Some people have an aversion to onions and frankly, it’s one that’s quite understandable. Onions
, after all, are pungent, spicy and have the side effect of making you tear up in the kitchen. Oh, and they also have the tendency to leave our breaths smelling like a deli.
Onions (Allium cepa
), are a member of the allium family, which means that they are related to fellow kitchen staples such as garlic, leeks, shallots and scallions.
Despite their smell, however, onions are actually some of the most nutritious -- and if properly cooked -- delicious foods that you can add to your diet. This is mainly because onions are rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals
, all of which lend both flavor and nutrition to the pungent bulbs.
Some of the vitamins present in onions include the following:
- Vitamin C - A potent antioxidant, Vitamin C is said to support proper immune function, as well as facilitate wound healing and even the maintenance of skin and hair.
- Folate (Vitamin B9) - A water-soluble B vitamin, folate is known for being essential for cell growth and metabolism. This vitamin is said to be extremely important for pregnant women
- Vitamin B6 - One of the most abundant of vitamins, Vitamin B6 is best known for being involved in the formation of the body's red blood cells.
But where onions truly shine is in their phytochemical content.
According to experts, onions are incredibly rich in phytochemicals
such as anthocyanins, quercetin, sulfides and thiosulfinates, all of which have distinct beneficial properties.
Anthocyanins, for instance, are powerful antioxidants and pigments that give red onions their color. They are also linked to several potential health benefits related to chronic inflammation.
Quercetin, on the other hand, is an antioxidant flavonoid and is said to help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health
Onions are also rich in sulfur compounds
such as sulfides and polysulfides. These compounds, aside from giving onions their signature aroma, are also known to have anti-cancer properties.
Another group of sulfur compounds, thiosulfinates are known to help inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms and even prevent the formation of stray blood clots.
Because of their nutrient-dense nature, onions, to no one’s surprise, have been linked to a bevy of health benefits
such as the following:
- Bring high blood pressure to normal levels
- Bring down high triglyceride levels
- Facilitate reductions in elevated blood sugar levels
- Protect the body against oxidative damage
- Inhibit the growth of several pathogens
- Help reduce the risks for cancer
- Help prevent osteoporosis
Aside from their nutrients, onions are also valued for their unique pungency and flavor
, as well as the ease with which they can be added to your favorite savory dishes.
Some of the popular -- and healthy! -- ways that you can prepare onions include the following:
- Caramelized onions - These make perfect toppings for meaty sandwiches as they complement and balance out the richness of the fillings.
- Pickled onions - Pickled onions make for perfect palate cleansers after heavy meals. Plus -- depending on how they are fermented, of course -- they are filled with probiotics, which make them a boon for your gut bacteria.
- Roasted onions - No barbecue -- all-meat or otherwise -- should be considered complete without a side of roasted onions. Not only do they complement roasted meats well, but the roasting process brings out the natural sweetness in onions, making them kid and veggie-hater-friendly.
- Stuffed onions - A more filling take on onions, these take a bit more work to complete -- you have to make sure you get enough of the inner layers out to prepare it for your stuffing of choice -- but the result is well worth the effort.
- Glazed onions - Glazed onions straddle that fine line between sweet and savory, making them the perfect side dish for many dishes.
With that said, here is a recipe for an incredibly savory vegetable pie, with -- you guessed it -- onions as the main filling.
Red onion, carrot and hazelnut tatin
- 3 medium-sized organic red onions
- 4 large organic carrots, peeled
- 2 tablespoons organic camelina oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 1/4 cup blanched whole organic hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted grass-fed butter
- 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons organic maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 sheet prepared organic puff pastry
- 2 tablespoons tarragon leaves, soaked in an ice water bath and patted dry
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel onions and cut them into small, uniform wedges. Do the same for the carrots.
- Arrange the carrot chunks and onion wedges on a baking sheet and sprinkle with camelina oil and salt, making sure to toss everything well to evenly coat the vegetables. Roast the mixture in the oven for 30 minutes or until the carrots and onions become soft and start to caramelize. Once the vegetables have evenly browned, add the hazelnuts and roast for another five minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a nine-inch cast-iron pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add sugar and balsamic vinegar, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue stirring for two to three minutes until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Add roasted vegetables and nuts to the pan, making sure to stir everything well in order to fully coat the vegetables with the glaze. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- While waiting for the vegetables to cool, unroll the puff pastry carefully to avoid tearing, then use a rolling pin to even it out, before cutting out a 9-inch round.
- Once the vegetables have cooled sufficiently, bunch them together in the center of the pan, leaving a ¾-inch gap around the sides. Cover vegetables with pastry round, making sure to tuck it slightly under the vegetables before pressing its edges lightly into the pan.
- Prick the pastry all over with a fork and bake the tart tatin for around 20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up and golden.
- Once cooked, take the pan out of the oven and then place a flat plate large enough to go over the top and quickly flip it over, centering the pie on it.
- Dress the top of the tart tatin with the tarragon leaves.
- Serve and enjoy!
Onions deserve a bit more love than what they’re currently getting. Once you get over their pungency, you’ll see how nutritious and delicious
they truly are -- with a side helping of health benefits, to boot.
Adding vegetables and herbs
to your diet is a good way to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and health-supporting phytochemicals. Just make sure you’re getting the organic kind, in order to maximize their possible benefits.