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Onions Offer More Than Flavour

No onions on my sandwich, please, my eight-year-old daughter said. I was chopping onions and other vegetables as I assembled panini sandwiches to cook on our electric sandwich grill.

How about just a little onion for flavour? I asked.

Remember the customer is always right, and this customer doesn t like onions! she exclaimed.

My little customer has eaten more finely minced onions without knowing it than she could ever imagine.

OK, no onions on your sandwich today, I said.

Onions are a popular vegetable, being used in salsa, soup, sandwiches, salads, main dishes and appetizers such as onion rings.

Available in white, yellow and red varieties, onions provide a lot more than flavour. A cup of chopped onion adds just 64 calories to your recipe, along with nearly three grams of fibre, plus vitamin C, folate (a B vitamin) and several minerals.

Onions contain some health-promoting antioxidant compounds that are being studied for their role in fighting heart disease, cancer and even osteoporosis and ulcers. Quercetin is among the natural antioxidants abundant in onions.

Despite their culinary popularity, onions have a reputation for causing bad breath and crying, (not necessarily in that order).

As for the breath issue, you can visit with people who also have been eating onions, or you can try some other remedies. Drinking lemonade, rinsing your mouth with lemon water or chewing on some parsley, a natural breath freshener, have been noted as helpful in reducing halitosis. Or grab your toothbrush and some minty toothpaste and find a sink.

Known for their tendency to promote weeping, onions contain sulphur compounds that might irritate the eyes. To lessen this tendency, the National Onion Association suggests chilling the onions for about 30 minutes before peeling and cutting. Because much of the sulphur compounds are concentrated in the root end of the onion, start by cutting the onion from the tip, and cut the root end last.

Onions should be firm without cuts or bruises. For the best flavour, clean and cut the onions as close as you can to their actual use in your recipes because the aroma tends to increase while the flavour decreases after cutting. However, you can safely store chopped onion in a sealed container in your refrigerator for a week.

Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota

State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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