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Onions Support Brain and Heart Health

Update Date: Apr 06, 2013 06:16 PM EDT

Onions support brain and heart health, strengthen bones, aid digestion and even help reduce the risk of cancer. Next time think twice before you avoid them just because they make your breath a little smelly.

The pungent odor from onions comes from allyl sulfides, a sulfur-containing compound which may help protect blood vessels from damage caused by cholesterol, boosting heart and vascular health.

Onions may also help offset oxidative damage to muscle fibers and body tissue that can be cause by intense exercise training. The key to this is an antioxidant called quercetin is a flavonoid which helped prevent oxidative damage to brain tissue in rats after a long workout.

Researchers believe onions' sulfurous compounds and quercetin could be responsible for greater bone density. In a 2009 study, researchers found that women who ate onions daily had greater bone density than those who didn't eat onions. Older women who ate onions regularly also had a 20 percent lower risk of hip fractures.

Onions also help to aid digestion through a special carbohydrate called fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS). This carb serves as food to the healthy, immune-boosting bacteria present in the intestinal-tract. FOS fights off the bad bacteria, but also helps to improve digestive function by aiding bowel movements.

Studies also show that people who frequently consume onion have a lower risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer when compared with people who do not eat them. Researchers believe this is linked to a host of flavonoid compounds found in onions, which ultimately block cancer-causing agents from damaging genetic material inside cells. 

This was adapted from an article published in Runner's World by Dr. Liz Applegate.  

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