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Don't give up onions! Onions are a great "free food" for bodybuilders because they contain only 30 calories per half cup (chopped raw onion) and have no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium. In
the same half-cup serving of onions, there are seven grams of carbohydrates, five of which are sugar, plus one gram of protein. Onions also contain vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium
and folic acid.
Some people do have trouble digesting onions, but usually only when they consume excessive amounts. Raw onions or foods with a high content of cooked onion, such as French onion soup, also can be hard to digest. Signs that onions are giving you indigestion include burping and upset stomach but, for most people, consuming a normal amount of onions should not cause digestive problems. Onions can be very strong in smell and taste, and having "onion breath," especially after eating raw onions, is mostly unavoidable due to the high organosulfur compounds present in them.
If you think you might have trouble digesting them, add small amounts of properly cooked onions to your food. According to The Joy of Cooking, "High heat and a too long cooking period bring out the worst features [in onions]." Saute them over low to medium heat only until they turn translucent or until golden for a slightly stronger flavor.
Onions are bulb vegetables in the same family as garlic, leeks and shallots. They come in a range of colors, including white, yellow, purple and red. Onions can be tiny or weigh up to a pound apiece. Their strength and aroma vary widely, from mild and sweet to pungent. According to the National Onion Association (NOA), onions contain "fructans, flavonoids and organosulfur compounds." The NOA defines fructans as "small carbohydrate molecules that help maintain gastrointestinal health by sustaining beneficial bacteria." The flavonoids present in onions, particularly quercetin, are known antioxidants.
Organosulfur compounds give onions their pungent taste and smell. They may make your eyes water when you chop them. To avoid tearing up, cut onions under running water or slice them in half and soak them for two minutes in chilled water before dicing.
Onions are extremely versatile, and they are often used as a seasoning as well as a vegetable. Add them to pasta sauces, soups, salads or any dish that needs a little zip. Use a small amount of raw chopped onion as a topping for Mexican food, such as burritos. If you really feel adventurous, you can even go as far as eating a whole baked onion. For more information on the health benefits of onions or for onion recipes, visit www.onions-usa.org.