Layered veggie possesses ability to heal

Published 9:42 am Friday, February 25, 2011

For thousands of years the onion has been used as an ingredient in various food dishes by cultures all over the world.

It can be eaten raw, cooked, roasted, fried or dried, but did you know onions have also been used for centuries to help heal? Egyptians numbered more than 8,000 ailments that could be alleviated by the onion. This little vegetable has many benefits that can be used to optimize our health today as well.

Onions actually belong to the “Lily” family. Members of this family are known as “alliums.” Other members of this family include garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots.

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So what makes onions so good for us?

Onions contain sulfur (a compound) and quercetin (a flavonoid). Each of these has been shown to help neutralize “free radicals” in the body, and help protect cell membranes.  Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms in our bodies that are “unstable” and “highly reactive.” These free radicals are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease and age-related disease.

Quercetin (a flavonoid), which  acts as an antioxidant, is also found in tea and red wine, but not in high quantities. Also, white onions provide little quercetin, so stick mostly with yellow and red onions. Western Yellow, New York Bold and Northern Red onions have the greatest concentrations of flavonoids and phenolics, so choose onions with the strongest flavor for the most health promoting properties.

For maximum benefit, eat onions raw, but don’t worry… if you prefer  cooked onions, that’s ok too, because heat doesn’t significantly reduce the onion’s potency.

The sulfur compounds contained in onions, and all “allium” vegetables include thiosulfinates, sulfides, sulfoxides and other odoriferous compounds.

Cysteine sulfozides are responsible for the onion’s flavor and eye irritants.

In central Georgia where “Vidalia” onions are grown, mortality rates from stomach cancer are about one-half that of the rest of the United States.  Greek studies show that high onion consumption with additional “allium” vegetables like garlic show a decrease in stomach cancer. Onions contain flavonoids, substances known to protect the heart and cardiovascular system. Onions also contain natural anti-clotting agents.

According to Dr. Victor Gurewich, director of the Tufts Vascular Laboratory, The juice of one yellow or white onion a day, taken over time can raise HDL (good) cholesterol by over 30 percent. Onions help prevent thrombosis and reduce hypertension, according to the American Heart Association. Garlic does too, but most people consume much larger quantities of onions. In addition to all this, onions have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Onions are a valuable addition to our diets. They provide much flavor while enhancing our health.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit

David Crocker of Landrum has served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., strength coach S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer L.H. Fields modeling agency, taught four semesters at USC-Union David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.