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Shallots Are the Healthy Onion You Should Get to Know Better

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Onions rank with celery as a workhorse vegetable that is rarely praised. The French have elevated them to star status in onion soup, but most of the time the stinky vegetable hides in the base of soups, stews, sauces, marinades, casseroles, stir fries, stuffings, and purees.

Onions deserve more respect, especially shallots. While all members of the allium family, which also includes leeks and garlic, are healthy because of their flavonoid content, the shallot excels.   

The flavor of the shallot is a little less assertive than an onion and noticeably sweeter and silkier when cooked. Some people say the taste is between a mild onion and garlic. Professional chefs love them. They are the correct choice for classic French dishes like beurre blanc and Coq au Vin. But don’t stop there. You may find some of your own tried and true recipes step up a notch with shallots in place of onions.

Flavor and flavonoids are not the only reason to start using more shallots. Here are five more reasons shallots are good for you:

1.       Shallots are a rich source of quercetin. This flavonoid helps reduce histamine release, thus it’s of potential benefit for seasonal and other allergies. It has been studied many times for offsetting inflammation, but new research is also finding quercetin may help combat obesity. It seems to do that particularly well when combined with resveratrol.

2.       Shallots are antimicrobial. In Transylvanian myth, an onion around the neck will repel vampires. In reality, shallots (even better than common onions) repel smaller beasties—the microbes we know as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

In one interesting study on the shallot’s microbial power, researchers tested a lip salve made of shallots on 60 volunteers with cold sores. Almost a third of them found their cold sores cleared within 6 hours. The rest got relief within 24 hours.

3.       Shallots are a good source of antioxidants. Cornell University tested 11 kinds of onions for antioxidant factors. The shallot had the highest phenol content—six times that of the Vidalia onion. They also showed the highest overall antioxidant levels.

4.       Shallots have more nutrients than onions. A shallot is small, about a third the size of a common yellow onion. But, gram for gram, shallots have twice the carb and protein content of onions. They also contain higher levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, folate, and B vitamins. Even better, every 100 grams of shallots contain a third of the daily requirement for vitamin A and 13% of vitamin C.

5.       They’re good for your blood. Shallots contain potassium, which helps dilate blood vessels. They also contain allicin, which prompts the release of nitric oxide and helps keep blood pressure low. Allicin helps prevent clotting and protects the cardiovascular system.

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