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Last updated April 2, 2017, (originally published September
27, 2007)

By Susan Callahan, Health Editor and Featured Columnist

What do you find when you peel away all the layers of an
onion?  Well, besides smelly fingers, you may also find the key
to a healthy heart.

British researchers at The Institute of Food Research have
reported that a flavonoid found in onions  called “quercetin”
---it’s also found in apples and tea --lowers the amount of
inflammation in your arteries which can lead to heart disease.

Update: A 2010 study by a team of researchers from the
University of Alabama in Birmingham (led by Drs. Nicholas
Khoo and C. Roger White) has found that quercetin in foods
such as onions acts to relax the aortic vessels that supply
blood to your heart. Quercetin is a natural vasodilator. What's
so good about relaxed blood vessels? Well, the more relaxed
your blood vessels are, the lower your blood pressure.

The amount of quercetin in onions in concentrated in the
outer layers so avoid over-peeling onions.

How much should you eat? The jury is still out on that
question.  Don’t gorge on an all-onion diet just yet. Smaller,
moderate amounts –about 100-200 mg--  appeared to work
best at lowering some forms of
internal inflammation and
thus, also lowering your risk of heart disease.
























The critical link between flavonoids and health came to light
from studies on the so-called “French paradox”.  Basically, the
French puzzle physiologists --- they eat rich foods but they
live longer than almost any other people on earth. As noted
by Jack Challum in The Nutrition Reporter, the French “eat
almost four times more butter and three times more lard-and
have higher cholesterol levels and blood pressures-than do
Americans. Yet the French are 2.5 times less likely than
Americans to die of coronary heart disease.”

Red wine, red grapes, tea, apples, garlic, and onions all
contain flavonoids in varying degrees.

It’s not clear whether the effect on inflammation of the
arteries is more pronounced from diets rich in one flavonoid
versus another.  But one thing is clear. The best approach  is
to include a variety of flavonoids in your daily 5-9
servings of
fruits and vegetables.

Since researchers at AC Nielsen have shown that only about
12% of Americans  eat at least 5 servings of fruits and
vegetables per day, it’s not likely we’re getting enough
flavonoids to do us any good.


This finding is consistent with others made by the
government. According to a
report from the Centers for
Disease Control
, half of Americans consume less than a cup of
fruit and 1.5 cups of vegetables each day.


Update:

One of the best ways to add more onions to your diet is to
add sliced red onions to salads. Slice the onions thinly, about
as thick as a quarter coin, and add 4 to 6 slices to your lunch
or dinner salad.

Alternatively, add slow-cooked onions to soups or meats.
Cooking onions in water enriches the water in the soup with
quercetin. Likewise, cooking onions in olive oil simply enriches
the ambient gravy with quercetin. Try adding a bit of red
cooking wine to the cooked onions and olive oil to produce a
delicious, quercetin-rich gravy.














































































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