I admit I am a little bit biased here, but onion and garlic have to be on top of everyone's shopping list. I grew up with garlic in everything and as a kid, sometimes my after school snack would be raw onion dipped in vinegar and oil (I always wondered why my teachers gave me my own "special" desk stuck in the back corner).
The health benefits of garlic go on and on:
-contains allicin, which is a powerful antioxidant.
-fights infections: helps with the mucous membranes which help fight common colds and respiratory infections
-heart healthy: keeps the heart muscles elastic, induces relaxation of the blood vessels, prevents unhealthy clotting and reduces plaque formation in arteries; very effective for hypertension
-anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral, even showing to fight such bacteria as MRSA
-cancer fighters: shown to protect from such cancers as prostate, breast, colon and esophageal (http://www.ajcn.org/content/84/5/1027.abstract)
It is important to understand that with garlic, to get the most beneficial results, it must be just chopped or crushed for the allicin to take effect. Once that has happened, wait just a few minutes and it is at that point that you are getting the powerful antioxidants. If you let garlic sit for a prolonged period of time after cutting into it or jar it, use garlic powder or dried garlic, then it will lose most of its potency. Of course, the more you cook garlic the more you lose all the good it has to offer. Additionally, I don't recommend a garlic supplement due to the above fact. At that point, most of its potency is lost in the process.
The benefits of onion are similar to garlic because they are so closely related. But onions have also shown to be a:
- Potent source of folic acid, magnesium, calcium, chromium, copper, potassium, iron and fiber
- Rich in Vitamins A, B & C
- A anti-coagulant: lowers cholesterol, triglycerides and aids hypertension
- A anti-inflammatory: great for UTI's
- An immune booster: the pungency of an onion increases blood circulation and causes sweating. Useful in cold weather to ward off infection, reduce fever and sweat out colds and flu
- Preventive measure for Osteoporosis: A compound has recently been identified in onions which prevents the activities of breaking down bone
When choosing types of onions, the strongest-smelling provide the most health benefits. The best choice is shallots, followed by yellow onions, red onions, and then white onions.
Something else that is very important to remember is that the more it makes you cry, the healthier it is for you. That release of organic sulpher indicates a healthy onion. To reduce this, you can always peel them in a tub of water or chill them for about an hour before you peel them.
I always use onions as an example when speaking about how enzymes and nutrients are lost in foods as we cook them. An onion by itself may be one of the healthiest superfoods your body will ever have. But when you start messing with them (i.e. onion rings, blooming onions), they turn into a trans fat, triglyceride rising, oxidized cholesterol, high calorie nightmare! Just leave them be and then be amazed at the health wonders it will bring.