Onions are a vital ingredient in many dishes we enjoy. Sure, they may be a little stinky, and they may make us cry when we slice them, but science shows they may be worth all that extra effort. Not only do onions pack a lot of flavor, they can improve your health and help relieve your muscle and joint pain, too.
Onions 101: All about the bulb
The onion, also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable. It’s the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium, with an estimated 105 billion pounds harvested each year worldwide (Rani, 2016). Close cousins of onions include other common alliums like leeks, scallions, chives, and garlic.
Onions can vary in size, color, shape and flavor, with the red, yellow and white varieties popping up most commonly in your grocery stores. Flavors of onions can vary from mild, sweet, and juicy to sharp, spicy and pungent. The taste you experience often depends upon the season in which the onion was grown and the time of year you’re consuming it.
In addition to flavor, onions also pack a nutritious punch. They are low in calories and rich in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants including folate, magnesium, phosphorus, fructans, selenium, chromium, sulphur, and quercetin.
How onions benefit your body
One of the most powerful nutrients that onions boast (in abundance!) is quercetin. Quercetin belongs to a family of antioxidants called flavonoids. These molecules work by killing off free radicals (unstable particles in your cells) before they have a chance to cause real damage to your body.
Quercetin has been shown to have multiple benefits when it comes to lowering pain and improving our overall health. Studies show that quercetin likely works by blocking the actions of inflammatory chemicals in the body such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes. These chemicals circulate in high amounts with chronic diseases like osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (Marefati, 2021).
Quercetin may also work to strengthen your bones, too. A recent study by researchers at the University of Bern, Switzerland, found that quercetin inhibits the breakdown of bone. Scientists speculate that quercetin may act just like alendronate (Fosamax), a common medication used to treat osteoporosis (Rani, 2016). Quercetin's benefits likely go beyond your bones and joints as well. This well-studied onion nutrient has also been reported to help fight diabetes, degenerative brain diseases, cancer, and more.
An onion a day!
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate onions into your everyday diet, try these tips:
- Add 'em to salads. Raw, red onions (sliced or diced) add a healthful and colorful crunch to any salad.
- Toss in stir-frys. Add strips of yellow onions to a stir-fry vegetable mix. Onions cook quickly—in four to five minutes in a stovetop skillet on high heat—and increase this vegetable-rich dish’s antioxidant boost.
- Load up a sandwich. Sweet, white, yellow, red—sauteed or raw—onions on sandwiches are a delicious idea. Load your sandwiches with lots of onions and other vegetables to help increase your phytochemical intake while decreasing portions of other salty sandwich ingredients, like meats, cheeses, and sauces, which should be eaten in moderation.
- Serve a side dish. Grill, bake, or broil thick slices of onion brushed with a little bit of olive oil to bring out the sweetness. Try these two options to get you going: Sauteed Green Beans and Onions and Herb-Roasted Vidalia Onions.
- Save for later. Have extra cut, raw onions? Stick them in resealable bags in your freezer and spare yourself more chopping and tears later.
Personalize your whole approach to muscle and joint pain
Eating onions is one of many ways to boost the anti-inflammatory power of your diet and help lower your pain. If you’re dealing with muscle or joint discomfort—whether it just started or has been there for years—schedule a visit to talk to an expert medical care team at Vori. We’ll get to know your goals and build a personalized plan to help you reach them.
- Marefati, 2021: N. Marefati, et al., A review of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory effects of Allium cepa and its main constituents, Pharm Biol, 2021; 59(1): 285-300,
- Rani, 2016: T.J., Rani, Onion- A Miraculous Vegetable, Inter Journal of Immunological Nurs, 2016, eISSN: 2456-1592 Vol. 2: Issue 2
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