Layers of Goodness
By Chelsea Fisher
Smile through the tears. Sulfur, the spicy element that gives onions their bite and makes you cry when chopping them, helps detoxify the body and may aid your immune system.
Antioxidant-rich onions bring other benefits, too. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that allium vegetables like garlic and onions probably play a role in stomach cancer prevention. The pungent bulbs also provide important nutrients, including vitamins A and C, magnesium, copper, manganese, and dietary fiber.
Onions have been researched for the anti-cancer properties of phytochemicals, specifically quercetin, in their outer layers. According to the American Cancer Society, lab and animal studies have suggested that quercetin can diminish or slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells -- at least in lab situations. There is no evidence proving that similar results would occur in the human body, but including allium vegetables in your diet is nonetheless a good choice.
Try to find onions that have very little damage below the outermost, paper-like peel. Many of the most potent phytochemicals and nutrients are stored in the outer layers, so it’s best to keep and use as many as possible. Look for hard, firm onions, which will keep longer than those that give. When cooking for one or two, look to buy small onions. It’s better to use up a whole onion in your meal than to refrigerate cut leftovers, which won’t keep well. Buy the big ones when you are cooking for the whole family or friends. Watch the CFYL video on how to chop onions.
Onions range in sweetness and spice, and it is important to know which type of onion to buy when following a recipe. Sweet Vidalia onions are grown in sandy soil, so the sulfur washes out with rainwater, making Vidalias especially sweet. Purple or red onions are sweeter than the classic white ones and can be eaten raw, chopped on top of salads. They are especially delicious pickled in red wine or apple cider vinegar. Yellow onions are best grilled, used in soups, or caramelized in a sauté pan. They are a standard addition to chicken and vegetable broth, and play the lead role in French onion soup. Try using small white onions in CFYL’s Brown Rice Paella With Chickpeas.