Linda Carney MD

3 minutes reading time (621 words)

3 Health Benefits of Allium Vegetables

Whole and Halved Fresh Onion and Garlic

Allium vegetables are a group of monocotyledonous flowering plants used all over the world to prepare different delicacies. Some members of the allium vegetable family include onion, garlic, shallot, leek, and chives. In addition to embellishing different cuisines, alllium vegetables possess several outstanding health benefits. They contain a wide array of flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and organosulfur compounds—all of which contribute to the numerous health benefits associated with these vegetables. Here are just 3 of the many health benefits that can be derived from consuming allium vegetables:

Protection Against Cancer

Evidence from several studies suggest that increase in the frequency of consumption of allium vegetables is associated with a reduction in the risk of developing different types of cancer, including breast, pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, stomach, and prostate cancers. The findings of a 2004 study that reviewed present knowledge concerning allium vegetable intake and cancer risk revealed that generous consumption of allium vegetables contribute positively to the prevention of cancer. The anti-carcinogenic effect of allium vegetables may arise from their ability to inhibit the formation and activation of cancer-causing substances, accelerate the death of pre-cancerous lesions, reduce the proliferation of cancerous cells, enhance DNA repair, and flush out excess free radicals from the body.

Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Allium vegetables are excellent sources of potent antioxidants, including organo-sulfides and flavonoids such as quercetin and polyphenols. These phytochemicals play a vital role in helping to maintain the integrity and elasticity of the walls of the blood vessels, lower high blood pressure, reduce the circulating levels of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, and diminish the risk of stroke and heart attack. The high concentrations of cardiovascular health-promoting antioxidants found in allium vegetables have placed these vegetables near the top of the list of foods (like greens and beans) that can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases.  Beans and greens spiced with allium flavors are not only delicious but cardioprotective too.

Build Strong Bones

Abundant amounts of healthy calcium are found in allium vegetables. Unlike dairy products, which are unhealthy sources of calcium that promote the leaching of the stored calcium in the bones and subsequent loss of bone density, the calcium in allium vegetables stays in the body and is used to build up bone mass and strengthen the skeletal framework of the body. Milk does not do a body good, but garlic does. The result of a 2009 study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of South Carolina showed that habitual consumption of onion, a member of the allium vegetable family, can decrease osteoporosis risk, improve bone density by 5% and reduce the odds of having hip fracture by 20% in peri-menopausal and pre-menopausal white women. Build strong bones AND better-tasting cuisine! Use onion, garlic, shallot, leek, and chives in your dishes, to prevent loss of height or hip fractures from osteoporosis.

Additional Information:

(1) Allium Vegetables in Cancer Prevention: an Overview

(2) The Association Between Onion Consumption and Bone Density in Peri-Menopausal and Post-Menopausal White Women

(3) Allium Vegetable Intake and the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension, Chronic Kidney Disease, and Type 2 Diabetes in Adults: a Longitudinal Follow-up Study

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