History of Onion
Onions have been around for a very long time. It is said that the onion plant originated in either Central Asia or in West Pakistan some 5,500 years ago and eventually spread to all parts of the world. Unlike with other plants, modern scientists are unable to determine where and when exactly the onion originated because its cultivation does not leave much trace. However, written historical records tell us quite a bit about this amazing plant which dates back to 3,500 A.D.
Since ancient times, civilization has been very dependent on onions. Not only onions are easy to grow on different kinds of soils, they were easily stored, preserved and they could also endure any type of weather, which meant people could have onions all year around – even during the winter. People quickly realized the onions’ amazing benefits – energizes the body, prevents thirst and dehydration, is anti-bacterial, and could be easily dried and kept as a backup for times of food shortage.
Soon, several ancient civilizations were also incorporating this vegetable into their religious ceremonies. For example, the Egyptians considered the onion to be a symbol of eternity and immortality and used them in their mummification rituals, where they would leave onions on the eyes, pelvic regions, attached to the soles of the feet, or kept flat against the ears of the mummified body. Some Egyptologist theorists think that the belief behind this ritual may have been that the onion’s strong scent and miraculous powers could bring the dead back to life. They also included onions in funerals, especially those of Pharoahs.
Other civilizations also used onions heavily – India used onions as medicine, using to make remedies for heart diseases, indigestion, joint pain and others. Similarly, in Ancient Greece, soldiers, athletes and healers alike used the vegetable, for strength and as medicine; they either had it raw, cooked or juiced, depending on usage. The Romans consumed large amounts of onions and used to carry it with them when they traveled, which is thought to have contributed to the spread of onions around the world.
Once the Roman Empire collapsed and Europe entered its Dark Ages, food became scarce and the main foods that were consumed were comprised of mostly lentils and beans, cabbage, and onions. Onions during that period became even more valuable than coin as people relied on it heavily as both food and medicine. Eventually, new trade routes were developed and the onion was introduced to all parts of the world where it was accepted very easily due to its flexible nature in terms of cultivation, and its numerous benefits. Some even say that the onion was the first ever vegetable planted on North American soil by the first colonists who arrived there.
Onion Nutrition Facts
- Onions are a very low-calorie food, with just 40 calories in every 100g.
- Fresh onions are around 89% water, 9% carbohydrates and a little under 2% fiber (depending on the type of onion).
- They barely have any Saturated Fat, Sodium and Cholestrol.
- Onions have a decent amount to fiber which helps with digestion.
- They are an excellent source of fructans, which is a type of soluble fiber essential to your diet and overall health as it regulates digestion.
- Onions are very good sources of several vitamins: Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Vitamin B6 and Potassium.
- They contain several plant compounds, including Anthocyanins, Quercetin and Sulfur-compounds, which are anti-oxidants.
Is it Better to Eat Onion Raw or Cooked?
You can get the most benefits from onions when raw, as they are most active in that state. When cooked, its organic sulphur compounds which provide important health benefits deteriorate.
Raw onions are not for everyone, though, as its strong and sometimes bitter taste can make it difficult to stomach. In addition, raw onion juices can become irritant and cause acidity for some people. If you are one of them, don’t fret because there are other ways to enjoy onion’s health benefits without having to worry about the strong taste. For example, baking whole onions retains its nutrients inside and softens it, and at the same time gives it a more flavorful, aromatic taste than consuming it raw.
25 Health Benefits of Onion
Possesses Anti-microbial Properties
Many microorganisms exist in us and around us, some of which can impact our health negatively. Onions contain anti-microbial characteristics which hinder the growth of bacteria and other harmful bodies, keeping our bodies strong and healthy.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Onions have been proven to lower blood sugar levels caused by diabetes; the chromium content in onions reduces insulin levels and corrects glucose tolerance in the body over time. It is also said that eating raw onions can help in managing type 1 and 2 Diabetes.
Promotes Bone Health
Numerous studies have confirmed that onions strengthen bones and protect them against deterioration, as well as increases their density, especially in women.
Protects Against Cancer
The anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of onions can create a preventive barrier against several types of cancer diseases, such as stomach, breast, and colon cancers.
Onion is the best remedy for the common cold and flu. Consuming its juice helps clear the nasal pipe and dispels congestion.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Both raw and cooked onions are an effective remedy for high blood pressure.
Improves Immune System
Eating onions, especially raw, can increase blood flow and causes the sweat glands to secrete, which is beneficial in preventing influenza, fever, and colds during winter time. Onions are also rich in Vitamin C and phytochemicals, both which increase immunity.
Curing anemia through onions is possible too – they contain a large quantity of natural iron which helps anemic patients by increasing the blood platelet count.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Raw onion is an excellent dietary addition for people with heart problems and high cholesterol levels. Having only half an onion every day helps lower cholesterol levels over time, as well as prevent heart attacks.
Promotes Hair Growth
The nutrients in onions promote hair growth.It’s the perfect remedy for baldness! It can be applied as a juice to the scalp and costs pennies in comparison to expensive hair products.
Onions are an excellent source of fiber which helps move food and waste easily through the digestive and intestinal tracts. It helps with severe constipation and gas and improves our overall health and wellbeing.
Cures Ear Disorders
By adding some onion juice to a piece of cotton and placing the cotton in the ear, we can eliminate the phenomena of “ear-ringing” and other ear ailments. This was a traditional remedy used by early civilizations.
