The healing power of the, often underestimated, small but mighty onion

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, May 1, 2014

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 even dried, but did you know that onions have also been used for centuries to help heal.
Egyptians numbered over 8000 ailments that could be alleviated by the onion. This little vegetable has many benefits that can be used to optimize our health today, too.
Onions actually belong to the “Lily” family. Members of this family are also known as “alliums”. There are over 600 species of alliums.
Other members of this group include garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, and shallots. Onion varieties also include red, yellow, white, and green, and each onion has its own unique taste, from very strong to mildly sweet, and have been used for over 4000 years for medicinal purposes.
So what makes this vegetable so good for us? Onions contain sulfur, 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 within our bodies that are “unstable” and “highly reactive”.
Free radicals are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age related diseases. Quercetin (a flavonoid), which acts as an antioxidant, is also found in tea and red wine, but not in high quantities.
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 (natural phenols that act as antioxidants), so choose onions with the strongest flavor for the most health promoting properties.
Don’t give up entirely on white onions though, they still improve health. For maximum benefit, eat   onions raw, but don’t worry…if you prefer cooked onions, that are ok too, because heat doesn’t significantly reduce the onion’s potency. Also, cooked onions are easier to diversify into one’s diet.
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. It’s believed, onions provide protection from cancers. In central Georgia where “Vidalia” onions are grown, mortality rates from stomach cancer are 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 too. 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%.
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 can be 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 been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team,, and the Converse college equestrian team.
He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox