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Organic Onions May Be Better For You

Red Onion

Organic produce is often more expensive for the consumer, but sometimes is quite worth it.


What exactly is organic food? The definition for produce, per the USDA, is that fruits and vegetables must be grown without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. Farming practices in order to achieve these guidelines are often more costly than traditional farming methods.

Most of us who choose organic foods often do so to limit the amount of harmful chemicals we consume. It’s nice when researcher find an added bonus to the practice – such as foods that actually become healthier when grown organically.

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions may have a greater antioxidant activity and higher flavonol content than conventional onions.

Flavonoids found in onions include:
Fisetin – Fisetin is not only found in onions, but also strawberries, apples, persimmons, and cucumbers. In addition to being an antioxidant, Fisetin is also being researched for its anti-cancer activity.

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Quercetin - Quercetin may help protect against heart disease and cancer. It may also help stabilize the cells that release histamine in the body and thereby have an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effect. Other quercetin sources include citrus fruits, apples, and dark berries.

Kaempferol - Kaempferol is also abundantly found in tea, broccoli, apples, strawberries, and beans. It may also have potent anti-cancer properties as well as being antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Isorhamnetin – a metabolite of quercetin so it may have similar health benefits, including reducing the risk of cancer, improving heart health and limiting diabetes complications.

Keep in mind when preparing onions at home that the flavonoids are more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh. To maximize your health benefits, peel off as little as possible when removing the onion's outermost paper layer. Even a small amount of over-peeling can result in unwanted loss of flavonoids. For example, a red onion can lose about 20% of its quercetin and almost 75% of its anthocyanins if it is over-peeled.

Feiyue Ren, et al. Higher Antioxidant Activity, Total Flavonols, and Specific Quercetin Glucosides in Two Different Onion (Allium cepa L.) Varieties Grown under Organic Production: Results from a 6-Year Field Study. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2017, 65 (25), pp 5122–5132. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b01352

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