One of the most widely used vegetables in the world, but also one of the most overlooked. Check in anyone’s kitchen and the chances are you will find at least one hiding in the vegetable rack. But apart from knowing that it adds flavor to many dishes, what else do we know about the onion?

Well, like its many layers, the onion has a multitude of health properties, most of which you won’t know about, but start to peel away the layers, and more and more health benefits are revealed.

• Immunity
Onions are rich in both phytochemicals and vitamin C, which is a powerful combination when it comes to boosting our immunity. The old wives’ tale about eating lemons and oranges has its basis in truth, and the same apples to onions. While drinking it steeped in hot water might not be the most palatable idea, eating white onions, especially raw, will have the same effect.

• Cancer
Again, the high levels of vitamin C in onions means that it is very effective in fighting the free radicals responsible for the development of cancer, in particular cancers of the digestive system. Onions have been shown in several studies to be highly effective in the fight against esophageal, stomach and colon cancers. The same benefits were also found to apply to prostate cancer.

• Inflammation
Due to the high anti-inflammatory properties of onions, incorporating them into your diet can greatly alleviate the pain in certain inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. High levels of inflammation can cause excruciating pain in the joints of sufferers of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and eating onions can help to reduce this inflammation, thus minimizing pain and joint damage.

• Blood sugar levels
Red onion in particular, is thought to help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2.

• Heart Health
Numerous studies have consistently shown that eating onions is good for the heart. The consumption of onions is thought to reduce high blood pressure in hypertensive patients, and is also responsible for preventing hardening of the arteries.

• Teeth
While chewing on raw onion is associated with bad breath, it is also known to strengthen teeth. Add to that its potent anti-bacterial properties, which kills the bacteria associated with tooth decay, and you have a hugely useful addition to your dental hygiene toolkit.

• Asthma
Onions contain Quercetin, an antioxidant that works as both an anti-histamine and an anti-inflammatory. By reducing histamine, onions can go a long way to preventing asthma. In addition, the anti-inflammatory actions mean that the allergic responses of histamine are also greatly reduced.

• Bee Stings
By rubbing a piece of onion on to the sting of a honeybee, applying juice to the affected area, the pain and burning will be greatly relieved. This is thought to be due, in part, to the anti-inflammatory effect of onions, and, in part, to the anti-histamine properties.

The hormones serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are what’s known as the feel good hormones, and together they are responsible for not only mood, but sleep as well. Sometimes the body produces too much of an amino acid called homocysteine, which can interfere with the production of these hormones. Onions can prevent this happening, which allows the body to keep on merrily making the feel good hormones and allowing us to not only feel happy but also to sleep better, and of course those two are inextricably linked – it’s hard to have one without the other!

As you can see, there is a lot more to the humble onion than simply making our food more flavorsome. The examples I have mentioned are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this pungent little bulb can do for our bodies and our health.

Make them an integral part of your diet, and eat them raw as often as possible (as cooking does kill off some of the best properties) to give your body a real boost in the health stakes.

(And if you are worried about one of the less desirable effects of munching on raw onion, eating an apple or chewing on raw parsley can go a long way to negating the odor!)

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