I like onions. It’s true. Anyone who knows me knows that I will welcome onions to almost any recipe. And while this love affair has been going on a long time, it’s great to know now that a particular food that I’m passionate about is actually a really healthful choice.
Onions contain a lot of vitamin C as well as B vitamins and potassium. We know that quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that also serves to reduce inflammation, is found in rich supply in onions. In fact, research has shown a beneficial effect of quercetin in lowering blood pressure, at least in overweight people.
Red onions owe their rich color to flavonoid plant pigments called anthocyanins, which have been studied and shown to be associated with lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks and may actually protect against certain cancers and diabetes.
But perhaps the most attractive feature of onions, aside from their taste, is that they are a wonderful source of prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber is generally defined as a nondigestible carbohydrate compound that can be metabolized by our gut microorganisms and modulates the composition of our gut microorganisms such that we derive some health benefit. Inulin (not to be confused with insulin) is an important prebiotic fiber that occurs naturally in onions as well as garlic, chicory, oats, soybeans, and Jerusalem artichokes. Inulin has been shown to increase a type of bacteria in the gut, Bifidobacteria, and this has been associated with decreased gut permeability or leakiness. And this should certainly be something we should strive for.
Now, let’s look at the nuts and bolts of an onion’s nutritional parameters according to the UDSA. A typical onion, measuring approximately 2 ½ inches in diameter, contains:
- Calories – 44
- Fat – 0.1g
- Sodium – 4.4mg
- Carbohydrates – 10g
- Fiber – 1.9g
- Sugars – 4.7g
- Protein – 1.2g
And, as expected, onions have a low glycemic index, between 10-15.
So, bring on the prebiotic-rich onions. Your gut bacteria will thank you!