To say that I’ve always loved cooking with onions would be a lie. As a kid, I hated the strong smell of onions, and the fact that they make you tear up while slicing them. But eventually I grew out of my hatred for onions, and now can’t see myself whipping up a delicious stew or sauce without them. That’s why I was happy to find out that these versatile veggies have some amazing health benefits that are hard to pass up. Research suggests onions can help burn visceral (or belly) fat and improve liver health!
Peeling the Onion
A 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients looked at whether regularly consuming onions could improve liver function and reduce obesity. Researchers first noted that onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin that’s responsible for giving veggies like onions their red or yellow color. Quercetin also has antioxidant effects to reduce inflammation in the body, which can cause weight gain and obesity.
This study was conducted in Hokkaido, Japan, with 70 adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years old. Participants were asked to consume either nine grams of onion powder every day for 12 weeks, or a placebo powder.
For the results, researchers compared low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is also called “good cholesterol” between the two groups. This type of cholesterol is key for maintaining liver function and weight management.
The authors ultimately found that those taking the onion powder had a higher reduction in belly fat than participants who took the placebo. Also, levels of an enzyme called alanine aminotransferase (ALT) were decreased in the onion powder group, as opposed to the placebo group. This enzyme is found in the liver and only increases when there’s damage to this important organ. These findings led the authors to conclude that onions have great perks for fighting obesity and boosting liver health.
Which types of onions are the highest in quercetin?
Previous research research shows that chartreuse and red onion varieties contain the most amounts of overall quercetin, while yellow onions only contain high levels of a fraction of this flavonoid, called quercetin 3-glucoside. Regardless, onions of any variety are a worthy addition to your diet, when it comes to your liver and your weight.
Not sure how to increase your onion intake? They’re great to slice or dice and enjoy raw in salads for some added crunch. Try them as a topping for tacos, or sprinkled on bowl of comforting chili. You can also caramelize them to bring out their natural sweetness. Caramelized onions are tasty to mix into cooked rice as a side, or serve alongside a juicy steak. (Psst: Don’t throw away those onion peels! Use them to make a soothing anti-aging tea that helps nix inflammation and lower blood pressure naturally.)
Onions Without the Tears
Do you hate using onions in your dishes because they make you cry? Thanks to a gas called syn-Propanethial-S-oxide that’s released when they’re chopped, onions can irritate your eyes. But a new variety of onions, called Sunions, might be just the ticket for your sensitive eyes: Sunions won’t cause any tearing up as you’re chopping them! (Our managing editor, Elizabeth, has tried them and can attest to their magical, tear-free properties!) Find them at your local grocery store while they’re in season!
This exciting research gives me more reasons to brainstorm ways I can experiment with onions in the kitchen for delicious meals. Plus, see how well they work around the house to make everyday tasks a breeze!