Onion and garlic are the savory staples of many dishes. For pasta, curries, or stews, these delicious veggies add depth and flavor to our food. Do we ever stop to wonder, though, what nutritional benefit these are bringing to our meals?
What are the nutritional benefits of onions and garlic?
People tend to consider leafy greens or bright-colored vegetables as the major nutrient sources. Onions and garlic, though, are the unsung nutritional heroes.
Onions are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. Garlic is full of even more valuable nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, thiamin, and phosphorus. These substances boost brain and bone health strengthen the immune system, and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, to name a few benefits.
“Incorporating some garlic and onion into your everyday cooking routine is not only going to be good for the health properties they contain, but it’s also going to make your meals tastier and hopefully get you more excited about eating nutritious food,” explains registered dietitian Jessica Jones.
Another perk of these veggies is they’re a low-calorie way of injecting some flavor into your food, without resorting to too much butter or salt.
What are allium vegetables?
Vegetables like garlic, onion, shallot, chives, and leeks are all in the allium vegetable family. Rich in organosulfur compounds, preliminary research has shown this group of veggies may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, risk of cancer, and heart disease. No wonder many healing traditions – like Ayurveda – consider allium vegetables to be medicinal foods.
Further research needs to be done to understand the effect of cooking the organosulfur compounds and if their health benefits change. Some studies have concluded raw garlic may provide the most health benefits, though scientists have found a way to extract these benefits from cooked garlic, saving us all from bad breath. Research suggests letting your raw or chopped garlic stand for 10 minutes to allow enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions to occur before cooking.
Allium vegetables are also rich in phytochemicals, a compound that can influence bodily processes. Studies show these benefits may include improving health, reducing the risk of cancer, preventing inflammation, and protecting cells and DNA from damage.
This vegetable family is also great for gut health, as they are packed with prebiotics. Prebiotics are a form of dietary fiber, which feed helpful bacteria in our gut to help maintain a healthy gut biome.
Do yourself a favor and don’t skimp on the alliums in your next stew!