more palatable, and one person proclaimed that onions are beneficial to circulation. What? Wait a minute. You don’t make a claim like that in a library without citing your sources. So, we decided to take a closer look at the onion.

The LiveStrong Foundation seems to confirm the circulation claim. Red and yellow onions, as well as zucchini and grapes, contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has a wide array of properties, including the ability to strengthen and extend the capillaries and improve circulation.

But that’s not all the onion has going for it (sorry, onion haters). According to the George Mateljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods (WHF): onions are also high in polyphenol, and “for colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancer, between 1-7 servings of onion has been shown to provide risk reduction. But for decreased risk of oral and esophageal cancer, you’ll need to consume one onion serving per day (approximately 1/2 cup).” WHF also indicates that onions may provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and improving cell membrane function in red blood cells; help support bone and connective tissue, especially in menopausal and post-menopausal women; provide anti-inflammatory benefits; possibly help balance blood sugar; and help prevent bacterial infection.

Onions are part of allium vegetables, but haven’t gotten nearly the attention of that rock star garlic. There’s even some research evidence suggesting that one should include at least one serving of an allium vegetable—such as onions—in your diet every day.

But that’s not all, onion naysayers; onions have been a staple among home remedies for a long time. Organic Facts suggests that onions can provide relief for problems such as the asthma, respiratory problems, angina, cough, and even the common cold. They also indicate that onions can be used to prevent tooth decay and oral infections, may aid in thinning of the blood, and can improve anaemic conditions. Organic Facts even has recipes for treatments, all containing onions, that are said to relieve earaches, treat urinary tract infections, produce glowing skin, repel insects, and boost sex drive (typed with raised eyebrows).

So the onion creep factor may be something we just have to get over. There’s too much good stuff going on in those layers. You can certainly learn more about them through books such as Onions, Onions, Onions by Rosemay Moon. And they’re little wonders that you can easily grow, as detailed in Grow Your Own Vegetables Carol Klein. But if you just can’t get over the yuck factor, maybe you can get some of their benefits though other allium vegetables, so you may want to check out Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science.