This Veggie Has Some Major Cancer-Fighting Power, According To Science

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Red onions are a pretty pungent vegetable — most people either love ’em or hate ’em. But new data from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, might be powerful enough to sway those of us who turn our noses up at this salad-topper and grill-side staple.

It turns out that Ontario-grown red onions are the most effective at killing colon and breast cancer cells when compared to five other types of onions researchers tested, thanks to their high levels of quercetin and anthocyanin (two important flavonoids). Onions are known for containing one of the highest concentrations of quercetin, and Ontario onions contain particularly high levels of the compound compared to its peers in other parts of the world. And because these onions also have a high amount of anthocyanin, we are better able to utilize the cancer-scavenging properties of the quercetin (the two flavonoids enable one another).


“Onions activate pathways that encourage cancer cells to undergo cell death,” said lead study author Abdulmonem Murayyan in a statement. “They promote an unfavourable environment for cancer cells and they disrupt communication between cancer cells, which inhibits growth.”

In the study, the team of researchers placed colon cancer cells in direct contact with quercetin extracted from the five different onion varieties and found that the red onion extract was by far the most powerful. They were also able to confirm that the red onion quercetin was effective in killing breast cancer cells. The next step for their research will be testing red onion’s cancer-fighting abilities in human trials. From there, we will see how far the extract can go in medicinal applications.

So in the meantime, here’s a little new cooking inspiration for these red onion wonders. We might not be able to take quercetin supplements yet, but we can definitely dig into our vegetables with delicious recipes.

1. Creamy Roasted Red Onions

Miss in The Kitchen

Get the recipe at Miss in The Kitchen.

2. Roasted Red Onion Flowers


Get the recipe at Epicurious.

3. Balsamic-Glazed Red Onions

Elise Bauer

Get the recipe at Simply Recipes.