Green Onions Health Benefits
Green onions, also known as scallions, have often been underestimated when it comes to nutrition. The fact is that green onions are affordable super-foods and can offer excellent health benefits without breaking the bank.
Therefore, in addition to eating fruits and other vegetables, health enthusiasts should include green onions in their daily diet by adding them to savory vegetable preparations and even sprinkling them to decorate soups and stews.
Native to Asia, green onions are simply young onions with long green stems and a thin white bulb. This means that they are harvested before their full maturity. So, their pungent taste is milder and actually they are more nutrient rich than fully ripe onions.
The taste or flavor green onions add to food is umami – the 5th taste identified by the Japanese in the 1900s, other than the basic 4 tastes like sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Health Benefits of Green Onions
Green onions contain the same nutritious ingredients that are present in ripe onions, but in higher amounts. E.g. they contain 100 times more phytonutrients than fully ripe onions. Most part of their healthy goodness occurs in the green parts of green onions.
Green onions contain a very few calories. Even a cupful of green onions increase your calorie intake only 1 percent in a regular 2,000-calorie diet. Major part of calories in green onions comes from carbohydrates.
A cupful of green onions consists of 4gm of total carbohydrates, including 1.3gm dietary fiber. Carbs provide energy required by tissues for daily functioning and dietary fiber keeps digestive tract healthy. There are only a small amount of fat and proteins in green onions, i.e. less than one gram per serving.
Help in Losing Weight
Green onions being low in calories but nutrient-rich are excellent addition to the food of a person who is looking for losing a few pounds. They are also high in fiber which helps promote weight loss by keeping one feel full for longer and reducing appetite.
Some studies have even found that green onions may also bring a change in certain genes that are responsible for obesity. In a 2011 animal study conducted on rats by the Center of Herbal Resources Research at the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine, it was found that after eating green onion extract for 6.5 weeks, the rats reduced weight and their fat cells shrunk. Their levels of a particular protein that helps in the breakdown of fats were also increased.
By far, including green onions in one’s diet together with abundant amount of other low-calorie foods like vegetables and fruits is an easy and surefire way to keep one’s weight in control.
Green onions contain carotenoids, including lutein, vitamin A and zeaxanthin. It’s well-known that vitamin A has an important role to play in eye health and lack of it causes difficulty in seeing at night.
Lutein and zeaxanthin work synergistically to keep one’s eyes healthy. Their consumption protects cells from damage and combat macular degeneration, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Every cup of green onions consists of 2,840 IU of lutein and 609 micrograms of zeaxanthin.
Help Blood Clotting
Green onions are rich in vitamin K, which is an essential nutrient for several health aspects, but particularly has an important role in blood clotting. Blood clotting is vital to prevent excessive bleeding in the event of an injury or surgery. It forms a clot by bringing plasma and platelets together in case of a wound or injury, thus preventing further blood loss. A deficiency of vitamin K can lead to symptoms such as easy bruising and bleeding, usually from nose or gums.
Make Bones Healthy
Green onions also contain vitamins C and K both of which make your skeleton healthy. Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of collagen that makes bones strong, whereas vitamin K helps the body in using calcium to maintain the bone density. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant and protects the body from tissue damage, whereas vitamin K even controls blood clotting.
According to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 241 osteoporosis patients using vitamin K lowered the risk of fractures and their bone density was maintained. Another study stated that a low intake of vitamin K was linked to increased risk of hip fractures in senior women and men.
A serving of 1 cup of green onions contains 10mg of vitamin C which is 11 percent of RDI for men and 13 percent of RDI for women. A serving of 1 cup of green onions also contains 111 micrograms of vitamin K which is 89 percent of the RDI for men and whole RDI for women, as per the Institute of Medicine.
Great for Skin
Since vitamin C in green onions help in the synthesis of collagen, green onions help keep one’s skin beautiful and young-looking. Since collagen keeps synthesizing naturally due to green onions, the skin is rejuvenated naturally.
Green onions contain a lot of sulfur which stops fungal growth, whereas its vitamin K causes blood clotting. Green onions also improve blood circulation and absorption of vitamin B1 in body by lessening tiredness and stress. Its vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects body from inflammation and other damages.
