Peel away the layers of onion skin and you’ll find more than one ingredient to heal your heart. Onions not only bring abundant flavor to your favorite dishes but are some of the most powerful allies for a healthy heart and circulatory system around. Abundant in phytonutrients, onions help prevent dangerous blood clots, lower blood sugar and risk of heart attack and help raise levels of HDL—the good cholesterol. They are an important superhealer in any healing kitchen.
1. Cry those clots away. It is the sulfur compounds in onions that makes your eyes water when you are peeling or chopping them. (You can avoid the eye-watering effect of sulfur by cutting onions after they’ve been in the fridge or freezer for a little while.) But tears or no tears, those stinky sulfur compounds are valuable because they prevent blood platelets from sticking together and forming dangerous clots that can cause stroke and heart attack.
2. Onions help mediate blood sugar. The sulfur compounds in onions also help lower blood sugar. They increase the amount of available insulin, the pancreatic hormone that turns sugar into glucose, which can then be used by the cells instead of roaming the bloodstream wreaking havoc. Chronically high blood sugar levels in the bloodstream lead to diabetes, and often go hand in hand with high blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease.
3. Chromium in onions curbs heart attacks. Most Americans are deficient in chromium, due to a diet of processed and refined foods that are nutritionally empty. This may explain why 106.5 per 100,000 people have heart disease. One cup of onions provides 20% of the recommended daily allowance of chromium, an important mineral that boosts cardiovascular health. In a 2005 study at Johns Hopkins University, men with higher levels of chromium were 35 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those with lower levels of chromium. Chromium also helps regulate blood sugar, keeping diabetes at bay.
4. Onions improve HDL (good) cholesterol. Beneficial HDL cholesterol attaches to “bad” LDL, helping to eliminate it before it hangs around too long and becomes oxidized. Once bad fats are damaged by oxidation, they cause inflammation and irritation, clog up your arteries and put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, atheriosclerosis and heart disease. In one recent study at Tufts University, people who ate a raw onion every day saw an average of a 30% increases in their HDL.
4. Cooked or raw, onions heal. Some folks may not find raw onion appealing, especially if they work with others! But cooking onions is fine, too: scientists have found that except for boiling, most cooking processes do not reduce the powerful healing compounds in onions. So enjoy generous handfuls of chopped onions when cooking. Sautéed over low heat in butter or olive oil, onions can be added to soups and sauces, with wild salmon or chicken, or added to a grilled bison burger, veggie egg scramble or stir fry.
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