13 Impressive Benefits of Onions

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

The impressive health benefits of onions may include their possible ability to prevent and relieve symptoms of cancer, heart disorders, and diabetes. They also help in treating the common cold, asthma, bacterial infections, respiratory problems, angina, and cough.

What are Onions?

Onions (Allium cepa) are vegetables, which have been used for cooking and medicinal purposes for millennia. They contain a number of antioxidant compounds that are very effective in neutralizing the free radicals present in the human body.

Onions have been a staple plant in the diet of humans for more than 7,000 years, and during much of that time, they were cultivated. There are still wild species in certain areas of Asia, but overall, onions are a globally grown and cultivated plant. Throughout history, they were worshiped by certain cultures, like the Egyptians, who buried them with their pharaoh. This fascination with onions could have stemmed from their versatility and availability or from their medicinal and beneficial properties.

The potential antibacterial properties of onion may include extensive antifungal applications, which have made it a household name in antifungal relief. Onion plants can be grown in well-drained and moist soil. You can even grow it in your backyard or garden to reap its health benefits. Onions form an important part of many culinary preparations in cuisines around the world and they are also known as ‘companion plants’, which means that they grow well around other vegetables and plants.

Onions have been known to possess curative value since ancient times. Even the World Health Organization confirms that they are beneficial for people with reduced appetite and those suffering from atherosclerosis. Health experts acknowledge the fact that onions provide great respite for patients with chronic asthma, allergic bronchitis, and common cold-related cough syndromes. [1]

Nutrition Facts

Onions, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]89.11
Energy 40
Energy [kJ]166
Protein [g]1.1
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.1
Ash [g]0.35
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]9.34
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.7
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]4.24
Sucrose [g]0.99
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.97
Fructose [g]1.29
Calcium, Ca [mg]23
Iron, Fe [mg]0.21
Magnesium, Mg [mg]10
Phosphorus, P [mg]29
Potassium, K [mg]146
Sodium, Na [mg]4
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.17
Copper, Cu [mg]0.04
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.13
Selenium, Se [µg]0.5
Fluoride, F [µg]1.1
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]7.4
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.03
Niacin [mg]0.12
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.12
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.12
Folate, total [µg]19
Folate, food [µg]19
Folate, DFE [µg]19
Choline, total [mg]6.1
Betaine [mg]0.1
Carotene, beta [µg]1
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]4
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.02
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]0.04
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.4
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.04
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.03
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.02
18:2 [g]0.01
18:3 [g]0
Phytosterols [mg]15
Tryptophan [g]0.01
Threonine [g]0.02
Isoleucine [g]0.01
Leucine [g]0.03
Lysine [g]0.04
Methionine [g]0
Cystine [g]0
Phenylalanine [g]0.03
Tyrosine [g]0.01
Valine [g]0.02
Arginine [g]0.1
Histidine [g]0.01
Alanine [g]0.02
Aspartic acid [g]0.09
Glutamic acid [g]0.26
Glycine [g]0.03
Proline [g]0.01
Serine [g]0.02
Sources include : USDA [2]

Onions Nutrition Facts

Onions have many valuable medicinal applications because of the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds contained in them. These include the presence of sulfuric compounds and quercetin too. These vegetables also contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus, and they are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber too. [3]

Health Benefits of Onions

Onion, being such an adaptive plant, is a great source of essential nutrients our body needs. Let’s explore the most valuable and well-known health benefits of onions.

May Aid in Oral Care

Onions are often used to prevent tooth decay and oral infections. Chewing raw onions for 2 to 3 minutes can potentially kill all the germs present in the oral area and surrounding areas like the throat and lips. [4]

May Boost Immunity

The phytochemicals present in significant amounts in onions act as stimulants for vitamin C within the body. Vitamin C boosts your immune system by fighting against toxins and various foreign bodies that can lead to diseases and illness. [5]

May Help in Reducing the Risk of Heart Ailments

Onions act as potential anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, which prevent the red blood cells from forming clumps. According to a report by Dr. Barry S. Kendler from Manhattan College, that use of certain formulations of garlic and/or onion is positively linked to preventing and reducing the risk of atherosclerotic disease. These blocks and clots can lead to heart disorders or cardiovascular diseases. [6]

