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They star in salads, sauces and stews, yet are still often overshadowed by their white and yellow cousins. The good news: the red onion may be making a comeback—and in a big way. According to a brand new study, red onions are rich in compounds that may help kill cancer cells.
“In our study, they promoted an unfavorable environment for cancer cells and disrupted the communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth, explained study co-author Abdulmonem Murayya. In their lab, the team tested the onion’s natural compounds on colon cancer cells.
This news isn’t that surprising to nutrition experts: “Red onions contain many ingredients that make them health winners,” says Allison Sanders, RD, clinical dietitian specialist at Indiana University Health. “They are filled with flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that have been found to boost the immune system and protect against many cancers. And they also contain quercetin, a compound that has been linked to the reduction of heart disease and alleviating inflammatory condition like arthritis.”
The bulb’s crimson color also adds to its specialness, she says. “Red onions contain anthocyanins—the flavonoid antioxidant compound that gives them their beautiful purple, red pigment and it has been associated with improved heart health, cancer protection and more.”
Another reason to break out these bulbs? Sweet and savory, this veggie is also very figure-friendly. “A half cup of uncooked red onions is only about 25 calories,” Sanders says.
While experts say it’s ideal to eat red onions raw (to avoid compromising the healthful compounds listed above), if you cook them, opt for low and slow to retain maximum quercetin content.
Recipe options can be endless, says Sanders. “And summer is a great time since you can pair red onions with other produce that’s ripe in season in great dishes like stir-frys, salads or kabobs.”
But, before you start shoveling them in, take note. “For optimal health, strive to eat a variety of fruits and veggies and integrate red onions into that routine as a part of a healthy balanced diet.”
-- By Sarah Burns