Onions are healthy seasonings. In general, most people like an onion incorporated into a dish or even raw and finely chopped. An outing can make just that difference in taste. The onion is healthiest raw because unprocessed and unheated (as with most foods) the onion retains most of its nutrients. We often don’t think about it that much, but besides that, onions are also ‘healthy’. For example, an onion contains fiber, just like a brown sandwich and also vitamin C, like an orange. We also find various types of the vitamin B group, the minerals phosphorus, calcium and potassium and finally trace elements such as iron, strontium, copper, zinc, boron and manganese in an onion. All this in very small quantities, but no less healthy because a diet is about the total picture of a healthy meal.
Stories about onions date back 5,000 years ago in indigenous Asia and later in China and India where it was believed that onions helped protect humans from infectious diseases. The Egyptians were convinced that the growth of an onion coincided with the phases of the moon. Onions were sacrificed to the gods and the pyramid builders were also fed with this special food. In all likelihood, the Romans brought the onion to Europe and it was also cultivated in the Netherlands from the 15th century.
What types of onions are there?
Onions belong to the garlic family. Garlic also belongs to this family, although it is not an onion, as do leeks and chives. The official name is Alliaceae. The most famous types of onions that we use in the kitchen are:
- Regular onion – has a spicy taste and has a long shelf life. Most commonly used.
- Red onion – has a red skin and is less sharp in taste.
- White onion – is white on the outside and has a very sharp taste. Sharper than the regular onion.
- Sweet onion – sweeter than regular onion.
- Spring onions. Also called spring onions – have a light onion taste.
- Shallots – sharper and also sweeter than the regular onion.
- Silver onion – small sweet and sour onions.
What nutrients does an onion consist of?
In short, you can find the following substances in an onion:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Carbohydrates and sugars
- Volatile oil
- Antioxidants including ‘quercetin’
Quercetin is often mentioned specifically when talking about the nutrients found in onions and this is because quercetin is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are very important for our body in its fight against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause diseases and enter our body through inhalation, smoking, unhealthy diet, etc. We really need these antioxidants because even though our body also produces antioxidants, this is far from enough. We find many antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. If you want to know more about the effect between antioxidants and free radicals, read the article: ‘Antioxidants and free radicals’. Quercetin therefore helps to reduce free radicals and also regenerates vitamin E (also a strong antioxidant). Quercetin can also be found in apples and tea, but of the three it is most commonly found in onions.
Cutting an onion
As soon as you start cutting an onion, that special sharp smell enters the room. And, unfortunately, also in your nose and eyes. It makes you cry. There are many tips in circulation that are intended to prevent this crying. Turn on the water tap, rinse the onion before cutting, put some water under your eyes, first put it in the freezer for 10 minutes and so on. But, you can never really completely counteract the reaction of the eyes to the substances that come from the onion. This is because as soon as you cut an onion, a substance is released from the onion that mixes in space as a gas. This substance is called propanthial S-oxide and when this substance is released when cutting an onion, sulfuric acid is formed and that naturally irritates the eyes. Our beautifully functioning body responds immediately by producing more tears so that the sulfuric acid does not have a chance to damage the eyes. As soon as the onion is heated, the sharp smell decreases. Cooked onions even taste sweet.
Catch a cold? An onion next to your bed
It becomes clear that this atomization of substances also has a good side when you have a cold. From grandmother’s tips we learn that you can relieve the shortness of breath you experience while sleeping when you have a cold by placing a cut open onion (so that the substances can be released) next to your sleeping place. The molecules of the substance continue to be released throughout the night and ensure that you can breathe better. Do not you believe it? Just try!
Furthermore, more healthy benefits of onions are described, such as that onions help prevent cardiovascular disease because onions influence blood clotting. Onions have an antiseptic effect and thus help prevent flu, colds and even hay fever. Onions are said to be good for the formation of strong bones and also strengthen the immune system. Is it true? No idea, but it is a fact that vegetables and fruit are healthy and every type of vegetable or fruit contains healthy substances that support our body and make it stronger. The more the better. And as for grandmother’s tips, they often turn out to be correct!
- Why good nutrition is so important
- Vitamins, minerals and trace elements
- Antioxidants and free radicals. What are those?
- Garlic. A super healthy bun from the garlic family