What is it?
The allium family is a group of vegetables which includes onions, garlic and leeks. These bulbs are renowned for their various health benefits such as, increased cardiovascular health1, anti-inflammatory properties2, and increased bone density3, specifically in postmenopausal women. They are also reported to benefit heart health and the growth of healthy gut bacteria4. (Healing Foods, 2013).
In particular, garlic has been used throughout history for its antibacterial and antiviral properties5. However, as noted by Dave Asprey in The Bulletproof Diet6, some might experience psychoactive reactions such as hindered concentration when consuming garlic. It is possible onions have this effect too, as they share a similar chemistry. That being said, these vegetables do have potent medicinal benefits which is why I choose to consume them frequently, but not daily. If I am feeling unwell, I increase my intake of alliums, preferring a faster recovery to optimal focus.
How can I involve it in my diet?
When preparing onions, it is best to remove as little of the edible outer layer as possible as this is where the flavonoids are most concentrated. Similarly to garlic and leeks, onions should be chopped and left for about five to ten minutes before being cooked or eaten. The process of chopping ruptures the cell structure of the vegetable, releasing a phytonutrient called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase. The allinase then converts the allicin into a potent new compound, allicin. This is the key compound responsible for the majority of alliums’ health benefits.
The vast majority of recipes employ two key members of the allium family: onions and garlic. They provide a versatile base flavour and so can be a tasty addition to almost any dish. Probably not a dessert though. Garlic ice cream anyone?
A favourite recipe of mine is inspired by one found in Bulletproof: The Cookbook7, “Broccoli and leek soup”. It’s incredibly easy to follow and is a classic to have in your repertoire. I use a few additional ingredients to those listed in the original recipe, find my version by clicking here.
If you are on a low carbohydrate diet, be weary of the amount of onion you consume as it is fairly high in sugar. I would also recommend consuming them at supper for the same reason.
P.S. When chopping an onion, I find sucking on a spoon minimises the flow of tears. Seriously. But, if you are streaming uncontrollably, be comforted by the fact that the more you cry, the healthier and more potent the onion.