Chances are you eat onions all the time without giving them a second thought. What you might not realize about this vegetable (yes, onions are vegetables) is that they offer much more than flavor. Onions are rich in antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Even the onion’s famous eye-watering effect is the result of volatile gases, many of which also are antioxidants. Raw onions provide slightly more health benefits than cooked onions, but cooked onions are nothing to sniff at. Find out what onions can do for your health…

Provide cancer protection. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that people who eat a lot of onions (more than one cup of onions daily) have an 80% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who eat very few onions. Eating onions frequently also was found to provide protection against colorectal, laryngeal and ovarian cancers.

Reduce blood sugar. Within four hours of eating three-quarters of a cup of chopped onion, study participants with diabetes had reduced blood sugar levels, according to a study by Sudanese researchers published in Environmental Health Insights.

Minimize scars and ease bug bite itch. Onion extracts may reduce scar formation on the skin. In a study conducted by Korean researchers, the antioxidants in onions were found to reduce scarring by increasing the activity of an anti-inflammatory enzyme. Creams containing onion extract, such as Mederma (sold at most pharmacies), can reduce scarring. You also can slice an onion in half and rub it on a bug bite to relieve the itch.

IN THE KITCHEN

Add onions as an ingredient in omelets, salads and sauces—or let them take center stage, as in the delicious side dish described below. It features sumac, a Middle Eastern spice, available in the spice section of some grocery stores and online (www.SpiceHouse.com).

Sautéed Onion in Sumac

Chop two large red or sweet onions. Sauté in olive oil until soft. Sprinkle with sumac, a mild spice with a lemony flavor.