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All in for Alliums?

garlic and onions

If you’re not already, you should be. The Allium family of vegetables includes garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, chives, and shallots. These vegetables are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that are not only responsible for the vegetables’ characteristic odor and pungent flavor, but also for a wide variety of health benefits. High in antioxidants and phytonutrients like quercetin and anthocyanins, the Allium vegetables have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. They also have a detoxifying and purifying effect on the body. Garlic, in particular, has been shown to enhance the immune system, prevent cardiovascular disease, and reduce the risk of cancer.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine dietetics, Allium vegetables are known to stimulate the circulation of blood and qi, making them ideal for removing stagnation in Spring body types. They also have a very warming thermal nature which boosts yang and benefits cooler Fall and Winter body types. With diuretic properties, onions are beneficial for treating the common cold and for draining excess fluids and phlegm.

While some of the Allium vegetables like garlic, shallots, and leeks are primarily cultivated for their bulbs, their greens and leaves can also be eaten, similar to scallions and chives. Generally, the bulbs of the vegetables tend to be more pungent in flavor than their leaves. Allium vegetables with stronger flavors (e.g. garlic and onions) tend to have a stronger protective effect than milder varieties (e.g. leeks and shallots). Because garlic and onions in their raw state have higher levels of sulfur-containing compounds, they also provide more health benefits. When cooked or roasted, these vegetables develop a milder, sweeter flavor and lose some of their protective benefits.


Amagase, H., B.L. Petesch, H. Matsuura, et al. 2001. Intake of garlic and its bioactive components. J Nutr 131(3):955S-62S.

Borlinghaus, J., F. Albrecht, M.C.H. Gruhlke, et al. 2014. Allicin: Chemistry and biological properties. Molecules 19(8):12591-618.

Kastner, J. 2004. Chinese Nutrition Therapy. Stuttgart, Germany: Thieme.

Schäfer, G., and C.H. Kaschula. 2014. The immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic organosulfur compounds in cancer chemoprevention. Anticancer Agents Med Chem 14(2):233-40.

Photo by: Timmary/

#Spring #Eating

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