Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Incredible Edible Onion

The word onion is of Latin origin, the word unio meaning "single" because only one bulb is produced per seed, as opposed to garlic which produces many bulbs, and unio is also the root word for union, as in there are many layers to the onion that act as one. And many layered the onion is! Did you know that the onion is good for you as well as tasty? It's rated as one of the world's healthiest foods. (And it is not on the 12 highest pesticide containing foods list.) Here's why:

The benefits of eating onions include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar levels low, supports gastrointestinal health, boosts bone health, is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and helps protect the body from cancer, including ovarian and colon.

Onions contain a compound known as allyl propyl disulfide (the stuff that makes you cry) which helps to raise the amount of insulin available by competing with the negative feedback system in the liver because insulin is also a disulphide. (Negative feedback is when a Product A is produced and when there is enough in the system, it then attaches to an enzyme binding site on the Product A producing cell and stops the production of said product.) In this particular instance, the allyl propyl disulfide does not stop the production of insulin, but actually increases it because the insulin itself cannot bind to the receptor sites to stop it. The increase in insulin lowers blood sugar levels because the extra insulin ushers more sugar to the cells.

From the chart you can see that onions are high in chromium levels. chromium is a mineral found in glucose tolerance factor. Higher chromium levels help cells respond more efficiently to insulin, once again lowering blood-sugar levels. When the cell response to glucose is higher, the need for insulin is lower. So the onion increases the insulin, but also increases the cell's insulin accepting performance, thereby, in the long run, lowering insulin levels. 20% of the US population shows a chromium deficiency. Chromium, in the body, is depleted by consumption of refined foods, such as white sugar and flour.

Chromium, along with vitamin B6, also helps lower bad blood cholesterol (LDL) levels and increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Lower cholesterol means that plaque cannot build up in the arteries as easily, leaving one also with lower blood pressure and a healthier heart.

For your pooper, onions contain a high number of the flavonoid quercitin, which acts as an anti-oxidant. (A flavonoid is a plant pigment, usually white or yellow.) When cooked with meat, it can lower the amount of carcinogens produced by cooking at high heats.

Onions are also high in a flavonoid called kaempferol. Kaempferol can also be found in non-herbal teas, broccoli, curly kale, leek, spinach and blueberries. In studies, kaempferol has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Women who consume onions may have a lower risk of osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that onions are high in gamma-L-glutamyl-trans-S-1-propenyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide, GPCS, for short. GPCS has been shown to inhibit the activity of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bones. Eating raw onions during menopause, especially, may save a person from a lifetime of pain. Other medications can have the same effect on osteoclasts, but have terrible side effects. The only side effect to onion consumption is temporary bad breath.

Onions also contain anti-inflammatory agents. They can help reduce the pain and swelling caused by osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as reduce asthma symptoms and congestion in the chest caused by the common cold.

All in all, onions are a marvelous food. They can be eaten raw, some people eat them like apples, some add them to salad or salsas, like me. They can be sauteed and eaten in almost any veggie dish. I think I use them in all my veggie dishes.

We planted both red and white onions in the garden this year and about two dozen sprouted and are thriving. After I did this research, I wish I had planted more. Wow! Who know all of this from one smelly plant! Speaking of their smell, they are also a natural insecticide in your garden.

Why do we keep letting these pharmaceutical companies keep pushing us to more and more drugs? There are beautiful and homegrown remedies out there for so many ailments. Eating natural unrefined foods will also keep a person from getting to the point of needing all those drugs in the first place. Does eating a Snicker and a Big Mac really seem worth it? Not to me.

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