The foods that you eat have a huge impact on your health. While some can serve as natural remedies, others can be the cause of a disease. For instance, processed foods, which are laden with added sugar, unhealthy fats and simple carbs, are linked to many chronic diseases, including colon cancer. On the other hand, superfoods like high-fiber fruits and vegetables have powerful components that help stop the development of these diseases. One example of a superfood that help fight cancer is onion.
According to a study published in the journal OncoTargets and Therapy, onions contain flavonoids that can stop the growth of colorectal cancer cells. Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant pigments that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities inside the human body. The study also revealed that the flavonoids in onion extracts are just as effective as the chemotherapy drug capecitabine.
The anti-cancer effect of onions in animal and human studies
In many countries, onions are considered a natural remedy for different kinds of ailments, such as bronchitis, colds, colic, high blood pressure, fevers, sores and impotence. Their widespread use as a folk medicine has attracted the attention of scientists, who have since looked at their potential application in modern medicine.
Today, scientific evidence supports the use of onions as an anti-fungal, an antibacterial, a blood sugar regulator and an anti-cancer agent. In fact, as early as 2006, researchers from the University of Milan have established the protective role of onions and other Allium vegetables against several types of cancer.
In their study, they looked at the relationship between onion and garlic consumption and the risk of cancers in the esophagus, oral cavity, larynx, breast, ovaries, prostate and kidneys. Using a large data set from southern European populations, the researchers found that those who frequently ate onions and garlic had a considerably lower risk than people who seldom ate those vegetables.
Even those who ate onions and garlic with moderate frequency fared better than those who rarely did. The researchers noted that their findings aligned with those previously reported by studies from China, where people regularly ate Allium vegetables as part of their daily diet.
In 2014, Chinese researchers once again looked at the effects of onion extracts on cancer cells. Using a mouse model of colorectal cancer with abnormal blood lipid levels (hyperlipidemia), they found that the flavonoids in onions were responsible for stopping colorectal cancer cells from increasing in number and forming tumors. They also found that onion flavonoids helped decrease blood cholesterol, especially bad LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the mice.
Their findings show that the compounds in onions not only have a protective effect against heart disease, they also help the body fight cancer.
More reasons to eat super-healthy onions
Nutritious and delicious, onions provide additional flavor to recipes and bring a multitude of health benefits. Scientists believe that these benefits are due to the presence of plant compounds like quercetin. A known antioxidant, quercetin is credited for giving onions their anti-cancer, anti-microbial and blood pressure-lowering properties. Other notable compounds in onions include organosulfur compounds like vinyldithiins and cepaene. While the latter is known to have cholesterol-lowering properties, cepaene is said to have anti-asthma activities.
The sulfides in onions have another use inside the body besides preventing cancer. These compounds provide an important mineral called sulfur, which assists in the production of protein and in the formation of cell structures. Onions also contain folic acid, an essential B-vitamin that’s needed for the development of new cells, and dietary fiber, which is crucial for good gut health. In addition to these, onions contain calcium, potassium, iron, sodium and vitamin C. Vitamin C helps boost the body’s immunity and prevent serious health problems, such as heart disease, gout, viral infections, iron deficiency and even cancer.