Onions are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, and manganese. Plus, they provide a little dietary fiber . The veggies can also add a lot of flavor to dishes without greatly increasing calories, sodium , or cholesterol, meaning they're a great substitute for salty sauces or marinades when you're looking for some extra zip.
Onions may help out in the cardiovascular department, some research shows . The naturally occurring compounds within the bulbs' layers can help fight inflammation and lower cholesterol levels, thereby protecting against heart disease. Research on one particular polyphenol in onions — quercetin — has linked it with lowering blood pressure , too. Red onions in particular contain higher amounts of quercetin, so opt for the more colorful varieties for an extra boost.
In addition to containing immune-boosting vitamin C, onions provide phytochemicals that can help your body's defense system out. The antioxidants within them encourage a strong immune system , and other compounds like sulfides assist with protein synthesis.
"Allium vegetables, like onions and garlic, are rich in antioxidants and thought to have anti-inflammatory effects," says Sassos, a board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition. "They provide organosulfur compounds that can reduce the risk of certain cancers including prostate cancer. They make an excellent addition to any cancer prevention diet ."
People who consumed a large amount of alliums were less likely to develop gastric cancer, per a 2014 meta-analysis of 27 studies. Another review of 16 studies also linked high-allium consumption with a lower risk of colon cancer.
The dietary fiber in onions can help your digestive system stay in tip-top shape. These prebiotic compounds promote the growth of good gut bacteria, a.k.a. probiotics . In turn, these living organisms prevent or manage GI issues and help out your immune system at the same time.
What's more, the specific type of fiber found in onions (as well as garlic, wheat, and legumes) may more effectively feed the beneficial microbiota than the fiber found in other foods, a 2018 meta-analysis found.
That said, not everyone should chow down on onions for digestive health. "Although onions exhibit prebiotic activity which can enhance intestinal health in many people, individuals who suffer from IBS or are following a low-FODMAP diet may want to limit their consumption," Sassos warns. "Onions are particularly high in the FODMAP fructans, which can be poorly absorbed in the small intestine and exacerbate IBS symptoms."
Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.
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