Onions Are Extremely Good for You—Here Are 3 Healthy Benefits to Prove It

·5 min read

Onions—you probably either love them or hate them. But if you fall into the latter category, you might want to reconsider. Onions are very good for you, and adding this nutrient-packed, aromatic vegetable into your meal rotation is a smart (and tasty) move. Simply put, "onions are low in calories and rich in potassium and vitamins B6 and C," says Jennifer Weis, RD, LDN, founder and owner of Jennifer Weis Nutrition. Thanks to its nutritional value, accessibility, and delicious flavor, it's no wonder this versatile bulb is a staple in cuisines across the world and forms the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes.

Walk into your grocery store's produce aisle or stroll through the local farmers market and you'll likely see a plethora of onion options—there are actually 21 different types! Onions are a vegetable species within the genus allium, along with similar aromatic bulbs like garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots. (While these other well-known veggies aren't onions themselves, they are in the same vegetable family and yield many health benefits, too.) Whole onions should last in your pantry or other cool, dry, dark place (not the fridge) for about two weeks—but don't store them next to potatoes, which emit gas and moisture that can quickly spoil onions. If you have leftover onion that's already been cut, pop it in a resealable bag in the fridge to stay fresh for about a week (you can also store it in a container in the freezer).

Are Onions Good for You? Health Benefits of Onions are commonly chopped
Are Onions Good for You? Health Benefits of Onions are commonly chopped

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Here are some of the top nutritional benefits that onions provide. If you're looking for more reasons to pick up an onion or two next time you're at the store, you're in the right place.

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Nutritional Benefits of Onions

Onions help improve heart health.

Eating onions can have a healthy impact on your cardiovascular system. Specifically, research has found that the polyphenol called quercetin that's found in onions helps reduce high blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Darker colored onions, like red onions and chartreuse onions, contain the highest amounts of quercetin. Research from the American Chemical Society has also found that the "tearless onion" can help protect against heart disease.

Onions are rich in antioxidants for immune health, anti-inflammation, and more.

Onions are packed with disease- and free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which help repair and protect damaged cells in your body. They're one of the best sources of flavonoids (including quercetin), phytochemicals with powerful antioxidant properties. According to a review published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, onions contain at least 25 different flavonols. "Red and yellow onions are richer in those antioxidants than other types of onions. In fact, yellow onions may contain almost 11 times more antioxidants than white onions," says Sara Peternell, MNT, board-certified holistic nutritionist specializing in family nutrition. A diet rich in antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and thwart free-radical damage, which leads to a strong immune system and better overall health.

Onions may reduce cancer risk.

There's been some cool research conducted on how onions may play an important role in helping to prevent cancer. A study out of the University of Guelph concluded that red onions, specifically, are the most effective at reducing colon and breast cancer cells. This is once again due to the high levels of quercetin and anthocyanin (another type of antioxidant flavonoid). Another study published in Cancer Prevention Research found that one to seven servings of allium veggies, like onions, is rich in organosulfur and flavonols—compounds that have been found to have tumor-inhibiting components.

RELATED: What to Eat for Longevity and Lasting Health

How to Cook With Onions

Raw yellow onions tend to be the sweetest variety, making them a great addition to salsas. Cooked yellow onions make a savory base for soups, stews, and sauces. Onions are also delicious on their own, roasted, grilled, or sauteed. Top sandwiches and burgers with grilled (or raw!) onions to up the zest factor. For a tangy burst of flavor—and beautiful color—add pickled red onions to grain bowls, fish or pork tacos, or alongside any meaty main. If you're a little uneasy about adding onions into your at-home menu, start by keeping the cooking process simple. Weis recommends slicing the onions into discs, brushing them with olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and grilling both sides.

Check out these creative recipes—starring the humble onion—that are bursting with flavor and nutrients.

RELATED: These Are the 10 Types of Onions Worthy of Your Favorite Dishes

Pineapple, Swordfish, and Red Onion Kebabs

These easy kebabs pack in a lot of flavor without too much work, thanks to a flavorful marinade for the swordfish, juicy pineapple, and charred red onion. If this recipe doesn't scream "summertime," we don't know what does.

Pineapple, Swordfish, and Red Onion Kebabs
Pineapple, Swordfish, and Red Onion Kebabs

Deeply Caramelized Onion Dip

Patience is the key to this addictive dip: Cook the onions low and slow, stirring frequently—no shortcuts allowed. Serve with thick-cut potato chips and crisp veggies.

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe
Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

Slow Cooker Cuban Black Bean Chili

Like most soul-warming soups and stews, this black bean chili starts with a base of onions and other veggies for savory, full-bodied flavor.

Slow-Cooker Cuban Black Bean Chili
Slow-Cooker Cuban Black Bean Chili

Caramelized Onion and Sour Cherry Tartine

Impress the entire table with this well-balanced stunner. In one bite you get crispy-buttery sourdough bread, tangy cherries, sweet-savory onions, sharp white cheddar, and woody thyme.

Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tartine
Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tartine

Squash and Caramelized Onion Whole-Wheat Twist

The secret to this hearty, autumnal twist is store-bought pizza dough, and of course, luscious caramelized onions.

Whole Wheat Squash and Onion Twist
Whole Wheat Squash and Onion Twist

Should anyone avoid onions?

It's true that onions aren't for everyone. If you feel like onions don't sit well with you, it's not all in your head. Some people are very sensitive to the oligosaccharides, a fructan found in onions. Karen Graham, RDN, a functional medicine dietitian, says that onions can be problematic for many people, causing gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, and that about 30 percent of people tested for food intolerances in her practice have an issue with onions. The green tops of scallions are not usually a problem, she says, so that may be a good place to start to add onion flavor and nutrients into meals.

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