Onions Add Flavor and Health Benefits to Meals

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Onions are an essential flavor component for most savory dishes and usually the first ingredient in my sauté pan. I probably eat more than 20 pounds each year, the amount per capita consumed in the U.S. Eighty-five percent are yellow onions.

Just like other vegetables, they boast health benefits! The most notable come from the antioxidants that they contain, helping to prevent or delay age-related diseases. One medium onion contains 20% of the daily value for vitamin C, and is a source of B vitamins and manganese. Manganese is a mineral that works as a coenzyme involved in breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and cholesterol.

On the down side, cutting onions can burn your eyes and make you cry. That’s due to the sulfur compounds that are released, with fresh onions having the highest levels. To reduce crying, chill the onion first or cut an older onion. Another option is to wear swim goggles!

Onion rings are one of the only sides I know of with onion as the main ingredient. As much as I love their flavor, they’re often too greasy. This baked version takes a little time to put together, but is non-greasy, crispy and tastes delicious. Great recipe from today.com food section:

Crispy Baked Onion Rings

  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thick rings
  • 32 ounces buttermilk*
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  1. Separate the sliced onion into individual rings (save the very small inner rings to use for something else). Place the onion rings in a bowl and cover with buttermilk and Old Bay. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  2.  Drain the onions and discard the seasoned buttermilk.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a large baking sheet (may need more than one depending on the size of the onions) with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  4. Make a breading station: in a wide, shallow bowl, add the flour. In a second bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Stir the bread crumbs, cornmeal, and salt together in a third bowl.
  5. Dip all of the onion rings into the flour, shaking to remove excess flour. Wash the flour off of your hands. Use your left hand for the egg bowl and the right hand for the bread crumb mixture. Dip several rings at a time in the egg and then drop them into the breadcrumb bowl. Use your dry right hand to coat the rings.
  6. Place the coated onion rings on the baking sheet. Once full, spray with non-stick spray.
  7. Bake for around 20 minutes, until the onions are crispy and starting to brown at the edges. Serve immediately with ketchup or your favorite dips.
    *If you don’t normally drink buttermilk, purchase buttermilk powder and keep it in your freezer. It lasts a very long time.

Margie Mansure is an extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist chef, she offers nutrition and cooking classes to community members.