Ancient Wisdom Part 6: Many benefits of onions for eye health; how to add them to your diet
Onions are a storehouse of flavonoids and antioxidants which can keep many diseases at bay. They also support healthy eyesight.
Note to readers: Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.
In a digitally dominated world of today, excess screen time can take a toll on our eye health. Our eyes can get dry, irritated and affect our vision causing myopia, eye fatigue and many other such issues. While one should avoid too much screen, taking care of nutrition can also help in boosting ocular health. Good vision can also support robust brain health as a poor one can strain the brain to fill in missing details. In this instalment of Ancient Wisdom, we discuss how consuming onion can keep eye issues at bay as it contains a compound called selenium which produces vitamin E that supports eye health.
Onions, one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world, are a kitchen staple in India and is frequently added to curries, salads, stir-fries and soups. They can be roasted, grilled, pickled or deep fried into crispy fritters. Onion has both culinary and medicinal significance dating thousands of years back. Onions are a storehouse of flavonoids and antioxidants which makes them an excellent food for keeping many diseases at bay from diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Onions are low in calories and are around 89% water, 9% carbs, and 1 % fibre, with tiny amounts of protein and fat, as per Healthline. They are also high in Vitamin C, folate, Vitamin B6, and potassium.
Onions as ancient remedy
In ancient civilizations, onions were of great significance. In Egypt they were considered a symbol of eternity and were also used for diverse medicinal purposes including eye conditions. The cooling and detoxifying properties of onions also made them popular in Chinese medicine as they were used to treat a range of health problems.
Dietitian Vidhi Chawla, Fisico Diet and aesthetic Clinic shares how onions were used in ancient times:
Ancient Egypt: Onions were considered a symbol of eternity, and their use dates back to 2500 BC. Egyptians believed in the healing properties of onions and used them for various medicinal purposes, including eye conditions.
Ancient Greece and Rome: Renowned philosophers like Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder praised onions for their medicinal value. They were often prescribed to alleviate vision problems and improve eye health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: Onions were used in traditional Chinese remedies to treat a range of ailments, including eye disorders, as they were believed to possess cooling and detoxifying properties.
Benefits of onions for eye health and other disorders
Tears shed while cutting onions should not deter you from consuming this food as more pungent an onion, better antioxidant activity it has. Organic sulphur compounds in onion can cut cholesterol and lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
Vidhi Chawla shares many benefits of onions:
Rich in antioxidants: Onions contain antioxidants, such as quercetin and sulphur compounds, which can help protect the eyes from oxidative stress and age-related eye conditions.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Onions have anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit those with eye inflammations or allergies.
Potential for glaucoma: Some studies suggest that onions may help lower intraocular pressure, which is beneficial for individuals with glaucoma.
Immune support: Onions are a good source of vitamin C, which contributes to a healthy immune system, indirectly benefiting eye health.
Detoxification: Compounds like allicin in onions are thought to support detoxification processes, which can promote overall well-being.
Best ways to add onions to your diet
Eating onions raw is most beneficial but you can also add them to stir-fries, soups, stews, and pickles for additional flavour.
Chawla shares a list:
- Raw: Eating raw onions in salads or salsas preserves their nutrients, including those beneficial for eye health.
- Sauteed or roasted: Cooking onions can enhance their flavour while retaining some of their nutritional value.
- In soups and stews: Onions are a classic ingredient in soups and stews, adding both flavour and nutrition.
- In pickles: Pickled onions can be a tasty and tangy addition to various dishes.
- Grilled: Grilled onions make a delicious side dish or burger topping.
Who shouldn't have onions
Chawla says that certain people can develop allergic reaction to onions and get rashes or acidity issues. They may also cause digestive issues in people with IBS. Infants and even pets also shouldn't have onions as they can be toxic to them.
- Allergic reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to onions, which can lead to symptoms like skin rashes, gastrointestinal discomfort, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis.
- Digestive sensitivity: Onions contain fructans that may cause digestive discomfort in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or certain other digestive conditions.
- Infants: Due to their immature digestive systems, introducing onions to infants' diets is generally not recommended until they are older.
Interesting facts about onions
Multi-layered history: Onions have been cultivated for over 5,000 years and have been a culinary and medicinal staple across diverse cultures.
Vampires beware: In some cultures, onions were believed to ward off evil spirits, vampires, and illnesses.
World's oldest vegetable: Onions are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world.
Tears and tricks: Cutting onions releases a compound that can irritate the eyes, but freezing or chilling onions before chopping can reduce tear-inducing effects.
Varied varieties: There are numerous onion varieties, including sweet onions, red onions, and shallots, each with its own flavour profile and culinary uses.
Next in series
Did you enjoy reading the sixth part of our series on Ancient Wisdom? Part 7 which discusses benefits of ajwain for weight loss and digestion will be out on September 25. Stay tuned.