Health Benefits of eating Onions

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Eating onions daily lowers the risk of cancer, allergies, and heart disease”

In the old days, it was customary or traditional to keep some fresh peeled onions and chillies on a side-plate as an addition to your delicious rice and curry meal. It was the small red onions that was mostly kept. In most Western countries big onions are available, what we call ‘Bombay onions’ the energizing taste is not the same.

This was the tradition because our forefathers knew the health benefits of eating onions daily, and the incidence of heart disease and cancer among many other diseases, were then rarely heard of.

This tradition has gradually disappeared mainly because of the bad breath persistent for hours after. Ladies seem to avoid onions for this reason. You can minimise the odour and the smell of onions by chewing some parsley, eating an apple, gargling your mouth with a mixture of baking soda and salt in warm water, drinking a cup of coffee, herbal tea and so on. Avoid chewing gums as they increase your swallowing of air and cause tummy distension (aerophagy).

Onions have a chemical compound (amino acid) called Alliin. Alliin is present in most plants, including leeks, shallots garlic and so on. When onions are cut or crushed this amino acid is converted to allicin through inherent enzymatic action. Allicin further breaks down into sulphur- containing compounds.

Onions when chopped or cut also produces another compound called allyl methyl sulphide. This enters the blood stream and is exhaled in your breath and your skin may smell. Onions also produce another compound called Cysteine Sulfoxide. When these breakdown produces a sulfuric odour in your breath. Onions have flavonoids and alkenyl cysteine sulfoxides that have many health benefiting properties.

They increase the sensitivity of insulin to bring down the sugar in your blood. And lowers the incidence of cancer.

Anthocyanins and quercetin are two flavonoids in onions which gives the red colour to the onions. Red wine has plenty of anthocyanins called resveratrol which seems to kill cancer cells. These compounds lower the amount of insulin secreted in your pancreas bringing in many health benefits. Increased insulin secretion can lead to many diseases including obesity and cancer.

Quercetin is a sulphur containing flavonoid, also found in garlic, has anti-bacterial effects. It prevents bacterial infections of the gums. It is considered as an antioxidant that may be linked to preventing cancer.

Quercetin has a host of other benefits, as well, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, reducing the symptoms of bladder infections, promoting prostate health and lowering blood pressure.

Onion extracts have anti-histamine properties. All allergic reactions are due to the release of histamine which reacts to produce the symptoms. They have also anti-inflammatory properties. Onions have antimicrobial properties. On chewing onions with your food, keeps your mouth clean by killing bacteria that cause dental problems. Onions have blood thinning properties and be aware when you take blood thinning medication not to eat onions in excess. So, they benefit the heart through the blood thinning properties.

Animal studies have confirmed the effect on blood lipids. They bring down the bad (LDL cholesterol and may increase the good (HDL) cholesterol.

Eating onions daily has a protective effect against various cancers. They reduce the risk of ovarian, oesophageal, prostate throat breast and colon cancers.

So, now you could understand why the incidence of cancer, heart attacks and many other illnesses were very low during pre-War11 and post-war periods, in addition to other causes.

Patchy hair loss (Alopecia Areata)
Studies have shown that applying onion juice to the egg shape patchy hair loss spaces on your scalp daily, acts as a fertilizer to the dormant hair roots. Regrowth occurs on daily application of the juice, surprisingly.

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that your body can't digest, so it travels through your digestive tract unchanged. ... Each medium onion contains 1.9 grams of fibre of both soluble and insoluble varieties. Soluble fibre grows inside the onion while insoluble fibre is found in the walls of the onion. The insoluble fibre does not dissolve in the gut but adds to the bulk of your stool. Soluble fibre forms a gel with water and bile acids and the gut microbiota seems to enjoy them as prebiotics, and through fermentation produce short chain fatty acids that helps to restore a healthy inner lining of the gut. Unhealthy inner mucus lining of the large gut may lead to chronic inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and Cancer, among others.

Avoid deep frying onion rings made with unhealthy fats that may increase your blood cholesterol. Such methods of cooking destroy the health benefits of onions.

Skin scars
Scars on your skin due to accidents and operation cuts seem to soften and less prominent on applying onion gel daily. Keloid scar formers should apply onion gel on their scars and apply pressure bandages. These gels are available at your local chemist shop.

Onion is being used for centuries not just to add flavour to foods but also for its therapeutic properties. Onion have an antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some people mixed vinegar with onion juice and apply it in their freckles and warts, it is believed that it can remove/reduce this skin problems.

The word onion comes from the Latin word unio, which means “single”, reflecting of the onion plant producing a single bulb. The name also describes the onion bulb when cut down in the middle: it is a union- hence the word “union” was derived

The author of this article eats half a large onion and a chili with lunch and dinner daily. By adding them you do not have to add spicy tomato sauce and other adjuvants like hot English mustard and others for taste and flavour, as they contain lot of salt which may cause high blood pressure. Onions and chilies are healthier for you.

Some reference to the article by Cure Joy

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