A smart guide to cooking with nutritious onions

Don't cry for onions — embrace them! They may be synonymous with tears and onion breath, but they're essential to cooks everywhere for their unique flavour. They're also good for you. Read on to learn more about cooking with nutritious onions.

A smart guide to cooking with nutritious onions

Check out some of the health benefits!

  • According to several studies, onions may help bring down high blood sugar in diabetic animals. In one Egyptian study of diabetic rats, onion juice reduced blood sugar levels by an amazing 70 percent.
  • One of few published studies in humans, from India, dates back some 30 years, but it found that people with diabetes who ate 60 grams (two ounces) of onions a day experienced a significant drop in blood sugar levels.
  • Researchers credit these effects to the sulfur compounds in onions as well as their flavonoids.
  • These powerful antioxidant compounds also help fight some of the side effects of high blood sugar, not to mention heart disease.
  • Onions even seem to boost HDL, the "good" cholesterol. One study found that people who ate the most onions, along with other foods rich in flavonoids, had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease.
  • Thanks to their sulfur compounds, onions, like aspirin, also help prevent dangerous blood clots. And they're known to help lower high blood pressure.
  • The green tops of scallions, or spring onions, are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene.
  • Finally, onions are one of the richest food sources of chromium, a trace mineral that improves the body's ability to respond to insulin.

Reduce your risk with onions

  • Onions' sulfur compounds and flavonoids may help fend off several forms of cancer.
  • One Chinese study found that men who ate at least 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of chopped onions and other related vegetables (garlic, scallions, chives and leeks) a day had about half the risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than four millilitres (1/4 tablespoon) of these veggies daily.
  • There's also a link between a high intake of flavonoids and reduced risk of lung cancer.
  • Evidence suggests that onions may help preserve bone and prevent osteoporosis. And because the sulfur compounds are strongly anti-inflammatory, onions may also help relieve the pain and swelling of arthritis.

What is the perfect portion?

A serving of 60 millilitres (1/4 cup) is considered a portion.

  • Onions have very few calories, so add them cooked or raw to as many dishes as you can think of.
  • Minced raw onions offer the greatest health benefits.

Using onions in the kitchen

Like garlic, onions can be added to just about anything. Here are just a few suggestions.

  • Add onions to almost any stew or stir-fry.
  • Combine chopped onions, tomatoes, avocado and jalapeño peppers for a blood sugar-friendly chip dip.
  • Add sliced onions to green salads.
  • Use chopped onions to add crunch to any sandwich salad, such as chicken, tuna or egg salad.
  • Make fruit chutney with peaches, mangos, pears, apples or apricots and plenty of chopped onion. Serve with meals as a condiment that won't upset your blood sugar balance.
  • Roast some onions to serve as a savoury side dish.
  • Enjoy French onion soup, but go easy on the bread and cheese topping. Try adding a few whole-grain croutons instead.
  • Use caramelized onions to add wonderful flavour to any vegetable-and-pasta dish.

It's true that these underground globes don't offer a whole lot of nutrients, but what they have in bulk are powerful sulfur-containing compounds, which are responsible for their pungent odour — and many of their health benefits. Keep this guide in mind and add onions to your diet today!

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