July 23, 2010

Food Friday: Onions

 Arcimboldo's oil painting: Summer

So I have always been interested in onions, because #1 I LOVE them, #2 so many people HATE them, #3 a few women in my ward boil onion skins in water and drink the water when they have a cold and they say the cold goes away within the day, #4 Shreck describes himself as being an onion, and who doesn't want to be more like shreck right (or avoid it???) :)

So as usually I get a lot of my information from one of my favorite books:

Did you know... the thickness of an onion's skin has been used o predict how bad the next winter will be?  Thin skin means a mild winter and thick indicates a rough winter. .... so my fellow Utah friends, grow a few onions in your garden and get a heads up on the winter before it happens and tell all your friends how bad it's going to be and they will think you are so smart!

Onions are members of the lily family... and there are two types: 1. bulb-forming, 2. perennial

The origin of the onion is believed to be in Asia where 5,000 year old onion gardens have been excavated. Pharaohs were buried with onions as a sign of eternity.  The Romans believed the onion could cure any ailment.  During the middle ages onions could be used as currency, and even a FANTASTIC WEDDING GIFT! (wow, hasn't life changed... could imagine getting an onion for your wedding???).

Onions contain a compound called QUERCETINE, A POWERFUL FLAVINOID ANTIOXIDANT. Onions are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C & folate.  Phyotochemicals found in onions have shown to reduce the risk of some cancers!

Onions can be used for:
  1. CANCER: yellow onions were the fourth highest in anticancer-growth activity.  Onions display moderate levels of cancer-protective activity.
  2. LUNG CANCER: Quercetin has been show to have beneficial affects vs. lung cancer.
  3. COLON AND LIVER CANCER: strong-tasting (yellow & shallots) do a better job of inhibiting the growth of liver and colon cancer.
  4. PROSTATE CANCER: the strongest risk reduction factors for prostate cancer were onions, cereals and grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
  5. HEART HEALTH: (my favorite reason for eating onions, and probably most applicable to you!).  sulfides found in onions decreases blood clotting, and significantly LOWERS YOUR LDL CHOLESTEROL LEVEL. When you decrease the clotting properties of your blood it REDUCES YOUR RISK OF ATHEROSCLEROSIS (narrowing of the arteries by fatty plaque buildup!!), HEAR DISEASE, HEART ATTACK AND STROKE.

A couple months ago I came across an old 1900's custom, which said that onions have the ability to attract germs and sickness from the air.  It went on to say that as far back as 1900 someone with a flu or cold, would put an onion by their bed, and when they wake up the onion would be black. It also relates, that the sickness would be gone or decreased.  In the early 1900's hospitals and homeowners used to put onions in bowls next to patients beds to help absorb bacteria. This long-standing belief, is discredited by many scientists, because they say that virus and bacterial are transmitted via contact, not as much via air particles and that an onion wouldn't have the abilities to, in essence, be a magnet for these air-bound germs However, there have been no scientific studies regarding cut onions but it is highly discredited by scientists (http://www.snopes.com/medical/swineflu/onion.asp). 

My cute, Philipino friend in my ward told me that in her culture they boil onion skins in water and drink it when they are sick and she said she is never sick for long. Given what we know about onions, the boiling does not rely on the traveling through the air, it is soaked into the water.

Many high end restaurants never used previously chopped onions.  They always use fresh ones and throw away any left overs, because, not only the smell that fills the fridge, and the proposed belief that they attract a lot of bacteria. This could be a good reason why onions have such thick skin and so many layers, so air does not have access to it!

TIPS FOR NOT CRYING WHILE CUTTING ONIONSall methods for reducing the volatility of the sulfide that causes the irritation.
  1. Peeling and cutting under running water, 
  2. Chopping near a gas flame,
  3. Refrigerating onions before chopping, 

Thanks for reading, hope this was helpful.  I am a Physician Assistant Student, I am not certified yet, and I am not a doctor.  Please talk with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes or medication changes.  My blog is often a conglomeration of my opinions, ideas, views, classroom lectures, past knowledge and resources from books, websites and research; not all of it is solid fact or everyone's beliefs and opinions.

1 comment:

Savannah said...

We are growing yellow onions and I am so excited to see if they survive! Onions make everything better- we've been making tin foil dinners with meat, sweet potatoes, our home grown carrots, and hopefully soon- homegrown onions! Delicious! I was thinking I need to call you the other day so yes, since I will probably never see you unless we fly to SF- calling is where it's at :)


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