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Onions: The Miracle Food

By Edited May 11, 2016 10 14



By: J. Marlando


When I was a kid I remember my mother gazing into our empty refrigerator and ending up making us onion sandwiches for dinner. This sounds like a sob story, I know but, trust me, it is not. We were onion eaters and loved them and we ate them regularly no matter how much other food we had—we fried them, boiled them, pickled them, put them in salads and often ate them as some people eat apples.

I grew up having lots of wonderful health—I climbed mountains, I was a scuba diver, I was out there in all kinds of weather and usually having a great time. Then I got cocky I guess because I quit all that and began mistreating my body thinking…well, I wasn’t thinking so I ended up pretty much out of shape and headed downhill. I ended up facing a killer disease that landed me in the hospital for three months. The doctors were sure I would never make it and when I did they took to calling me Iron Man Jack and Miracle of the month. Why am I sharing all this with you? Because I believe it was my childhood diet and all those onions I ate that reinforced my immune system and gave my body that extra push throughout my life and yes, even over those decades when I paid no attention to my health whatsoever. Anyway, about five years or so after the first time, I got hit by the same disease and again was placed on the “feet first” list. The doctor actually told my wife to call my relatives as I was not going to last. That was quite a few years ago and here I am still kicking. And so, I want to share the good news with you and tell you what I know about what I call “the miracle food.”

A Brief History

I conclude that onions, growing wild, were probably consumed for thousands of years by our prehistoric cousins prior to the advent of civilization. The Chinese were growing onions at least 5,000 years ago and the ancient Sumerians had onion patches 2,500 years ago. They were actually worshiped in Egypt where they symbolized eternity. Kings and queens were buried with onions because they were thought of as being magic.

The Israelites ate onions, in India they were used as medicine and the Greeks used them to strengthen their athletes. Indeed, before competitions the Greek jocks ate onions, drank onion juice and even rubbed onions on their bodies. In Rome, Apicius

famous for writing the world’s first cook book in the eighth century, made a lot of references to onions. During the Dark Ages rich and poor ate onions and they were also prescribed by doctors for such ailments as headaches and snakebite. The very poor actually paid their rent with, what else, onions. Onions were also planted by the American pilgrims back in the 1600s and our Native Americans ate a wild-growing variety. And, as said, we ate onions often at our house. In fact, when I was a young boy growing up at my grandmother’s, we ate pinto beans at least three days a week for what we called supper. They were always smothered in onions!


The question is are onions truly a miraculous health food or are they not? We’ll answer that question next.


Miracle or Myth

From the time I was a little boy I was told by the adults in my world that onions were good for you and believing this I ate them with great glee regardless of a few tears welling in my eyes and sometimes a slight burning sensation in my mouth. I was also told if I ate my spinach I’d grow up to be like Popeye and I believed that too. My grandmother also told me that garlic worn around the neck kept winter colds away so it’s no wonder that I could never get a date.

The truth about onions is, however, that they not only have real healings powers but are also a natural preventative medicine. And yes, they actually reduce the risks of many types of cancer: Colorectal, laryngeal, ovarian, oral and esophageal. This is not just me or my dear old granny talking but scientific researchers.

Indeed, the nutrients in onions bathe us in vitamin C, fiber, manganese, molybdenum, vitamin B, foliate, potassium, tryptophan and are very low in calories. Just like someone once said, onions are not only doggone good, but doggone good for us!

Of the three most popular types—red, brown and white

whites are known to be least in nutritional benefits but they are rich in quercetin, a powerful flavonoid that Chinese researchers say can actually stop the growth of cells in lung and stomach cancers.

It is also reported that eating onions helps people suffering from arthritis and asthma to fight inflammation so often related to those diseases. Also, good news for those with diabetes (I raise my hand) eating onions can actually reduce the symptoms of diabetes. Just a cup of raw white onion contains 24 mcg of chromium which works to regulate blood sugar. This claim, however, comes only from research on animals so far but all the signals are there for positive human results.

Onions are also healthy food for the heart. Researchers today have found that eating raw onions—even a half of a white or yellow onion lowers bad cholestral and raises good cholesterol levels. And speaking of health benefits, human studies have shown that onion can increase bone density and may be a key to benefit women of menopausal age helping them to avoid hip fracture.

In light of all this, we can only conclude that yes, onions are a miracle food!

