Whether cooked or raw, onions add enormous flavor to a variety of healthy dishes, so they are a crucial ingredient to have around the house to make figure-friendly meals in your own kitchen every night.
The onion is a member of the allium family, which, as your nose will tell you, also includes garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives. Egyptians worshiped the onion's many layers as a symbol of eternity. Today, the onion can be one of the most useful and flavorful ingredients in creating low-calorie, healthful dishes.
Dry onions are a surprising source of fiber and a rich source of healthy sulfur compounds, similar to those found in garlic. Research on onions has lagged behind garlic research, but onions appear to have similar cardiovascular benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, at least in the short term.
Onions also contain phytochemicals called flavonoids, which help vitamin C in its function, improving the integrity of blood vessels and decreasing inflammation. All this spells help for your cardiovascular system. One particular flavonoid, quercetin, may inhibit tumor growth and help keep colon cancer at bay.
In addition, a newly identified compound appears to rival the prescription drug Fosamax in inhibiting bone loss in menopausal women.
Onions also contain vitamin C and chromium. Chromium is a mineral that helps cells respond to insulin, ultimately assisting with blood glucose control. Green onions, because of their bright green tops, provide a wealth of vitamin A.
Selection and Storage
Dry onions are any common onion (yellow, white, or red) that does not require refrigeration. This distinguishes them from green onions, which will perish quickly when stored at room temperature.
Dry onions come in various shapes and colors, none of which is a reliable indicator of taste or strength. The white, or yellow globe, onion keeps its pungent flavor when cooked. All-purpose white or yellow onions are milder. Sweet onions, such as Bermuda, Spanish, and Italian, are the mildest.
Choose firm dry onions with shiny, tissue-thin skins. "Necks" should be tight and dry. If they look too dry or discolored or have soft, wet spots, don't buy them; they aren't fresh.
Dry onions keep three to four weeks if stored in a dry, dark, cool location. Don't store them next to potatoes, which give off a gas that'll cause onions to decay. Light turns onions bitter. A cut onion should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated, and used within a day or two.
Green onions, also called "spring" onions because that's the time of the year when they are harvested, have small white bulbs and are topped by thin green stalks. Though they are often sold as scallions, true scallions are just straight green stalks with no bulb. Look for green onions with crisp, not wilted, tops. For pungent taste, choose fatter bulbs; for a sweeter taste, smaller bulbs are your best bet. Green onions must be refrigerated. They keep best in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Preparation and Serving Tips
To keep tears from flowing, try slicing onions under running water. Or chill onions for an hour before cutting. To get the onion smell off your hands, rub your fingers with lemon juice or vinegar.
Onions are the perfect seasoning for almost any cooked dish. Their flavor mellows when they are cooked because smelly sulfur compounds are converted to sugar when heated. Onions saute wonderfully, even without butter. Use a nonstick skillet and perhaps a teaspoon of olive oil. Keep heat low or they'll scorch and turn bitter.
Sweet onions are ideal raw, as rings in salads or as slices atop sandwiches. They add bite to a three-bean salad or a plate of homegrown tomatoes. Wash green onions, trimming roots and dry leaves. Chop up bulb, stalk, and all. They work well in stir-fry dishes, adding an understated bite. Green onions can also be served raw with low-fat dip as part of a crudite platter.
Whether it's a shallot, a scallion, or a regular yellow onion, be sure to have this food on hand to jazz up any healthy salad, stir-fry, or vegetarian casserole. This way, you'll never be bored with healthy eating for weight loss.
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