Whole and halved fresh onions on a wooden table

Onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Help Manage Diabetes

Onions contain chromium, which is a relatively unusual mineral to be found naturally in food. Chromium helps the body manage blood sugar levels and ensures a slow, gradual release of glucose to the muscles and body cells. Furthermore, in a research report published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, it was found that onion juice, when given to people with diabetes along with their food, helped control hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) effectively. Therefore, eating them can help modulate blood sugar levels. [7] [8]

Possibly Used as an Insect Repellent

You can apply onion juice to reduce the pain caused by honeybee stings. Fresh onion juice or paste can be used for external applications on insect bites and scorpion stings. The smell of onions may also cause insects to flee, which is why they can be used as insect repellents as well as a form of sting treatment. [10]

May Have Anticancer Potential

Onions are rich in active compounds that successfully inhibit the development and spread of cancerous cells. They have a significant amount of quercetin, which is a very powerful antioxidant, consistently linked to the prevention or reduction of the spread of cancer. Studies published in the Cancer Prevention Research showed that consumption of vegetables like onions and garlic which belong to the Allium family help prevent cancers, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. [11]

Vitamin C, present in onions, is also a strong antioxidant that can reduce the presence and impact of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are the chemical by-products of cellular metabolism, and they can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells. Any food rich in antioxidants, which neutralize these free radicals, may be beneficial for everyone’s health.

May Relieve Earaches

A few drops of onion juice may prove immensely beneficial to individuals suffering from acute earache. The ringing sound in the ear may be cured by applying onion juice through a piece of cotton wool. [13]

May Aid in Skin Care

Onion juice mixed with honey or olive oil is said to be the best method for treating symptoms or signs of acne. It is also potentially anti-inflammatory in nature, so the active compounds can reduce the redness and swelling that is commonly associated with skin conditions like acne. Onions also help reduce the associated pain and inflammation of conditions like gout and arthritis. [14]

May Treat Cough

Consuming an equal mixture of onion juice and honey can relieve sore throats and coughing symptoms. [15]

May Boost Sexual Drive

Onions are said to increase the urge for healthy sex life. One tablespoon of onion juice along with one spoonful of ginger juice, taken three times a day, can boost libido and sex drive. [16]

May Treat Anemia

Even anemic conditions can be improved by eating onions along with jaggery and water because this adds to the mineral content of the body, especially iron, which is an essential part of producing new red blood cells. Therefore, anemia, also known as iron deficiency, can be prevented by including onion in your diet. [17]

May Relieve Stomach Aches

Onions have potentially anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can relieve an upset stomach and related gastric syndromes. This is due to the saponins that are found in them. These saponins have anti-spasmodic capabilities, which ensure that stomach disturbances do not continue and that your bowels are clear and smoothly functioning. [18]

May Treat Urinary Disorders

For those suffering from a burning sensation during urination, onions can provide considerable relief. People suffering from this condition should drink boiled water with 6 to 7 grams of onions. [19]

According to Peace Health, onions have long been used for reducing the risk of various diseases such as tumors, persistent cough, and cold. Medical practitioners consider this plant form as a perfect home remedy for relieving various metabolic disorders and diseases. Peace Health further states that onion consumption can even help in the prevention of stomach and breast cancer.

May Relieve Asthma

Medical studies have revealed that these sulfuric compounds stop biochemical chain formations that possibly lead to asthmatic conditions. The sulfuric content of onions may facilitate the melting of phlegm in a patient suffering from severe coughing. Fresh onion juice is recommended for patients, who have lost consciousness, because of its aroma and inhalant qualities, which can induce immediate vigor and energy. [20]

Culinary Uses

In terms of the role of onions’ in various culinary delights, they have been used for thousands of years in many food preparations. They are especially used for preparing non-vegetarian food in order to cover up the harsh taste and smell of the meat. These bulb-like vegetables can be consumed raw, pickled in vinegar, fried in oil, baked or boiled.

They are certainly a boon to mankind and while they make us cry sometimes, the multiple health benefits make up for it!

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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