Onions: Are They Good For Your Bones?
They say light colored eyes are very sensitive and mine are no exception. Every time I peel an onion, I shed tears to no end.
But they may as well be tears of joy. Here’s why:
Swiss researchers conducted an experiment at the University of Basel and found that the onion peptide GPCS (γ-glutamyl-propenyl-cysteine sulfoxide) reduced bone breakdown in rats.1
Amazingly, when isolated bone cells from rats were exposed to parathyroid hormone in order to stimulate bone loss, GPCS-treated cells retained significantly more bone minerals – including calcium – in comparison to cells that were not exposed to GPCS. More research will follow in humans, but these preliminary findings give us yet one more reason to incorporate these flavorful (and alkalizing) bulbs in our daily menu.
Other Bone Health Benefits
The high sulfur content of onions has a direct effect on the formation of connective tissue such as tendon and cartilage. Sulfur is present in all long chain polysaccharides called glycosaminoglycans (GAGS), with the exception of hyaluronic acid. GAGs make up cartilage, tendons, and synovial fluid. Tendons are especially important to your bone health since they attach muscles to bones, so the muscles’ contractions can be transferred across the joints and pull on the bones.
But that’s not all. Onions are an excellent source of bone-healthy polyphenols, specifically the flavonoid polyphenols. As I mention in the Save Our Bones Program, these plant pigments have been shown to help increase the production of oesteoblasts (bone-building cells).2
Big Flavor, Big Nutrition
Onions are used as an ingredient in a wide range of dishes. And since they are hardy and store well, it’s easy to always have a good supply on hand. So don’t skimp on these nutritional powerhouses.
They are an outstanding source of the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory benefits. Much research has been conducted on the role of quercetin on other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease.
And thanks to the presence of allicin in onions – albeit not as abundantly as in garlic – they have both antimicrobial and anti fungal properties. Allicin is a naturally occurring defense mechanism in bulbs to guard against attacks by pests.
Last but not least, onions are a source of various minerals and vitamins, many of which are listed in the Save Our Bones Program as Foundation Supplements. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, potassium, phosphorus and copper are important nutrients present in these wondrous bulbs.
Onion Trivia and a Delicious Recipe
Onions are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, and the good news is that the fantastic health benefits I have mentioned apply to all kinds – even the smaller varieties such as the green onion or scallion, and the pearl onion. It’s best to keep them in a well ventilated area at room temperature (except for green onions; store them in the refrigerator) and away from heat and bright light.
If you would like to pre-cut onions, refrigerate them in a sealed container and try to use them within a couple of days; they tend to oxidize and lose their nutrient content quickly. You can also keep cooked onions in the refrigerator for a few days preferably in an airtight container so they’ll retain their taste.
And here’s a delicious recipe chock-full of onions that you and your family can enjoy anytime:
Cream of Onion Soup
4 medium-sized onions, sliced
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon extra-light olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetarian butter
2 ½ cups almond or organic soy milk
2 cups water (adjust to desired consistency)
1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the onions. Set aside.
Make white sauce mixing the flour, the butter, and milk in the soup pot.
Add to this the browned onions, salt, and pepper. Add water to desired consistency.
Heat thoroughly and serve.
Till next time,
1 Wetli HA, Brenneisen R, Tschudi I, et al. “A-glutamyl peptide isolated from onion (Allium cepa L) by bioassay-guided fractionation inhibits resorption activity of osteoclasts”. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. March 30, (2005).
2 Balachandran, Rao, Murray. “Polyphenols in the extract of greens+ herbal preparation have effects on cell proliferation and differentiation of human osteoblast cell line SaOS-2”. American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. (2004)