EN on Foods

April 2016 Issue

Notable Nutrients

(1 cup raw, chopped, 160 g)
Calories: 64
Dietary Fiber: 3 g (11% DV)
Vitamin C: 12 mg (20% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)
Folate: 30 mcg (8% DV)
Manganese: 0.2 mg (10% DV)
Potassium: 234 mg (7% DV)
Note: g=gram, DV=Daily Value, mg=milligram, mcg=microgram

Give Onions a Cry!

The Folklore

No pantry is complete without onions. Eaten and cultivated since prehistoric times, onions are integral to most every cuisine in the world. In addition to their tear-jerking effect on the eyes and pungency to the palate, onions have a history layered with story. The Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks believed that eating the strong-tasting orbs increased strength and courage. Onions were used medicinally to treat colds, infections, breathing problems, and snakebites, and were even used as a remedy for baldness. They may not do all that, but onions do deliver big flavor in a nutrient-dense package that is certainly worthy of a few tears—of joy.


The Facts

Depending on variety, onions (Allium cepa) vary in color, size, and flavor. Yellow, white, or red bulb onions are classified as spring/summer or fall/winter (also known as storage onions). Spring/summer onions, which include Vidalia, Walla Walla, and Maui Sweet Onion, are mild or sweet tasting, while storage onions, which include Spanish onions, are strongly flavored and have a yellow or white color. Scallions (or green onions) are immature bulb onions harvested before the bulb forms. Onions are nutrient-dense—a one-cup serving packs 20% DV (Daily Value, nutrient needs based on 2,000 calories per day) of cell-protecting vitamin C—and are plump with powerful plant compounds, like quercetin, which promotes a healthy heart and respiratory system, as well as sulfur compounds, which help fight cancer.

The Findings

The sulfur-containing compounds in these vegetables may help combat each stage of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (Cancer Prevention Research, March 2015). Researchers have concluded that high intake of allium vegetables (two or more servings of onions per week) is likely to reduce gastric cancer risk (Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2015). In addition, raw red onion consumption significantly lowered cholesterol in overweight women with polycystic ovary syndrome (Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, 2014).

The finer points. Select bulb onions that are firm, free of cuts or bruises, and have little or no scent. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry place with ventilation—storing them in plastic reduces shelf life. Refrigerate peeled or cut onions in a sealed container up to seven days. Delightfully versatile, the onion performs as both spice and vegetable, pepping up any dish from guacamole to veggie sautés and whole grain side dishes. Onions are also great on the grill, roasted in the oven, marinated, or caramelized into sweet bliss.

—Lori Zanteson

Herb Baked Onion Bloom

onion bloom

1 large onion (3 – 3˝ inches wide)

1 Tbsp margarine

1 tsp dried thyme or oregano

˝ tsp dried rosemary

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parsley, paprika, or dried red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Cut about ˝-inch off top of onion; peel onion. Cut onion into 12 to 16 vertical wedges, leaving root base intact.

2. Set bloomed onion on 14 x 10-inch foil piece. Top with margarine, thyme or oregano, rosemary, and salt and pepper, to taste. Wrap foil around seasoned bloom and pinch edges together tightly.

3. Place wrapped onion upright onto a pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender and cooked but “petals” still have body and stand upright. If desired, sprinkle with parsley, paprika, or dried red pepper.

Makes 1 serving

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 75 calories, 4 grams (g) fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 5 milligrams sodium

Recipe adapted courtesy National Onion Association.