Onions: The World’s Best Kept Secret

For centuries, onions have been a staple in diets around the world. It’s no surprise. Onions are the perfect way to add flavor and nutritional value to the foods you enjoy every day. 

At Gills Onions, we may have a bit of an onion bias. But we’re confident that once you’ve learned a few fun facts about this versatile vegetable, you’ll agree that onions are hard to beat.

Thousands of Years of Eating Onions

Onions have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years, long before writing or farming were invented. No one can conclusively say where domesticated onions originated, but most researchers guess either central Asia or Iran and West Pakistan. 

It makes sense that onions were one of the earliest cultivated crops. They are less perishable than other fruits and vegetables, easy to transport, easy to grow, and can thrive in diverse climates. Onions can also be dried for consumption in times of drought or famine. 

Once written records were kept, many civilizations reference the use of onions in food, art, medicine, and even mummification. By the Middle Ages, onions were one of the three main vegetables used in European cuisine.

The first Pilgrims brought onions with them on the Mayflower to North America, but when they arrived, they discovered that wild onions were already growing plentifully across the continent. Native Americans ate onions raw and cooked and used them to season meat and other vegetables. 

An Onion a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Onions are known for their delicious flavor, but they should also be known for their numerous health benefits. 

Onions are high in essential nutrients including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Onions are also low in sodium and are naturally fat-free. 

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but the same could be said of onions. Like apples, onions contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that helps delay oxidative damage to cells and tissue. Studies have shown that quercetin eliminates free radicals in the body, protects and regenerates vitamin E, and deactivates the harmful effects of chelate metal ions. 

And recent studies at Wageningen Agricultural University, the Netherlands, demonstrate that the body absorbs three times more quercetin from onions than from apples. 

Other studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis.

How the World Eats Onions

Today, onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, grown in 25 of the 50 states. The average American consumes about 22 pounds of onions per year. This number represents a 79 percent increase in onion eating over the last three decades. 

Worldwide, onion production amounts to approximately 105 billion pounds each year. The average onion consumption equals about 13.67 pounds of onions per person. Libya has the highest rate of onion consumption per capita, averaging 66.8 pounds per person. 

The onion is used in 93 percent of American dining establishments. It is one of the top menu items for appetizers with popular dishes like onion rings, onion blooms, and French onion soup. 

Red onions are also gaining popularity in the U.S. food service scene. You’ll find them on pizza, salads, and sandwiches. 

Nature’s Ninja: How Onions Are Nature’s Most Powerful Vegetable

The age old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We can’t speak for the apple, but we certainly can put in a good word for the onion. 

An onion a day is the perfect way to add a flavorful and nutritious boost to the foods you eat every day. At Gills Onions, we salute the noble onion as nature’s ninja — a hardy, adaptable, and sustainable product that tastes great, too!

What Onions and Ninjas Have in Common

When the National Onion Association introduced the Nature’s Ninja mascot, it was easy to see why ancient martial arts and one of the world’s most ancient foods go together.

Onions are masters of disguise, built to survive even the harshest of elements. From the outside, an onion can seem unassuming, but it packs a powerful punch ready to defeat disease. The hard outer skin and pungent juices of the onion push back bacteria and bugs. Like a ninja, onions are one of the stealthiest food choices. You can easily “sneak” onions into a variety of meals and in a variety of forms. Sliced, diced, pickled, or pureed, onions are always delicious. 

And don’t forget about onions’ staying power. They are one of the most sustainable food choices, used for everything from electric power to animal feed to cleaning your BBQ grill. But one of the best things about the onion — its most powerful skill — is its ability to promote good physical health. 

Onions Are Always a Healthy Choice

Onions are low in sodium, low in calories, and fat free. They contain high amounts of essential nutrients including: 

  • Vitamin C
  • Dietary fiber
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Their benefits range from acting as a salve to treating insect stings to being one of the key ingredients in cough syrups. Onions also contain powerful antioxidants that delay oxidative damage in human cells and tissues. These antioxidants also eliminate free radicals in your body and deactivate the harmful effects of chelate metal ions. 

Studies show that onions may reduce the risk of certain diseases including cancer, gastric ulcers, heart disease, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Results from a 2019 Chinese study showed that eating onions could reduce cases of colorectal cancer by 79% when individuals consume 35 pounds of onions (or other allium vegetables like garlic, leeks, and scallions) each year. That may sound like a lot, but currently, the average American consumes about 22 pounds of onions annually. So, there’s not much farther to go. Another study conducted in Puerto Rico found that consuming onions and garlic reduced the risk of breast cancer. 

The University of Wisconsin and University of Wisconsin-Madison are currently researching the use of onions as a blood thinner and platelet inhibitor. Researchers have found that pungent onions spur antiplatelet activities in the body, which could be used to fight conditions caused by platelet aggregation like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks. 

The National Onion Association also reports that the organosulfur compounds responsible for the taste and smell of onions can reduce symptoms from diabetes and prevent inflammation from asthma. Including onion in your diet can even lower your cholesterol

In short, onions are always a healthy choice!

Working Together to Promote Onion Consumption

Onions are nature’s perfect vegetable. At Gills Onions and throughout the onion industry, we truly believe that statement. We’re excited to share more about how onions can elevate your health and your recipes. 

Look for the Nature’s Ninja mascot from the National Onion Association on social media, and spread the good news of good onions to your friends. 

Ready to try onions grown “The Gill Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more.