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Scallions, also known as spring onions, are a rich source of nutrients. The USDA states that the tops and bulb of raw scallions are a rich with vitamins and minerals. [1] Scallions contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and zinc. Moreover, the vegetable is also rich in water content, fiber, protein and biologically-active chemicals. These vegetables have tremendous antioxidant activity, which helps protect against several health conditions. Furthermore, the presence of organosulfides in scallions makes them even more beneficial for health.

Scallions as a Source of Sulfur-rich Compounds

Scallions contain thiosulfinates in abundance. According to a study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, these thiosulfinates carry numerous health advantages due to their antifungal, antioxidant, antithrombotic, antibacterial and antihypertensive properties. [2] These biologically active compounds are particularly useful due to their cardioprotective role. They carry out free radical scavenging activity (antioxidant activity), ability to release hydrogen sulfide and alteration of enzyme activity regulation genes.

As stated earlier, due to the antibacterial and antifungal properties of these thiosulfinates, they play a significant role in protecting the body against infections. Moreover, these sulfur-containing compounds also help in regulating blood glucose levels and exhibit diabetes-management properties. Thiosulfinates help in increasing insulin levels in the bloodstream which efficiently reduces elevated glucose levels by converting it into glycogen for storage. [3] In addition to this, a study published in Anti-Cancer Agents In Medicinal Chemistry highlights the significance of dietary organosulfides as a cancer protective agent. [4] A number of activities are carried out by foods enriched in organosulfides such as scallions which help in reducing cancer risk and prevent cancer progression to advance stages. The two major ways of cancer protection through organosulfides include their role as antioxidant and immunity activating agent against tumor cells. The antioxidant power of organosulfides helps in reversing the cellular and tissue damage caused by the oxidative stress inflicted by free radical species. Their immune-modulating activity helps the body against cancer progression by activating several immune cells for killing malignant cells. Particularly, the neutrophils and macrophages are triggered to target tumor cells. Different cytokines and immune signaling pathways produce inflammatory response and active innate immunity to specifically suppress tumor growth into advanced cancer stages. Some immune pathways also trigger apoptosis which is programmed death of tumor cells.

Scallions as a Source of Antioxidants

Scallions are a rich source of antioxidants including flavonoids, vitamin A and vitamin C molecules. Their antioxidant property essentially protects the human body against several health conditions and reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. In this context, the oxidation of low density lipoproteins in the arteries leads to increased endothelial cell adhesion and altered vascular function which in turn increase the concentration of inflammatory cells in the blood stream. These alterations brought by oxidative stress in the body increase cellular aggregate-accumulate in the blood circulation. This further leads to plague build up which increases the risk of atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing and hardening of arteries that restricts blood flow severely. This severely disrupted blood flow increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and peripheral vascular disease. However, consuming foods like scallions which are enriched with antioxidants helps in reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress. Moreover, the cancer protective role of antioxidants cannot be ignored. These antioxidants help in altering molecular pathways in several ways which have tumor suppressing effects, as signified by a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, journal. [5] These antioxidants protect against diabetes by reducing reactive nitrogen species concentration in the system to consequently reverse insulin resistance in the body. Similarly, these antioxidants protect against neurodegenerative diseases like dementia by counteracting oxidative stress in neural cells.

Scallions as a Source of Vitamins and Minerals

As discussed earlier, vitamin A and vitamin C exhibit excellent antioxidant properties. In addition to this, vitamin A helps in strengthening the immune system, improving the growth of cells and keeping eyesight healthy. On the other hand, vitamin C also helps in improving immune system performance and synthesis of significant structural protein, and collagen. The presence of vitamin K in scallions helps in improving bone density and keeps the bones healthy; and this function is further complemented by the abundance of calcium in the vegetable. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, in scallions helps the body stay healthy by suppressing inflammation, improving blood circulation and regulating hormone secretion in the body. Thiamine, popularly known as vitamin B1, serves its purpose by boosting the immune system, reducing problems of digestion and lowering nerve inflammation. It also maintains good neural and cardiac health along with reducing vision problems including glaucoma and cataracts. Riboflavin is another name for vitamin B2, which helps in the regulation of metabolism to produce appropriate energy in the body. Furthermore, it also functions as a potent antioxidant in the human body. The presence of vitamin B9 in scallions, also known as folate, plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism, production of DNA and RNA molecules and proper cellular growth in body. It also leads to maintaining an optimal brain function and red blood cell count in the body.

Moving onto the advantages of minerals present in scallions, magnesium fortifies bones, maintains a normal heart rate and blood glucose levels. Sodium facilitates the body by maintaining optimal ion concentration in fluids to regulate various crucial functions in body. Phosphorus promotes a better health by regulating tissue growth and repair mechanisms in the body. Optimal potassium supply in the bloodstream leads to improved functioning of the skeletal system, cardiac health and digestive system. Whereas zinc helps cellular metabolic relations by acting as a co-factor for several enzymes, strengthening immunity, maintaining DNA replication and cell division and increasing protein biosynthesis in the human body.

Scallions should be an important component of a diet if one wants to derive full health benefits from this miracle vegetable. Be sure to eat organic.

References:

  1. Food Composition Database. (2017). USDA. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3039?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=50&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=scallion&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
  2. Tocmo, R., Liang, D., Lin, Y., & Huang, D. (2017). Chemical and Biochemical Mechanisms Underlying the Cardioprotective Roles of Dietary Organopolysulfides. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnut.2015.00001/full
  3. Al-Malki, A. (2017). Inhibition ofα-Glucosidase by Thiosulfinate as a Target for Glucose Modulation in Diabetic Rats. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/7687915/
  4. The Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Organosulfur Compounds in Cancer Chemoprevention. (2017). http://www.eurekaselect.com. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from http://www.eurekaselect.com/117540/article
  5. Nicastro, H., Ross, S., & Milner, J. (2017). Garlic and Onions: Their Cancer Prevention Properties. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/8/3/181

 

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