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You are What You Eat

By JOAN SUMPIO, RND

May 10, 2010, 5:32am

Many of us must have experienced once in our life meticulously removing onion strips or rings from our dish. Some simply don’t want the taste while others wouldn’t want the bad odor it will leave in our mouth. The pungent smell it brings about is due to its sulfur-containing compounds; but onions can’t simply be neglected for its health-promoting effects.

Onions are known for its chromium content, a trace mineral that helps cells respond to insulin, and numerous flavonoids, most notably quercitin. However annoying its smell is, onions deserve a high degree of respect when it comes to considering good health that it can bring about.

By its smell, one would immediately think that onions can easily irritate the gastrointestinal tract and would not be good at all to consume, but on the contrary, onions can actually support gastrointestinal health.

Some scientists have looked into the positive association of onion consumption (twice or more per week) with reduced risk of developing colon cancer. The quercitin in onions was seen as able to halt the growth of tumors in animals and to protect colon cells from the damaging effects of cancer-causing substances.

For this reason, it has been recommended to cook meats with onion to help reduce the amount of carcinogens that may be produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures.

Anti-cancer properties

In human studies, quercitin helped reduce the size and number of pre-cancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract (research published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology).

Another interesting thing about onion is its ability to be of help in lowering blood sugar levels. Clinical evidence suggests that an active substance in onion (allyl propyl disulfide) helps increase the amount of free insulin available. The active substance actually competes with insulin to occupy sites in the liver where insulin is inactivated. This then results in an increase in the amount of insulin available to lead glucose into cells bringing about decrease in blood sugar levels.

Diabetic-friendly

As onion is a good source of the mineral chromium, this makes onion a good friend to diabetics. Different researches have shown that chromium can decrease fasting blood sugar, improve glucose intolerance and even help decrease blood levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing “Good Cholesterol” levels.

Natural food preservative

These days, there is another interesting goodness that we should know about onions: onion extracts are now being studied as potential natural food preservative. The anti-microbial and antioxidant activity of compounds derived from onions may slow spoilage of foods by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, says a new study from Spain.

What makes onion a good candidate for use in food preservation is the anti-microbial properties of its flavonoid contents. Researchers are looking into onion’s ability to delay factors that cause spoilage of foods like margarines and mayonnaise. In the study, it is the yellow onion variety that has the highest flavonoid content and antioxidant property, and that it exhibited anti-microbial properties. Having such property, onion extract can enhance the stability and preservation of foods. Interesting isn’t it? When we have all thought that the best preservative for foods are salt and sugar, now comes a better alternative.

Having known all these beneficial things from onion (and its extract), the next time you see this humble vegetable in the supermarket, smile and get a handful of it. It will help preserve not only your foods but also your health.

(Email author at wellbeing@mb.com.ph.)

http://mb.com.ph/articles/256725/theres-something-about-onions

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