Onion, the ancient symbol of eternal life, and its many health benefits

You can either adore or hate the strong, pungent smell of this vegetable. It is eaten in a wide variety of foods both raw and cooked, it is extremely cheap and it has numerous healing properties.

Source: Flickr.com

Source: Flickr.com

Originating from the steppes of Central and Western Asia, probably the territory of today’s Afghanistan, onion is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It has been used for about 5 thousand years both as a medical plant and as a vegetable/condiment.

In the ancient Egypt, onion was considered the symbol of eternal life due to its round shape and concentric layers; it was either offered to the gods or used as currency to get to heaven.

Onions are rich in fructans, vitamins A, B and C, sodium, potassium, phosphates, calcareous nitrates, iron, sulphur, iodine, silica, phosphoric acid, acetic acid, sulfites, allyl sulphur and several other powerful compounds. It is effective against bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis, Salmonella and E. coli, even though it doesn’t have as strong an effect as garlic; this is due to the fact that onions contain only a quarter of the sulfur compounds found in garlic.

Onions have many medicinal properties. They maintain the health of the brain and the heart, strengthen the bones, improve digestion and reduce the risk of cancer.

They prevent cancer

Studies have shown that persons who consume onions frequently are at a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer compared to those who avoid eating this vegetable. Specialists believe that this property is due to the flavonoid content of the onions, which blocks the agents that favour the development of cancers including colon, prostate, esophageal and stomach cancer.

They protect the muscles

Due to quercetine, onions can compensate for the oxidative deterioration of the muscles and other body tissues caused by excessive physical strain. Studies performed on mice have proved that flavonoids help preventing the oxidative stress of the brain after long exercise sessions.

They maintain the health of the heart

The pungent smell of onions is due to allyl sulphur, a compound that is known for protecting blood vessels against damage caused by cholesterol.

They improve digestion

Consuming onions facilitates digestion via a type of carbohydrates called fructooligosaccharides. These serve as food for beneficial bacteria and fight harmful bacteria living in the intestinal tract. Besides, fructooligosaccharides improves digestive functions by acting at the level of intestinal transit.

They protect the bones

According to researchers, sulphurous compounds found in onions along with quercetine may be responsible for a higher bone density. A study performed in 2009 demonstrated that women who consume onions daily had a higher bone density compared to those women who didn’t have this habit. Moreover, aged women who consumed a lot of onions had a 20% lesser chance to have their hips fractured.

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