How well do you know your onions? Read this article about them!
Garlic has been grown and used in human diet for a very long time, not only because of its distinctive flavor, but also because of the numerous medicinal properties it possesses.
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium (or Alliaceae). Its close relatives include: onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo.
The garlic is a great source of chromium, a mineral that enables the cells to respond adequately to insulin in the blood. Garlic regulates blood sugar levels in diabetics.
The amount of vitamin C and manganese in the garlic efficiently helps in the treatment of colds and the flu, which means that it possesses anti-inflammatory effects. On the other hand, pyridoxine and vitamin B, also found in garlic, fight neurotic conditions.
Young garlic is rich in vitamin C and vitamin K which is necessary for normal bone development. Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of collagen that makes bones strong and increases the utilization of calcium from food, while vitamin K has a major impact in maintaining bone density.
Moreover, besides vitamin C and vitamin K, the garlic is also rich in vitamin A, which is much needed for good eyesight.
The garlic contains sulfur compounds (or sulfide compounds) which reduce the risk of colon cancer.
When fresh garlic is chopped or crushed, the enzyme alliinase converts alliin into the organosulfur compound called allicin. Allicin is an oily, slightly yellow liquid that gives the garlic its unique recognizable odor.
The allicin generated in this way is very unstable, and quickly changes into a series of other sulfur containing compounds such as diallyl disulfide. Allicin is garlic’s defense mechanism against attacks by pests.
Several animal studies published between 1995 and 2005 indicate that allicin may reduce atherosclerosis and fat deposition, normalize the lipoprotein balance, decrease blood pressure, has anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory activities, and functions as an antioxidants to some extent.
Allicin has been found to have numerous antimicrobial properties, and has been studied in relation to both its effects and its biochemical interactions. Allicin has antiviral activity both in vitro and in vivo.
Among the viruses susceptible to allicin are:
- Herpes simplex type 1 and 2
- Parainfluenza virus type 3
- human Cytomegalovirus
- Influenza B
- Vaccinia virus
- Vesicular stomatitis virus and
- Human rhinovirus type
2. Common onion
Allium cepa (Latin cepa = onion), also known as the bulb onion or common onion, is a vegetable which is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium.
Most onion cultivars are about 89% water, 4% sugar, 1% protein, 2% fiber, and 0.1% fat. The onion contains low amounts of essential nutrients and is extremely low in fats.
Similarly to the leek, the onion also affects the health of the blood system, and also plays a key role in protection against cancer. Onion extract, which is rich in numerous sulfides, prevents tumor growth.
This vegetable is an excellent natural antibacterial agent. By having a diet rich in onions, you will be able to naturally strengthen your immune system and protect yourselves against viral conditions. You will also prevent bacterial diseases.
Common onions are normally available in 3 color varieties:
– White onions are the traditional onions used in the classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color when cooked and a particularly sweet flavor when sautéed.
– Yellow or brown onions (called red in some European countries), are full-flavored and are the onions of choice for everyday use. Yellow onions turn a rich, dark brown color when caramelized and give French onion soup its sweet flavor.
– The red onion (called purple in some European countries) is a good choice for fresh use because its color livens up the dish. It is also used in grilling.
A tip: The eye irritation while chopping an onion can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water.
The shallot is a type of onion, specifically a botanical variety of the species Allium cepa. The shallot was formerly classified as a separate species, Allium ascalonicum, a name now considered a synonym of the currently accepted name.
Shallots probably originated in Central or Southeast Asia, travelling from there to India and the eastern Mediterranean. Shallots are called “small onions” in South India and are used extensively in cooking there.
Shallots are used in fresh cooking in addition to being pickled. Finely sliced, deep-fried shallots are used as a condiment in Asian cuisine, often served with porridge. As a species of Allium, shallots taste somewhat like a common onion, but have a milder flavor.
Like onions and garlic, when sliced, raw shallots release substances that irritate the human eye, resulting in production of tears. Shallots appear to contain more flavonoids and phenols than other members of the onion genus.
Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum is the Latin name for the leek. It contains significant amounts of bioflavonoids kaempferol, which have been shown to be great protection against blood vessels damage.
Although often overlooked, the concentration of folic acid in the leek plays an important role in maintaining good health. B-complex that protects the cardiovascular system and maintains the level of homocysteine in the body is a key vitamin in the folic acid.
The leek also contains a good amount of polyphenol, which protects blood vessels from harmful oxidation.
Allium schoenoprasum is known under the common name chive. It, like most of the other species of the Allium genus, is an edible plant. It is a herb which resembles hollow blades of grass, and is the smallest member of the onion family.
The chive has a mild onion flavor. It is good raw as a garnish over things like deviled eggs, and is abundantly used in many dishes in the European cookery for its most delicate flavor.
Thanks to the ideal combination of iron and vitamin C, the chive provides the organism with vitality and fights against fatigue. The same as its other relatives, this vegetable is excellent in preventing many diseases.
6. Rakkyo (Chinese onion)
Allium chinense, commonly known as Chinese onion, Chinese scallion or Japanese scallion, is an edible species of onion, native to China and cultivated in many other countries as well.
If you’ve ever lived in Japan and had Japanese curry, you should know this pickled shallot. Indeed, rakkyo looks like a small piece of garlic or shallot, but it tastes different.
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