Prevent Stomach Upset
Green onions can relieve gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and more. Their high amounts of fiber improve the function of gastrointestinal tract.
Reduce Blood Sugar
According to studies, sulfur compounds in green onions help reduce blood sugar levels. They do this by increasing insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that transports sugar in blood to the body cells.
Green onions contain compounds that help decelerate the growth of some specific kinds of cancer. A 2012 study found that when mice with colon cancer were given green onion extract, their tumors got suppressed, inflammation was reduced and survival rate increased.
Another study in Maryland’s National Cancer Institute found that increased intake of green onions was linked to a 30 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.
Green onions also consist of a compound named allicin, well-known for its anti-cancer properties. In a study in China, treating stomach cancer patients with allicin resulted in stopping the growth of cancer and the cancer cells were killed. However, more research is needed in this field.
Sulfur-containing compounds named allyl sulfide in green onions also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Flavonoids in green onions too prevent cancer by stopping the production of xanthine oxidase enzyme which is harmful for DNA and altogether cells due to its production of free radicals.
Some studies have found that green onions can help boost one’s immune system to fight infections and illnesses. They do this primarily by changing the levels of certain cells in the immune system that ward off illnesses and fight foreign intruders in the body.
Animal studies have found that when mice were fed green onions, their immunity was enhanced due to increased activity of important immune cells. Another study found a particular compound in green onions that increases the production of antibodies to combat influenza.
Plus, green onions are loaded with vitamin C which is a known antioxidant and enhances immune function and wards off infections.
Improve Heart Health
Green onions have also been found to improve heart health. It has been found in animal studies that green onion extract was able to considerably reduce many heart disease risk factors such as bad LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Another animal study also found that treating rats with green onion extract improved their blood flow.
Plus, green onions are rich with vitamin K which too may help in the protection of heart because vitamin K prevents the hardening of arteries by stopping the formation of calcium deposits on the arterial walls. A survey of the diets of 16,057 women over a 4-year period found that increased intake of vitamin K in some forms was associated to lower risk of heart disease.
A balanced and nutritious diet, together with green onions and a lot of physical activity can keep one’s heart healthy.
Improve Respiratory Function
Green onions are well-known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties and so, are one of the most preferred natural remedies for flu, common cold and viral infections. They are also seen to induce the activity of respiratory system and help in expelling sputum.
How to Eat Green Onions
One can add green onions to their favorite salads, as their flavor goes well with a salad of diced mango, whole-wheat couscous and jalapeno or a mixture of quinoa, black beans and chipotle lime dressing. Green onions can also be added to sandwiches or wraps, or for garnishing soups.
Another tasty alternative is to slice green onions half lengthwise and coat them lightly with olive oil and roast in oven till golden brown. Sliced green onions can also be sautéed in a mixture of minced garlic, lemon zest and olive oil.
Green onions also fit well in vegan, paleo, raw food and macrobiotic diets.
Green onions are important ingredient of many Mediterranean Diet recipes, from salads to main dishes, and just small amounts of green onions can additionally flavor the meal.
Green Onions Nutritional Profile
One cup (71 grams) of green onions (chopped) contain around:
- Calories: 19 Kcal
- Beta carotene: 1704 micrograms
Green Onions Risk Factors
Though rare, an allergy to green onions can cause adverse reactions, symptoms of which are vomiting, shortness of breath, skin irritation, itching and wheezing. If a person finds these or any other adverse symptoms, he should stop eating green onions and consult his doctor.
People on warfarin or similar medication for blood thinning should also be cautious while eating green onions. Patients on blood thinners are advised to monitor their vitamin K intake. They don’t have to eliminate all vitamin K foods from their diet, but just make sure they eat the same quantity every day to prevent interference with their medication.
For short: Green onions are often found in Mediterranean cuisine, from appetizers and salads to main courses.
Green onions add specific aroma and fragrance, without increasing carbohydrate intake and thus glycemic load.
Just be sure not to overdo it :)
For possible uses of green onions, feel free to check Mediterranean Diet recipes.
... and people call it 'diet' :)