Garlic and Onions: The Hidden Health Benefits

garlicGarlic and Onions: Magic Powers?

Garlic and onions have wonderful health benefits but they also have “hidden” health benefits that can be accessed with a little planning.



These fantastic bulbs come in white, red, and yellow and are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure.  Much of this is because of the sulfur containing  phytonutrient allyl propyl sulfoxide (which is the cause of the smell and tearing eyes).  Studies show the stronger the smell, the more healthy nutrients.  Onions also have a high concentration of quercetin which has anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as chromium to help balance blood sugar levels.  Other wonderful nutrients include vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese, molybdenum, B6, tryptophan, folate, potassium, phosphorus, copper, the carotenoidsbeta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, the flavonoids isorhamnetin, kaempferol, and phytosterols.

To get the most health benefits from onions, let themsit for 5-10 minutes after cutting and before cooking or eating.  The sulfur containing phytonutrient alliin and the enzyme alliinase are separated in onion’s cell struture when whole.  Slicing, chopping, or dicing the onion ruptures the cells and releases the alliin and alliinase allowing them to mingle and form a powerful new compound called thiopropanal sulfoxide to increase the onion’s health promoting benefits.  The finer the cut, the more extensive the transformation of the sulfur compounds.  Allicin also gives onions it’s pungent aroma and is what makes the eyes tear.  The stronger the smell and the more you cry when cutting, the better for your health.


Garlic is an amazing bulb that has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposed for centuries.  Garlic has a hot taste as well as a subtle sweetness, adding great flavor to any savory dish.  Garlic is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals such as manganese, B6, vitamin C, tryptophan, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, B1, protein, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.  Garlic also contains a unique sulfur compound, allicin which promotes antioxidant activity and functions as a powerful antibacterial and antiviral.

Again, to get the most health benefits from garlic, let it sit for 5-10 minutes after cutting and before cooking or eating.  The alliin and the enzyme alliinase are separated in the garlic cell struture when whole.  Cutting or pressing the garlic ruptures the cells and releases the alliin and alliinase allowing them to mingle and form a powerful new compound called allicin which is a phytonutrient adding to garlic’s health promoting benefits.  The finer the chopping, mincing, pressing, or dicing, the more allicin may be produced.  Allicin also gives garlic it’s pungent smell and “bite”.  The stronger the smell, the better for your health.

Garlic and Onions – Cooking

Careful when cooking both onions and garlic as some of the enzymes will be denatured at 158 degrees Fahrenheit.  Expose them to as little heat as possible and for as short of time period as possible (less than 15 minutes).  This will keep the phytonutrients active.  Research has shown that when crushed garlic was heated, it’s ability to inhibit cancer development in animals was blocked; but, when chopped garlic was allowed to sit for 10 minutes before heating the anticancer activity was preserved.

Final tip: to remove the odor of garlic from your fingers, rub them on a stainless steel bowl or spoon under cold running water.  Although, in many country’s the sign of a fabulous cook is the aroma of their hands . . . so dice, chop, press, crush, slice, mince, and cut with abandon to enjoy all the benefits of garlic and onions.

About Kellie

Kellie Hill received her Bachelor of Arts from Willamette University in Speech Communication and a Bachelor of Science from Kaplan University in Nutrition, Health & Wellness.  She has a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Certificate from Nutritional Therapy Association. Kellie has earned a Personal Trainer Certificate from American Sports & Fitness Association.


Kellie's philosophy is that there is no one-size fits all diet. Because of bio-individuality (each one of us is different), most diets will work for some people and not for others. We need to eat nutrient dense, whole foods that have been properly prepared - real food, as close to the form it was originally grown/raised in, prepared in a way that preserves or even enhances the nutritional value of the food.


She believes that it is important to investigate how the body is using the food as well as understanding what is happening in the bigger context of an individuals life.  She knows that we are obviously more than what we eat and that can have a very big impact on how the body deals with food. Kellie helps her clients identify and move toward their personal ultimate health goals.


Kellie is in private practice in Medford, Oregon. She consults with long-distance clients by phone and internet.


  1. […] a unique sulfur compound that fights disease and promotes antioxidant activity, according to research. If you let garlic stand for at least 10 minutes before using it, its allicin content increases. […]

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