Onions help heal infections and soothe inflammations using its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial compounds. Applying onion juice directly over burns and insect bites gives relief from the burning sensation.
Promotes Respiratory Health
Onions improve our respiratory health by clearing the throat and lungs, as well as reducing the occurrences of asthma attacks. It also lowers the risk of lung cancer, particularly in smokers.
Enriches Dietary Intake
This vegetable is a great addition to your daily diet, being high in several nutrients and vitamins which provide numerous health benefits: Vitamins B and C, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, sulphur, potassium and calcium.
Improves Sleep Cycles
Having onion every day can ward off insomnia and other sleeping problems.
Heals Joint Aches and Pains
Onions’ anti-inflammatory properties can cure arthritis that causes pain in the joints, and other body injuries and pains.
Removes Skin Pigmentation
Onions have been used since ancient times for skin care. A good remedy for skin pigmentation or removing dark marks on the skin is to apply onion juice directly on the affected area. It is also effective in eliminating certain types of skin moles.
Repairs Eye Vision
Strangely enough, onions are also used to remedy eyesight and other eye problems. People have used onion juice as eye drops for infants to strengthen their vision.
Possesses Anti-epileptic Properties
Black onion seeds are a natural treatment for epilepsy. It can decrease the occurrence of epileptic seizures in children as it has anti-convulsive characteristics.
Fights Aging Effects
Anti-oxidant elements (Vitamins A, C and E) and sulphur phytochemicals in onions prevent damage caused by ultraviolet rays and fights free radicals that can cause the skin to age early.
Onions are anti-biotic and provide quick relief and healing of inflamed cuts and wounds, as well as helps relief of fevers and the common cold.
Treats Menstrual Disorders
Consuming onions in its raw form before the beginning of the menstrual cycle can help regulate the cycle and cure other menstrual problems.
Gives an Energy Boost
Having a few bites of raw onion in the morning can rejuvenate your body tissues and leave you feeling refreshed. Its vitamin content, as well as energizing properties, provide an energy pump that can last all day.
Helps with Sexual Debility
In men, onions can improve sexual power.
Potential Side Effects of Eating too Much Onion
Is there such a thing as having too much onion? Unfortunately, yes. Despite having numerous health benefits, it can have quite the contrary impact in certain people. This can be due to allergies, having too much onion, and even perhaps eating too little!
- Gastrointestinal Problems
Too much onion can cause gastrointestinal disorders, such as nausea, vomiting, and gastric inflammation, among others.
- Blood Pressure
Uncontrolled consumption of onion can severely reduce your blood pressure and cause complications.
Having too much onion can be irritant, and cause heartburn and is especially dangerous for people who already have serious heart problems. Also, heartburn is a common occurrence during pregnancy, so it is advisable for pregnant women to limit their consumption of onions during this sensitive period.
- Severe Reduction in Blood Sugar Levels
One of the onions’ health benefits is to reduce blood sugar levels in patients with Diabetes. However, in certain cases, the decrease can be severe and life-endangering. It is important for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly if they regularly consume onions, especially in its raw form.
- Bad Breath
Onions have a strong, pungent flavor due to its high sulphur content, leaving bad breath which can last for hours, even if you brush your teeth!
Onions have anti-coagulant characteristics which can hinder the clotting of blood, and cause blood platelet counts to decrease.
- High Lithium Levels
Consuming too much onion can reduce the body’s ability to dispose of excess lithium.
- Skin Irritation
When applied directly to the skin, and especially on the face, onion juice can cause irritation. It’s best to test it on your hand before applying it.
How to Incorporate More Onions into Your Diet
Onions add flavor to everything! There are numerous ways that you can incorporate this rich vegetable into your daily diet.
- Onions can be eaten raw.
- As a topping for salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
- It can be an appetizer with a meal, such as crispy onion rings.
- Can be added to dips for a refreshing flavor.
- Bake in the oven the way you would bake potatoes.
- It can be consumed as a juice.
- Onion can be had as a tasty, healthy soup.
- It can be roasted, grilled, sautéed or caramelized, and used as toppings for pretty much anything!
2 Popular Recipes that Includes Onions
Old Fashioned Onion Rings Recipe
- 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped into thick slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- ¾ cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
- Oil for frying – as needed
- Blend together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
- Disconnect the onion slices to make individual rings.
- Coat all the onion rings with the mixture prepared in Step 1 and set aside. Next, whisk the egg and milk into the same mixture until it’s a batter.
- Coat the floured onion rings again with this batter, shaking gently so that the excess batter drips off (or use a grill net to drip off), and then dip into the bread crumbs, one at a time until the entire ring is coated liberally. Press on the ring to make sure the coating is properly stuck on, and repeat this step with all the rings.
- Deep fry for 2-3 minutes or until its color turns golden brown.
- Sprinkle salt on the fried rings. It’s ready to serve!
Japanese Zucchini and Onions
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, cut into thin slices
- 2 medium sized zucchinis, chopped into long thin strips
- 2 tbsp teriyaki sauce
- 1 tbsp soya sauce
- 1tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- A pinch of ground black pepper, or to taste
- In a large wok, warm the oil over medium heat.
- Add onions and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
- Stir in zucchini strips and let it cook for about 1 minute.
- Add in the teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and sesame seeds.
- Cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until zucchinis are tender.
- Throw in the black pepper, and serve right away!