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The Onion – A little pain has a tremendous gain

December 7, 2012

A Pungent Onion is Good for you

By Joan McDaniel                     December 7, 2012

Did you know one of the most popular, best known vegetables, famous for bringing tears to your eyes; is one of the best sources for anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants than any other food source? Red onions get their bite from the many sulfur groups they contain. It is the sulfur that makes you cry when you cut them.

The More You Cry the Better the Onion.crying onions

According to my numerous herbal, homeopathy, and holistic nutrition informative sources, the vegetable that brings tears to your eyes is literally packed with beneficial compounds.  Famous for its pungent and bitey flavor, the inexpensive Onion is literally packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants.  These antioxidants are flavonoid called Quercetin. The Red or yellow Onion also contain Sulfur.  It is the Sulfur in the onion that makes you cry.  The more pungent the onion is, the higher its antioxidant value.  Therefore the mild, sweet, or white onion (the one that causes no tears) lacks these compounds. The smellier the onion, the better it is for you.

Garlic – Is famous for being a inflammation and disease fighter and it does contain a number of active components, including allicin, alliinase high levels of Vitamin C and B6, and sulfur compounds, which contribute to its potent antibiotic, antiviral and fungicidal properties. But the outer leaves of the red onion is not only higher in queretin than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks, but also higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper. Note: for best results to not cook or heat the garlic, use it raw.

Some brief definitions:

Antioxidants or a flavonoid Foods– fight the illness caused by the inflammation in the body caused by free-radicals.  We get free-radicals from the environment and the food we eat such as hydrogenated cooking oils.  Free-radicals are missing an electron; the antioxidant provides the needed electron and eliminates the inflammation.  In other words antioxidants fight disease. Flavonoids are found in Green Tea, the skin of Red onions and apples, blueberries, broccoli, dark unsweetened chocolate, grapes, green tea and other food sources.

Inflammation – causes most if not all disease in the human body, antioxidant or foods that contain flavonois fight inflammation.

Quercetin – a flavonol – is widely distributed in nature.  The name has been used since 1857, and is derived from quercetum (oak forest).  It is a plant-derived flavonoid found in fruits, vegetables, leaves and grains.  It also may be used as an ingredient in supplements, beverages or foods.

Yellow or red onions are the best source for the compound called quercetin.


Best Eaten Raw

Onions are often consumed raw, grilled or lightly cooked with other foods, or added as color to salads. They tend to lose their redness when cooked.  Red Onions are available throughout the year and can be stored up to 3 to 4 months giving them a long shelf life.  They travel well from the farm to your grocery store shelf and still are fresh great for the winter months.

Flowering Red Onions growing in a field


red onion

As with most fruit and vegetables, the anti-oxidant flavonoids are extremely rich in the outer layers.  Many people will peel off the first few layers of the onion and lose much of these critical nutrients. Be sure to utilize the outer, fleshy edible portions as much as possible. Over-peeling, by taking off the outer 2 layers of flesh will cost one about 20% of its quercetin and over 75% of its anthocyanins.

Simmering onions in a soup or broth will damage some of the anthocyanins but not the quercetin. The quercetin moves into the soup or broth. The lower the heat the more nutrients will be contained in the soup or broth.

Studies have shown that 4-7 servings of red onions each week (equivalent to about 2-3 onions) has been associated with the greatest benefit

Onions are rich in beneficial sulfur compounds


Sulfur is a non-metallic element and is available all over the earth’s surface.  It is tasteless, odorless, insoluble in water, and occurs in yellow crystals.  The word sulfur is Latin for “burning stone”.  When sulfur is burnet it smells like rotten eggs. Sulfur has had many uses for over 4,000 years.

In Egypt, onions were considered an object of worship.  The onion was used as a payment for the workers that built the Pyramids.  Onions were also buried along with their Pharaohs.  The Egyptians saw eternal life in the anatomy of the onion and due to the red onions sulfur content they thought it would bring the ability to breath to the afterlife.

The more pungent the taste the more sulfur. Sulfur gives it the eye-irritating gases the smell.  Sulfur is also responsible for the potent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the onion.  Sulfur was at one time the only antibacterial and disease fighter mankind had.

Sulfur can also be used as a preserving agent for meat.

There is an old tradition, I have heard from many people about what their parents and grandparents did when there was sickness in the house.  A raw peeled, cut onion with added salt was but by the bed side and left over night.  It would absorb the bacteria and toxins.  In the morning the onion will be dry and smell bad it may of even of turned black.  This is good to know, for if you store a cut onion uncovered in the refrigerator over-night, do not eat it for it absorbs toxins and wastes.  The more I search the Web; I cannot find any verification of this claim.

