Onion Nutrition

onion nutrition imgOnion nutrition and remedies is our next topic in the ‘natural remedies you may already have in your kitchen‘ theme.  This humble little bulb has a long and fragrant history, much like its cousin, garlic.  In fact,
these two have similar actions…and compliment one another in remedies and recipes alike.  You may already be aware of the many uses of onions in the kitchen, but onions, like garlic, have been interwoven in the history of medicine for thousands of years…as far back as can be documented in human history.

The Humble Onion: Nutrition Powerhouse

Like garlic, onions contain a long list of chemical compounds that activate and begin to create new compounds when cut. Though they contain similar compounds, garlic contains a much higher concentration of the antibiotic compound allicin.

Onions however, have a higher quercetin content.  Quercetin is arguably the most important compound in onions.  It is a strong antioxidant (a flavanol).  Antioxidents are important for slowing damage to body cells.  Many studies
are now pointing to a flavonoids rich diet to decrease the risk of degenerative changes and diseases like cataracts, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.(1)(2)  Other compounds in onions are also useful for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. (3)  Like garlic, onion is a food and a medicinal herb. The more onion nutrition you get in your diet on a regular basis, the better!

The Best of the Bunch

The darker the onion, the richer the flavanol and quercetin content on average. Red onions are the star players of onion nutrition levels, with yellow onions coming in next.  The amount of flavanoids depends on the growing methods and processing. (4) For the biggest health benefits, choose smaller dark (red) skinned onions, and fresh over pre chopped or dried/processed onions whenever possible.  The peels have significantly more flavanols than the core.  I save the papery peelings, and toss them into my broth bag in the freezer, where they can add their flavor and concentrated nutrients to homemade broth! (1)

If the eye watering bothers you (and I weep with you) then I have found that an enclosed chopper is handy.
My Pampered Chef chopper is my favorite, but I was given one of these for Christmas, and I’m enjoying it as well!

Speaking of Cooking Onions…

Cooking onions will break down the sulfur and the strong smell/taste along with it, and roasting even develop the sugars in the onion and makes them mighty tasty!  Roasting will not harm the quercetin content, so you’ll still get those great anti-inflammatory properties…cooking in water will cause the flavanols and other onion nutrition to leach into the liquid, so soups are a great way to get the quercetin into your system.

Don’t bother with powdered or dehydrated onions, which have next to or none of that good onion nutrition left.  And don’t count on fried onions for health benefits (darn it)…they lose 1/3 of their potency in the fryer. (5) My favorite onion recipes are French Onion Soup, homemade broths and soups made from them, and my yummy french dressing made with fresh onion.  Yum!  I have used both of these when fighting coughs and colds.

(Confession: I’m too much of a weenie to eat fresh onions ona salad.  Sorry Mom.)

Head over to part two and learn more about how I use onion remedies to treat myself and my family. You won’t believe how useful they are outside of the kitchen- they’re a valuable resource in my family medicine cabinet!


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17997520
    J Agric Food Chem.
  2. http://www.onions-usa.org/
  3. http://www.onions-usa.org/about/nutrition.php
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11349895
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18759442

Have you ever used onions as a natural remedy? What’s your favorite recipe that features onions?

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Onions are packed with nutrition and have been used since ancient times not only as food but as powerful natural remedies. Learn more about onion nutrition and remedies right here at Gwen's Nest.


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  1. gloria says

    Fascinating! Please, if you would sometime detail your broth bag, that might prove helpful. I have the feeling that much waste is going on in our kitchen, and sadly so.

    • Its_Gwen says

      I will add this idea to my fall blogging calendar. Thanks for the request! I’ll post a link here when I get it put up!

  2. Erik says

    Hi Gwen, would you know the amount of allicin that an onion contains? I’ve looked everywhere on the internet but couldn’t find any amount listed.

    • says

      Hi Erik! Allicin is not actually in a whole onion, it’s a compound that’s created by an enzymatic reaction when an onion is sliced or crushed. So that may be why you’re having trouble finding a measurement. :)