THE HEART OF THE MATTER
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Week: 534.4 Guest: Nancy Teksten, National Onion Association Topic: The Healthful, Versatile Onion! Producer/Host: Steve Girard

NEMA: For years the onion has been getting a bad rap in all those ads for breath mints, you know.... "Oops, onions, and I've got that date with Betty"! Well, all the negative publicity sure hasn't stemmed our appetite for onions, we use them in everything from stews to salsa, sandwiches, steaks, and even, egads! Raw! Today we're with Nancy Teksten, of the National Onion Association...must be some tears around your office, Nancy....

TEKSTEN: ...Only tears of joy...we're very excited about the onion and the great role that it plays in a healthful diet.

NEMA: There are a lot of things an onion does for our menus...a kind of utility player that contributes in a lot of ways to a lot of foods...what we'd like to get into today is the nutritional aspect...since we're using about 16 pounds a person these days, hopefully we're getting something really good out of it....

TEKSTEN: Absolutely, its a good source of vitamin C and always has been. We've known for many years that it will reduce your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, but even recently, a study has come out from the Dutch that say that eating half of an onion might reduce the risk of stomach cancer by 50%...and I think that's really exciting news.

NEMA: Fill me in on some of the other health benefits your association touts for the onion....

TEKSTEN: Well, adenosine is known for lowering blood pressure and reducing your cholesterol levels, and also we have another great by-product of that...it will reduce the risk of clotting, so if people...sometimes your doctor will say use a half an aspirin or baby aspirin every day to reduce that risk of clotting, and here, you can do it naturally, with an onion.

NEMA: I have a friend who eats onions raw...I'd like to try it...but which onions are the best tasting for that purpose?

TEKSTEN: Well, all the onions are wonderful...many of the spring and summer onions are known for their mildness, and there are a lot of branded, sweet onions out there that are good...but really, the stronger the onion, the more benefit it has as far as medicinally speaking, because the sulfuric compounds are more concentrated in there. And when you cook those, those are going to turn into wonderful flavor. And that does not cause any breath problems, so cooked onions, to be sure, are no offering of problems for your breath.

NEMA: Just kidding with the opening there, Nancy....

TEKSTEN: It's something I get a lot...you know, that is one of the things, but really, in this day and age of air pollution, a little tear is good for your eye.

NEMA: You notice the onion's cousin, garlic, is everywhere...in supplements and additives...they're really touting its health properties. The onion can't be too far behind...

TEKSTEN: Well, in fact they are doing a lot of that with garlic...and I don't represent the garlic people, but I do know that onions are becoming more and more popular, and many of the qualities, as far as the anti-cancer that are in onions are not found in garlic....and they're only really concentrated in the colored onions, the yellow and the red. So that's kind of just a sidebar for your listeners.

NEMA: Some other notes on onions...when you store them, wrap them in tissue paper, paper towel or newspaper and refrigerate...or put them in a dark, cool, dry spot. Also, remember that the water you use to cook onions contains the vitamin C...so try to use the water in your mashed potatoes or gravies. If you think our onion consumption of 16 pounds a year per person is a lot, check out the Japanese...who eat about 23 pounds a year... the Polish, who put away 36 pounds a year....or, get this, Romanians...who gobble up 55 pounds of onions each year. I'm Steve Girard.