Red Onion Benefits

Helps the Respiratory system

helps loosening the mucous so that breathing can become easier.

helps with the Allergies, Clogged nose, Hay fever, and Sinus relief.

Helps the common cold

May even help those suffering from conditions like COPD, which hurt the ability to breathe. For example, COPD (which includes emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis) causes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Use onions for an earache.

Helps the Circulatory system

Help fight Heart Disease

Sulfur can be used to help prevent blood clotting and act as a blood thinner thus inhibiting blood cell clumping.

The sulfur compounds in red onions also lower LDL cholesterol & triglycerides while boosting HDL levels. They are associated with improving cell membrane function in red blood cells and improving oxygen utilization. This improves cardiovascular function.

Helps the endocrine system, Eyes

Helps treat the itchy, red inflamed and sore skin resulting from many skin diseases like Acne, Fibromyalgia and Hives.

Fibromyalgia is not a disease, it’s a syndrome. Trying to get a medical diagnoses is silly. You don’t need to be told you have muscular and connecting tissue aches and pains. That’s what fibromyalgia means. Fibro= Connective Tissue; Myo= Muscle; Algia= Pain, thus fibromyalgia. You either hurt and you know it or you don’t.  A doctor may want to tell you it is all in your head but I hope you know your body a little better than he does.

Use the sulfur in onions to help the eyes with Cataracts and Macular degeneration.

Helps lowers blood sugar – Red onions are also a fantastic source of chromium which lowers blood sugar and enhances cellular insulin sensitivity. This mineral helps the cell’s ability to respond to insulin and to better utilize oxygen. Chromium deficiencies lead to diabetes and heart disease.

Helps the Digestive System

Use for diarrhea especially with little children or babies, dysentery and the resulting dry itch of diaper rash.

Helps improve fat metabolism.

aids in weight loss

aids in detoxification of the colon.

Dietary Source of Quercetin  Quercetin

Many plants, especially fruits, contain abundant amounts of quercetin. Following is a list in descending quercetin order:

It is found in *citrus fruit, *apples, green tea, black tea, onion, broccoli, buckwheat,*grapes, red wine, Olive oil, and *cranberries. Lesser amounts are found in leafy green vegetables, olive oil,* blackberries, *dark cherries, *bilberries, *blueberries, beans, cauliflower and cabbage. *Also the contents of fruit and the amount of sugar or fructose.  The berry is low in fructose but other fruit can contain up to 20 grams of Fructose.

The outer leaves of the red onion is not only higher in queretin than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks, but also higher than tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper.

Quercetin is also available as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules and tablets.
The Native Homes of the Red Onion

Onions are native to Asia and the Middle East and have been cultivated for over five thousand years. Onions were highly regarded by the Egyptians.  The Onion was used as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids and placed in the tomb for the spiritual wellbeing in the afterlife.

Red Onion was cultivated and grown in Turda Central Romania, Tropea, Italy and in the United States in Wethersfield Connecticut 1669.  wetherfield onion

Home of the Red Onion

Wethersfield Connecticut, famous for the four witch trials and three executions for witchcraft in early 1700’s Puritan America, was the center for the red onion trade of New England.  According to Yankee magazine, “Outsiders dubbed the Connecticut village ‘Oniontown,’ with a crosshatch of affection and derision, for this was home of the world-famous Wethersfield red onion”.

Home of red onion

In addition, the town was home to William Comstock, a well-known 19th century gardening expert, author of the era’s most prominent gardening book, Order of Spring Work.. In 1820 Comstock founded Comstock, Ferre & Company, currently America’s oldest continuously operating seed company, pioneering the commercial sale of sealed packets of seeds as he had learned from the Amish. Other nationally prominent seed companies in and around the town are the offspring of this agricultural past.  comstock ferre

How to Store Onions

Red Onions are available throughout the year and can be stored up to 3 to 4 months. They should be stored in a well-ventilated space at room temperature, away from heat and bright light. Do not refrigerate onions unless they have been cut or are the green onion (scallion). Place them in a wire hanging basket or a perforated bowl with a raised base so that air can circulate underneath. The sweeter white onion or yellow can be stored for about a month.

Scallions should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will keep for about one week. All onions should be stored away from potatoes, as they will absorb their moisture and ethylene gas, causing them to spoil more readily. Cut onions should be placed in a sealed container and used within a day or two since they tend to oxidize quickly.  Cooked onions can be kept for a few days. They should never be placed in a metal storage container as this may cause them to discolor. Although peeled and chopped onions can be frozen (without first being blanched), this process will cause them to lose some of their flavor. Avoid any onions that are wet, soft, bruised or have dark spots or mold on them.
Sources for this article include:

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