You are reading Influenza: is onion a false myth?


Influenza: is onion a false myth?

March 22, 2018

Regularly consumed fruits and vegetables help the body function at its best. Rich in water, fiber, vitamins and minerals, these foods are without exception precious allies of our health and it is important that they are included in a healthy, balanced diet. It is therefore worth asking whether certain foods, such as onions, may have particular therapeutic properties. We talk about this with Dr. Manuela Pastore, clinical dietician of the Health Directorate of the Humanitas Clinical Institute.


Onion, from the kitchen to the “do it yourself” pharmacy

Legends about the medicinal properties of garlic and white and red onion, which are also associated with shallots and leek, have been handed down since the ancient Egyptians. Consumed as a natural flu “remedy”, this vegetable belonging to the lily family is a concentrate of mineral salts such as potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, chromium, iodine, sulphur, fluorine, copper, zinc, selenium and manganese and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, vitamin C, K and J. Its food curriculum is completed by beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and quercitin, flavonoids with antioxidant action, particularly in the red variant and in the shallot, allicin with antibacterial and glaucoquinin action, which contributes to the good functioning of insulin by being rich in chromium.

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An ally of the skin and heart

Onions have always been celebrated as a weapon against influenza for their ability to stimulate the body to react to external aggressions of viruses and bacteria: but in all this, is there some truth? This vegetable garden product, with its acrid smell and lively taste, is a friend of the skin and heart but its mild antibacterial activity certainly does not make onion a natural antibiotic. However, if used as any other natural remedy, its juice can be good for those who need to keep their blood more fluid and have a tendency to develop thrombosis. Its purifying properties do not go beyond the fact that this food, if consumed raw, in some cases can be badly digested. Cooked, onions have less nutritional properties but can certainly be eaten without fear even by the most sensitive stomachs.


Between legend and common sense

The strong physical reaction that onions are able to provoke if they come into contact with the eyes has certainly favored the diffusion of beliefs that have little scientific support but have much to do with folklore. It is clearly a legend (at least as much as the fact that garlic drives out vampires) that onions are able to “absorb” microbes from the air. It goes without saying that it is perfectly useless, in terms of spreading it around the house. The same applies to the absurd belief that an onion, once sliced, should be consumed quickly to prevent it from becoming a magnet for germs and bacteria. According to the simplest hygiene rules, onions can be consumed in the same time as any other vegetable, keeping them in the refrigerator if they are not consumed entirely in one sitting.


No study confirms the thesis of the ancients

Onions cannot replace any medication recommended by a doctor to treat the many variable symptoms of influenza. Its reputation is therefore not justified by any medical evidence or scientific study. When we eat raw onions, always if they are well tolerated, we can at most obtain the topical effect of hindering the proliferation of bacteria of the digestive system, but this does not translate into any action that can be considered aimed at combating influenza, viral or bacterial syndromes.

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