Other Information


Like all other vegetables onions are most valuable if you can, grow your own and eat fresh. After all, for the backyard or even the container farmer, onions can be fun and easy to grow. They’re a winter crop so simply check when the best planting time is in your region and…dig in.

Little green onionsare good for us but not as fully as healthy for us as the more pungent reds, browns or whites. They sure are tasty though!


Wild onions are were called “she-gau-ga-winshe” by the Chippewa Indians who found them growing thick in the area now known as Chicago. This indeed is where Chicago got its name—she-gau-ga-winshe!”


Incidentally never peel onions under cold running water—some of their wonderful nutrients can be washed away. Never store your onions with potatoes as they will spoil faster and finally, if you are one of those persons who can’t stand to eat raw onions, boil them in some water to make a great onion soup.  The onions will lose some of their nutritional power but the water they are cooked in will maintain it.

Good eating and…Good health! 

A Must Have Book for Home Gardeners



Feb 1, 2013 1:15pm
Love onions, they are essential in most of my cooking. T'is a very interesting and informative article.

It actually coincides with something I read earlier. I was reading about a wives' tale saying that if you peel and cut on onion in every room of your house, it absorbs harmful organisms. Primarily the flu.
Feb 1, 2013 3:16pm
Hi--thanks for reading and your insightful comments--I no longer scoff at "old wives' tales" and have discovered over the years many are quite authentic in their application. Thanks again for the read, the rating and comments.
Feb 1, 2013 4:25pm
This is interesting, because I, too, love onions -- raw, sauteed, whatever way they can be had (about the only thing I don't like are onion rings). And I feel that many things are remiss without onions in them. Good piece on a great basic food item (that I happen to love). A thumb's up.
Feb 1, 2013 5:33pm
Hi--Thanks for the read and the positive comments--Incidentally, I ain't crazy about onion rings either but I am otherwise a real onion lover.
Mar 2, 2013 9:44pm
Hmm this might save me lots of trips to the doctor when i'll be alone at uni! Thanks :)
Mar 3, 2013 6:26am
I like onions, and I really like this article! I, too, put onions on, or in, just about everything I cook and eat. Homemade onion rings are awesome, and those processed ones just don't do it for me, either. I do like Outback's Blooming Onion; they are tasty and cooked fresh. Excellent choice for a featured article. Thumbs Up!
Mar 3, 2013 8:03am
Thanks for the informative article. I am impressed with the brief history of the onions.
I too love it especially the red colored onions.
Mar 3, 2013 8:43am
This is an interesting article. I love red onions but all onions are great and add flavor and nutrients to home cooked food. It makes perfect sense to make onions a big part of your diet!
Mar 4, 2013 8:53am
I had no idea that onions are actually so healthy! Plus, the article was a very enjoyable read. Thumbs up!
Mar 4, 2013 1:30pm
Great article! We often had pinto beans with plenty of onions for SUPPER too! We must be of the same generation. :). I recently read an article about onions in which it stated once an onion is cut, it can harbor bacteria quite easily and while many think potato salad left out is bad because of the mayo, it is actually the onion. Know anything about that--true or not? My mom used to eat onion sandwiches but I could never. Can't eat them raw anymore but I tell you, I cook with them all the time--one of my main ingredients. Thumbs up from me for the great article and nicely presented.
Mar 4, 2013 2:49pm
Hi Weianow--Yes, we're probably around the era especially if onions and pinto beans was on your main course of "home cookin'."
As for the potato salad question, I don't know but I do know onions get pretty darn strong left out or, for the matter, in the fridge once cut. I still love onion sandwiches but often they don't love me back=--nevertheless, they truly are a wonderful health food. Than you for the comments!
Mar 7, 2013 3:20pm
Thanks for the info. I'm going right now to separate my onions and potatoes!
Mar 9, 2013 10:23am
We eat a lot of onions too, so I used to buy onions in a 25 lb bag for the winter. The last few years have been too wet and humid to do that. I've been storing my onions inside the same box where I store my potatoes for several months now. Although we eat onions far too quickly for them to spoil, as I only buy a few at a time now, I've been noticing lately, that my potatoes have been sprouting and softening far more quickly than they used to. Thanks for all of the great info!
Mar 11, 2013 3:00am
This is great information about onions, I like to put them on my sandwiches and sometimes I cook with them. Green onions are great for sour cream and dip recipes. I noticed if you cook onions they turn sweeter. I am glad they are healthy for us. Although many people don't want to have onion breath. LOL
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