What’s In An Onion That’s Good For Us?

Some people get tears in their eyes thinking about chopping an onion, while others think about getting bad breath from eating them. Well, I suppose I am quite biased, but I say chop, chop!  Eat more onions! 

Like other fruits and vegetables, onions have important vitamins and minerals.  What makes the onion family unique is the three different groups of health-enhancing compounds they contain.  

Scientific research shows each group can have a positive impact on our health and well-being.  The most encouraging bodies of research include how these groups effect cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and osteoporosis.  Research also indicates that onions may have broader health benefits because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.   

Allicin, which is responsible for the smell of onion and garlic, belongs to one of these compound groups and has been shown in animal studies to reduce heart disease, decrease blood pressure, prevent platelet aggregation, and have anti-inflammatory properties.  

Quercetin, a powerful anti-oxidant, offers many of the same health benefits as Allicin, but belongs to a different group of compounds. Onions happen to be one of the top food sources of quercetin.  In animal studies Quercetin, like Allicin, has been linked with cancer prevention, and brain and heart health.   

Click here to read more about these specific studies on phytochemicals and onions.     

And for a great tasting dose of summertime onion flavor, try this grilled salad!   


Grilled Potato n Onion Salad w Chipotle Vinaigrette

Grilled Potato n Onion Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette  

This is a delicious salad, well worth the effort to grill and enjoy the smokey flavors!  Makes 4 to 6 servings.     


New potatoes                                      2 pounds
Light olive oil                                      as needed
Salt and pepper                                  to taste
Red onion                                             10 ounces
Yellow or red bell pepper              1
Clove garlic, finely chopped         1
Salad greens like frisee or 
watercress sprigs                              as needed 

For Chipotle Vinaigrette: 

Champagne vinegar                         1 tablespoon
Fresh lime juice                                 2 tablespoons
Dijon mustard                                    1/2 teaspoon
Chipotle puree                                   1 teaspoon
Clove garlic, finely chopped        1
Salt                                                          1/2 teaspoon
Light olive oil                                     5 tablespoons
Cilantro, coarsely chopped          1 tablespoon 


For Salad:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a small baking dish, toss the potatoes with just enough olive oil to coat them lightly and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pepper.  Cover and roast until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Cut the potatoes into halves, or quarters if they’re large.   

Peel the onion and slice it into ½-inch thick rings, keeping each section of cut rings intact.  Cut the pepper in half lengthwise, remove the membranes, seed and stem, and cut lengthwise into 1-inch thick strips.  Add the garlic to a little olive oil and brush over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.     

Place the vegetables on a hot grill, making sure that the cut side of the potatoes and the skin side of the peppers are facing the grill.  Turn the onions after about 5 minutes and , if necessary, move the peppers and potatoes to a cooler part of the grill while the onions continue to cook.  The onions will become very sweet as they cook slowly over the hot coals, so don’t hurry them.   

For Chipotle Vinaigrette:  Combine the vinegar and lime juice in a bowl.  Whisk in the Dijon mustard, chipotle puree, garlic and salt.  Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify.  Makes about ½ cup.   

When the onions are tender and grilled on both sides, transfer to a bowl and toss with the potatoes, peppers, vinaigrette and cilantro.  Loosely arrange the greens on a platter, then spoon the vegetables over.  Serve immediately.   

Recipe and image provided by the National Onion Association. 

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