Onions and Quercetin

Onions are a good source of quercetin. Why do you care? Because quercetin is excellent at protecting you from skin cancer.

I’m particularly interested in skin cancer protection because I didn’t protect myself from sunburns when I was young. I got two extremely bad sunburns: once when watching a sea otter playing just off the Carmel Monastery beach I got a third degree burn. Years later my boyfriend had a sports car and my nose got badly sunburned repeatedly ~~ Now I’m fighting the consequent risks.

Quercetin compared to Tomoxifen ~ Read more.

6/29/09 — I was too late to buy yellow onion sets. (Onions from my last sets lasted 3 – 4 years.) So, I’m planting onions from atop my Egyptian walking onions. (They are both darling and flavorful in my brown rice dishes.)

From tediously peeling the tiny onions I gravitated to using the leaves and bulbs. Great in the Spring! But as weeks progress the stalks become as woody as bamboo, making them more suited to fishing poles than dinner. (I exaggerate, but you get the idea.) Now, years later, I pop the unpeeled onions in and they cook beautifully.

Removing the little bulbs causes the main bulb to enlarge to somewhat resemble yellow, white and purple onions.

Because I cook with onions, particularly yellow onions when I can get them, in order to benefit from their high levels of quercetin, which is supposed to fight skin cancer, I’m curious to know whether my plentiful Egyptian walking onions work as well as yellow onions.

Dianthus Firewitch and onions ~ Beauty paired with Culinary Function

Although Egyptian Walking Onions are an heirloom they are seldom named in nutrition lists. That being the case, I had to approach the research from a different angle. Luckily Google’s Scholarly Articles was able to help:

Analysis of 75 onion cultivars showed the following: Total quercetin content in a kilogram of yellow, pink and red onions varied from 54 mg to 286 mg in onions grown in 1992. A kilogram is just over 35 ounces. The best yellow onion they tested was the Sweet Savannah, which accounted for the 286 mg result. White onions showed only trace amounts of quercetin. Onions stored for 5 months showed some change in quercetin content. Variation in Quercetin Content in Different Colored OnionsRead more.

It may not jump out at you, but the fact that quercetin is highest in yellow onions underscores the fact that quercetin is a flavinoid and flavinoids are named for their color. I learned this when I was working on my page about figs:

Flavonoids in general are a broad class of compounds defined by their pigmentation, or in other words, color. The term “flavonoid” comes from the Latin word “flavus,” which means yellow. Thus, flavonoids applies to lemons, oranges, grapefruits, yellow figs, etc.

Flavonoids exert a multiplicity of neuroprotective actions within the brain, including a potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, an ability to suppress neuroinflammation, and the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. The neuroprotective potential of flavonoids: a multiplicity of effects, David VauzourGenes and Nutrition, 2008.

Consumption of flavonoid-rich foods throughout life limits neurodegeneration and prevents or reverses age-dependent loses in cognitive performance. For this reason drug companies are intensely interested in flavonoids as a part of their quest for new drugs promising to enhance brain performance. Drug research has shown flavonoids to be beneficial in dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Keep in mind, the functionality of flavonoids is not dependent upon being made part of a drug, you can benefit from flavoids by eating fresh fruit and vegetables, preferably grown by you in your garden without the use of pesticides or RoundUp. Read more.

So, it looks as if yellow onions are the way to go, and that walking onions, though prolific in themselves, are not prolific in quercetin. The thing is, if you are seldom able to get yellow onions, but you have an ample supply of walking onions, over a week you may get just as much quercetin if you consistently use your walking onions in your cooking. And, if you cook using the walking onion greens, you’re getting a lot of great nutrition.

Nutrients in onion greens

Nutrients1 cup chopped
Vitamin A997.0 IU
Vitamin C18.8 mg
Vitamin E0.5 mg
Vitamin K207.0 mcg
Thiamin 0.1 mg
Riboflavin0.1 mg
Niacin0.5 mg
Vitamin B60.1 mg
Folate64.0 mg
Pantothenic Acid0.1 mg
Choline5.7 mg
Calcium72.0 mg
Iron1.5 mg
Magnesium20.0 mg
Phosphorus37.0 mg
Potassium276.0 mg
Sodium16.0 mg
Zinc0.4 mg
Copper0.1 mg
Manganese0.2 mg
Selenium0.6 mcg

Easiest way to use tiny onions

8/25/2013 ~ Yesterday I discovered that I don’t have to peel the little onions, just cut off their bottoms and let the papery top layer flake off. Easy, EASY. I put a scad of them into my brown rice… It was delicious!

Check out other foods with quercetin:

List of plant foods and beverages containing quercetin

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Onions and Quercetin
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Onions and Quercetin
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Onions are a good source of quercetin. Why do you care? Because quercetin is excellent at protecting you from skin cancer.
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Health Boundaries
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