The most important health benefits of chives include their ability to boost heart and bone health, protect against cancer, regulate digestion, boost vision, protect against birth defects, and boost the immune system.
What is Chives?
Chives are the smallest member of the onion genus, Allium. With the full scientific classification of Allium schoenoprasum, this tiny vegetable has a wide range of uses and benefits for human health. This particular herb (as it is commonly used) is native to Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, but is now widespread across the globe, as it has become a very popular addition to many culinary dishes.
Chives are bulbous plants, but their stems are long and hollow, which is the edible part of the plant. These hollow stems are commonly sliced and added to fish, soups, sauces, salads, Mexican cuisine, potato dishes, and a wide range of other meals. The unopened flower buds can also be ground into a useful spice, but the most commonly seen chives are freshly chopped stems.
The taste of chives isn’t very similar to members of the Allium genus, and they are generally considered to have a mild, pleasant flavor that is subtle in culinary applications. In terms of medicinal use, chives have been used dating back to the Roman Empire, but they were likely utilized far before that. They have similar medicinal properties as garlic, although not nearly as potent, their more palatable nature makes them more versatile in food dishes, so the benefits may be more accessible than other members of the Allium genus.
Health Benefits of Chives
Health benefits of chives include:
Treat Digestive Issues
The allyl sulfides and other unique organic compounds found in chives deliver similar benefits to the body as garlic, and can effectively ease digestive discomfort. Furthermore, chives have natural antibacterial qualities that can eliminate a wide range of bacteria, particularly those in the salmonella family, which can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal system. More specifically, chives can increase the nutrient uptake efficiency of your gut, ensuring that you get as many of the nutrients from your food as possible.
Improve Heart Health
One of the most important organic compounds found in chives is allicin, which has recently been linked to reduced levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body and improved heart health. Allicin is also connected to lowering blood pressure; when combined with the vasodilatory effects of the potassium, this herb can have a major impact on reducing cardiovascular strain. Furthermore, another organic compound found in chives, quercetin, has been directly connected to lowering cholesterol levels and plaque in the arteries, effectively preventing atherosclerosis and lowering your risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Most of the attention gets thrown at the organic compounds in chives, but the traditional nutrients are important too! The high levels of vitamin C found in chives help boost the efficacy of the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells and stimulating the production of collagen, which is an essential component in the creation of new blood vessels, cells, tissues, and muscles.
Improve Bone Health
There is a wide range of vitamins and minerals found in chives, but one of the most important is certainly vitamin K, an essential nutrient that isn’t widely found in many common foods. Vitamin K is very important in the maintenance of bone mineral density and bone integrity. As we age, our bone mineral density begins to drop, leading to conditions like osteoporosis and exacerbating inflammatory conditions like arthritis. High levels of vitamin K, like those found in chives, can help to produce osteocalcin, which is a key part of maintaining mineral density in the bones.
One of the most exciting areas of research for all members of the Allium genus, including chives, is the role of quercetin in preventing certain types of cancers. Although research is still ongoing, early results show that quercetin can effectively prevent a wide range of cancers, including breast, prostate, colon, lungs, and ovaries. The antioxidant activities of vitamin C and vitamin K contribute to this prevention as well, helping to reduce levels of free radicals in the body that can hasten the spread or appearance of cancerous cells. Zeaxanthin and lutein, two other antioxidant compounds found in chives, have been linked to lower chances of oral cancers.
The carotenes found in chives, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, are directly responsible for reducing oxidative stress in the ocular system and delaying the appearance of cataracts in the eye. They also help to slow or prevent macular degeneration, keeping your eyes healthy well into your old age.
Treat Birth Defects
Another of the essential nutrients in chives, folic acid, is essential for pregnant mothers who want to ensure the healthy development of their infant. Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in newborn infants, and chives is a rich source of folic acid for conscientious mothers.
Detoxify the Body
Chives have mild diuretic properties and combined with the other free-radical scavenging and antibacterial qualities, chives are a wonderful way to detoxify the body. By stimulating urination, chives can help the body get rid of excess toxins, salts, water, and even fat, keeping the organ systems running smoothly and clearing out any dangerous substances that could do us harm.
Word of Caution: Chives are not typically considered to be an allergenic substance and very few reports of negative reactions exist. However, an excessive amount of chives, with a high concentration of powerful organic compounds, can cause stomach discomfort. If you are allergic to onions or other members of the Allium genus, consult a medical professional before adding chives to your regular diet.