NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Onions: Not for Flavor Only

Onions: Not For Flavor Only

Fresh whole onions are a cooking staple in many households throughout the world. It might seem like onions are just for adding that little something extra to your dishes for flavor, but you might be surprised to find out all the health benefits of this favorite garden veggie.

Onions are characterized by their rich content of thiosulfinates, sulfides, sulfoxides, and other odoriferous sulfur compounds. The cysteine sulfoxides are primarily responsible for the onion flavor and produce the eye-irritating compounds that induce lacrimation. The thiosulfinates exhibit antimicrobial properties. Onions have proven to actually reduce inflammation in the body. Often inflammation in the body is caused by a buildup of oxidized fatty acids and there are various enzymes in onions that prevent the oxidation from occurring.

Additionally many of the flavonoids found in onions have been proven to help prevent the cells that are known to break down bones and even help stimulate bone building cells, thus increasing bone density. Onions contain properties that can assist in reducing the bad cholesterol in your body as well as prevent blood platelets from clogging. Both of these can greatly improve your cardiovascular health.

Some studies have linked the consumption of onions with a reduced risk of stomach and digestive system cancers. In central Georgia where Vidalia onions are grown, mortality rates from stomach cancer are about one-half the average level for the United States. Studies in Greece have shown a high consumption of onions, garlic and other allium herbs to be protective against stomach cancer. Onions are also low in calories, just 60 calories in a cup of chopped onions.

For home gardeners, storing all those home grown onions can be a challenge. Yellow onions store best but white, purple and brown onions can also be stored using this method.  It is best to store the onions at 40 to 45 degrees F. Don't store whole onions in the refrigerator as the higher moisture levels in a frig are bad for them.

Onions can be added to almost anything you love to eat! Add a slice or two of raw onion to hamburgers or sandwiches, add scallions to baked potatoes, add scallions to brown rice and you can even just add chunks of onion to any vegetable dish you’re roasting. Onions are often used in light versions of recipes because they add flavor without any additional sodium or fat. Always remember that cooking onions longer than 30 minutes can reduce their effectiveness.

Oven Baked Onion Rings

 

Cooking spray

4 cups baked style of potato chips

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 to 2 large Vidalia onions, peeled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet slightly with oil and set aside. Place potato chips in the bowl of a food processor and process into crumbs, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a shallow bowl, add cayenne, and set aside.

In another bowl, combine buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper and set aside. Slice onions into 1/2-inch circles and separate into rings, keeping only large, whole rings (reserve rest of onions for other uses).

Place the remaining flour in a sealable plastic bag, then add onions, and shake to coat. Dip onions 1 at a time into the buttermilk mixture, then dip into potato chip crumbs and place on baking sheet. Spray canola oil evenly over rings and bake for 20 minutes, or until coating is crisp. Season with salt, to taste, and serve immediately.

 

Blue Cheese and Bacon Dip

 

2 onions chopped

½ cup butter

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2-8 ounce packages cream cheese softened

2-5 ounce packages crumbled blue cheese

1-8 ounce container sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 bag bacon pieces, reserve enough to sprinkle on top

Sauté onions on med-low for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Cook on med-high for 10 minutes stirring consistently. Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and cook until vinegar cooks out, about 1-2 minutes.

Combine cream cheese, blue cheese, mayonnaise, and bacon. Add onion mixture to cream cheese mixture. Top with crumbled bacon. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. This may be made ahead and refrigerated.

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