Onions: Bulbous Beauties With Many Health Benefits


Dear Pharmacist,

I attended a lecture of yours, and you announced to the audience, “I want you all to eat an onion today to keep the doctor away.” You left the topic quickly and didn’t pick me during the question/answer period. I’m still wondering, why onions? Did you mean to say eat an apple a day? –J. W. Denver, Colorado

Answer: Apples are worth eating every day, but I did mean onions. We were on a tangent during that talk, and onions happen to lower the risk for stomach cancer, improve breathing, fight bacteria and improve cholesterol.  Onions (and garlic) are rich in several sulfur compounds which offer protection against tumor growth, specifically in the stomach and intestines. Folks, that’s natural sulfur, which is completely different than sulfa-based drugs, which can spark allergies for some. Moreover, the sulfur compounds in this little pharmacological powerhouse might keep your blood nice and thin and halt the growth of dangerous pathogens including salmonella and E. Coli.  Peel it and purify yourself!

In Georgia, where Vidalia onions are cultivated, the mortality rates from stomach cancer are about half the average for the United States. Also, the Chinese rank among the largest population of onion lovers, and guess what? Their risk of getting stomach cancer is 40 percent lower than it is for people who shy away from the bulbous beauties.

Onions are extremely rich in fructo-oligosaccharides -compounds which feed your friendly flora. Think bifidobacteria, a micro-organism thought to relieve inflammatory bowel conditions and boost immune function.  In addition to breaking down certain cancer-causing compounds and reducing the body’s absorption of cholesterol, these particular friendly bugs also fight fungus. For all you social types, onions provide relief from gas and flatulence. Obviously, they could give you dragon breath, so pick your stink.

Onions are great for people with asthma, cough and colds or other breathing problems. Chewing a raw onion for two to three minutes can kill all the bacteria in your mouth!

And that’s not all the humble onion has to offer.  Rich in flavonoids, it helps heart disease.  So make onions a part of your daily diet. I’m good with any type of onion you like including shallots, leeks, scallions, chives, pearl, red, yellow, white, or Vidalia. Juice it, sauté it or eat it raw in salads—whatever you want! See, I’m not fussy. I want you to get well. Remember, onions with stronger flavors and aromas are better for you because they have higher amounts of sulfur compounds, which are the true healers in these perfect pungent veggies. They’re also the compounds that make you run from the kitchen with tears in your eyes.

Did You Know?

The very first bubble gum was invented in 1906 by Frank Henry Fleer who called it Blibber-Blubber. The recipe was later improved upon by Walter Diemer, who named the chewy delight “Double Bubble.”