For millennia, cultures around the world have celebrated the onion. Sharp in odor and healing power, onions are loaded with a wide spectrum of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that help prevent arthritis. They’re not only a good source of joint-protective vitamin C, they have abundant phenols and flavonoids that cool fiery joints.
1. Onions contain surprising amounts of joint-soothing nutrients. These tasty aromatics have an abundance of phenols and flavonoids that provide double-barreled protection against inflammation and pain. In a comparison of vegetables in France, onions ranked 5th in overall polyphenol content (including flavonoids).
But because they go in so many different dishes, onions were the third highest vegetable source of polyphenols in the diet. Apparently the variety of onion also makes a difference. At Cornell University, researchers found that the Western Yellow onion contains 11 times the flavonoids of the Western White.
2. Onion’s vitamin C helps prevent arthritis. Vitamin C is one of onion’s powerful antioxidants that help prevent arthritis. In an 8-year study of 25,000 people, British researchers discovered that people eating lesser amounts of vitamin-C-rich foods were more likely to develop inflammatory polyarthritis. So it makes sense to add more onion to your diet. One cup chopped onion has about 20% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C and 10% of your RDA for folate, another important antioxidant.
3. Onion’s quercetin inhibits inflammation. One of onion’s flavonoids is called quercetin, and research suggests that it may be a potent anti-inflammatory. Not only does it neutralize free radical molecules, but it also inhibits the actions of histamines and other inflammatory mediators in both osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Onions contain more than three times the quercetin found in apples and twice as much as tea, and it is not destroyed by heat.
4. It’s easy to increase your onion intake. Some people use onion sparingly. But I suggest you borrow some of my Italian genes and start throwing them in everything, along with arthritis-healing garlic. Spaghetti always benefits from abundant onion presence. Soups, stews and sauces can also take large amounts of onion. Raw onion can go in guacamole, salsa, salads and sandwiches.
You can also sauté sliced onion with fresh herbs for a savory side dish. Given how easy it is to eat them, try to eat them every day. At a minimum, go for 3 days a week.
5. Tips for picking, storing and cooking. Conventional onions are often irradiated to give them a longer shelf life, so choose organic onions. White onions are sweeter, yellow onions can sit in your kitchen longer without going bad. Store them out of the refrigerator and separately from potatoes, which cause onions to spoil more quickly.
Ventilation around the onion is helpful, which is why wire baskets are a great storage place. Stand near an open window as you chop to reduce eye-watering fumes. Like garlic, the onion nutrients released by chopping stabilize if you let them sit for five minutes before heating. Try to use the entire onion in the dish you are cooking, as onions lose their some nutrients within days when cut and stored in the fridge.
Onions abound in our arthritis-healing recipes at myhealingkitchen.com.
Check out our Caramelized Onion and Bean Soup with Parmesan Crostini. It’s a great healing soup when the cold weather sets your joints to aching.
Jim Healthy is founder of the popular website MyHealingKitchen.com and
is its current Food Editor. He is the co-author The Healing Kitchen (Bottom Line Books,
2011), Arthritis Interrupted (Jim Healthy Press, 2009), and The 30-Day Diabetes Cure
(Jim Healthy Press, 2010).