When I was a kid, my family had a root cellar that was loaded up each fall with apples, squashes, potatoes and onions to draw upon all winter long. While I loved having fresh apples in February, my mother always wanted onions on hand for a welcome flavor boost. Little did she know her recipes were helping us protect our bones too.
How onions protect bone
Onions are rich in highly anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, that protect us from free-radical damage to bone. They also inhibit the development and differentiation of bone breakdown cells (osteoclasts), which prevents some of the osteoclasts from maturing and starting to break down bone. As a result, bone mass is preserved and even built.
And if this isn’t enough, onions are also high in bio-available sulfur compounds that the body needs to produce glutathione, our major intracellular antioxidant, and prevent excessive homocysteine accumulation, which damages collagen in the bone and arteries.
New study shows benefits
A recent Chinese study asked postmenopausal women to consume 3.4 ounces of onion juice a day for 8 weeks. The control group was onion juice-free. Women drinking the onion juice showed a significant decline in free radical levels and actually gained a bit of bone mass in only 8 weeks.
I know not everyone is ready to chug down half a cup of onion juice. (I’ve tried it straight-up, and it’s tough on the taste buds and stomach!) But most of us can add more onions to our diet, and not just as a seasoning. For example, I love roasted onions and indulge in French onion soup once in a while. The truly brave could try adding ½ cup raw onion juice to their finished soup or other dish.
Try this roasted root vegetable recipe with onions
Yield: 8 servings
6 large cloves garlic, whole
5 medium-sized parsnips, diced into 1-inch cubes
4 medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
1 medium-sized butternut squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
½ cup light olive coil
1 tsp sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Light coat two 9-x13-inch baking dishes with vegetables oil and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the garlic, parsnips, potatoes, onions, squash and oil. Toss well.
3. Add the sea salt to the vegetables and toss again.
4. Transfer the vegetables to the prepared baking dishes, spreading them out in a single layer.
5. Roast the vegetables for 35 minutes or until lightly-browned and fork tender, and serve.
Law YY et al., Consumption of onion juice modulates oxidative stress and attenuates the risk of bone disorders in middle-aged and post-menopausal healthy subjects. Food Funct. 2016 Feb;7(2):902-12. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01251a.