The use of onions for medicinal treatment of illnesses related to bacteria, viruses, fungus, and chronic disease dates back to Egyptian healing practices recorded centuries ago. However, red onions deserve special attention because they are one of the best sources of cancer-fighting nutrients that are limited in the modern American diet. Today researchers believe that up to 40% of cancers are preventable with a change in dietary habits alone. The compounds and dietary nutrients found in red onion are associated with a decrease risk in developing prostate, colorectal, stomach, and numerous other cancers. Read on to learn what makes red onions so effective at improving health and how they can help reduce your cancer risks. Thoughts of their distinctive odor and teary eyes probably comes to mind when you think of slicing into an onion, but how about red onions? Red onions are different than other varieties of onion such as the sweet Vidalia onion and the milder flavor white onion. Aside from their flavor and color, red onions won’t make you cry and they also contain different compounds that can inhibit cancer growth. They are part of the collective family of flowering plants belonging to the allium family, known for their rich content in sulfur containing amino acids. This vegetable family has been extensively studied for its protection against degenerative diseases like cancer. Read on for 4 key health benefits of red onions… Health Benefit #1: Enhances Detoxification Pathways The total antioxidant profile of red onions is suggested to increase the activity of powerhouses like glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase). These defense systems protect against cancer by inhibiting inflammation, repairing DNA and tissue damage, neutralizing free radicals, eliminating carcinogens from the liver, and supporting a variety of detoxification pathways that remove toxins from the body. The high sulfur content of red onions alone supports the body’s natural ability to detox. Sulfur stimulates several anti-inflammatory processes which promote healing by enforcing antioxidant defenses. Sulfur is one of the best chelating agents that binds with heavy metals in the blood and flushes these toxins from the body. Sulfur is essential to the health and activity of hormones, enzymes, nerves, and red blood cells. Any interference with these biological processes can lead to the accumulation of carcinogens and the increased inflammation and tissue damage that consequentially increase cancer risks. Onions are also rich in quercetin, a powerful bioflavonoid. Quercetin aids in the removal of excessive estrogen levels from the body. This antioxidant also stimulates liver function to detoxify estrogen and other carcinogenic agents. Cancer cells of the uterus, breast, ovaries, and prostate are associated with having receptors for estrogen to bind. Quercetin also exhibits structural similarities to estrogen making them a possible anti-cancer therapy treatment to target breast cancer cells. Health Benefit #2: Increases Overall Immunity Red onions contain health-promoting compounds that improve your overall immune response. Both nutritive and non-nutritive compounds found in red onions act on the body using antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects to reduce the burden on the immune system. The flavonoid content that contributes to these chemopreventive properties is higher in red onions than in their white or yellow family members. Allicin is an antioxidant compound abundantly concentrated in red onions. Allicin is effective at destroying pathogens that weaken the immune response and support cancer development. It combats fungus, bacteria, and viruses. For these reasons red onions are a useful carminative herb that enhances digestive function and improves imbalances in gut microflora. Along with improving natural abilities to detox, quercetin also has a major impact on reducing inflammation. Quercetin is such a strong anti-inflammatory agent that supplements of this compound are marketed to improve the inflammatory immune cell response associated with histamine release. Health Benefit #3: Regulates Sugar Levels One of the benefits of consuming red onions instead of yellow or white is attributed to their low glycemic index. Red onions have a glycemic index (GI) of 10 on a scale of 0 to 100. This means that red onions are slower to release energy which increases blood glucose levels. Eating foods which don’t raise blood glucose if beneficial in preventing the development of type-2 diabetes. Impaired glucose metabolism is one known contributor of cancer development. Maintaining stable insulin levels is critical to preventing physiological processes that can contribute to cancer. The low GI of red onions is associated with lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow, inhibiting atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries), and also assists in regulating fat cell formation. These vascular health benefits significantly reduce cancer risk because they are linked with an improvement in metabolism. This impacts hormone function and the health of reproductive organs. All of this combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of quercetin allow red onions to help to neutralize free radicals that contribute to DNA damage, abnormal cell activity, and cancer growth. Health Benefit #4: Suppresses Cancer Cell Growth and Development The high levels of quercetin in red onion was given the credit in certain studies for protecting against laryngeal and gastric cancer, as well as reproductive-related cancers. Protects against Mutant p53 Activity Anthocyanins are a naturally occurring compound that give red onions their red hued purple color. Anthocyanins act as a powerful antioxidant weapon in the fight against a mutant gene called p53 that causes oxidative stress and is associated with tumor growth. Anthocyanins in red onion naturally inhibit the destruction that the abnormal functioning p53 gene can cause on cells and tissue.