The humble onion is a really a nutritional Super-Hero, featured in almost every savory dish I create! As a member of the lily family, this pungent bulb adds flavor, rich texture and key nutrients to an array of cuisines around the world. The therapeutic value of onions was identified thousands of yeas ago by Ayurvedic doctors who noted their ability to help heal the heart. Cooked onion forms the body of many Indian sauces to which aromatic spice mixes are then added.
COOKING NOTES: If your eyes burn while prepping onions, it is because slicing them releases a form of sulfuric acid that is highly irritating to mucous membranes. To reduce that irritation, refrigerate the onions, or protect your cornea from the sulfuric acid by wearing contact lenses.
Red onions are fantastic slivered raw into salads, but many people find they digest onions better when cooked. Caramelizing them in olive oil over low heat over 20 minutes turns them into a golden, sweeter version that adds rich flavor to many dishes.
KEY PHYTONUTRIENTS AND HEALTH BENEFITS: The pungent aroma of onion comes from the phytonutrient, allicin, also shared by its cousin, garlic. Allicin contains sulfur compounds that serve as antioxidants and fuel our body’s detoxification enzyme systems.
Onions are also rich in quercitin, a member of the flavonoid family of phytonutrients. Quercitin has been shown to reduce inflammation and support the production of insulin. It helps stabilize mast cell membranes, blocking the release of histamine, and has been used in the treatment of allergies.
Research is demonstrating that onion can help to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reduce clot formation. Studies have shown that those with the highest intake of onions had the lowest incidence of several forms of cancer. So include onions in your diet to help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer as well as diabetes, since a recent meta-analysis confirmed that onions also help insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
DOCTOR’S NOTE: Onions are a FODMAP containing food. While the fibers in onion provide great health benefit, if bacteria are present in the small intestine, they may ferment onion to produce excessive gasses that contribute to IBS. Cooking onions reduces this effect. Consider temporarily eliminating raw onion to see if it reduces IBS symptoms
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