Thursday, July 25, 2024

Is Onion Really Necessary?

In Nepali dishes of our everyday meals, there is one indispensable spice, ‘onion.’ In summer, raw onion toppings in any dish give us extra flavour. We are attached to the taste of onion in almost every dish. But is onion really necessary? The ever-fluid price of onion in the market made me question its importance. Let’s examine the history and nutritional components to determine whether onion is essential to our daily cuisine.


The history of onions traces their origin to Iran, southwestern Asia, and Central Asia. This plant is one of the primary plants humans first discovered and began cultivating and reproducing. People have been growing it for over 5000 years. Onion cultivation started for the first time in southwest Asia’s mountainous and high-altitude regions.

Although onions seem to have bedrock and a backbone in South Asian cuisine, they didn’t always hold such value in the past. Over 2000 years ago, the father of Ayurveda, Charaka, in his treatise, glorified the onion as a vegetable capable of healing joints and aiding digestion. However, other Ayurvedic texts banished onions four centuries later, terming them as ‘tamasic food that inspired lethargy and lust.

The Demand

Ancient history reveals that people knew about the debate surrounding onions being considered a source of impurity in our cuisine. Despite that, the demand never ceases to decrease in the market. Suppose we look at the nutritional value. In that case, it has a low amount of essential nutrients and energy value, and the primary purpose seems to be to serve as an additional flavour to savoury dishes without the contribution of significant caloric content.

red onion
Red Onion

The Evolution

The evolution of food cuisine in these modern days involves attracting consumers. It is either through the presentation in some exotic manner topped with its flavour, aroma, and taste. Or by presenting its sack of nutritional benefits in the list. Either way, flavourful food is what consumers desire in any cuisine.

Owing to the rapidly growing trend of food bloggers and food enthusiasts. Many believe that presentation is what counts the most when it comes to a table, while nutritional benefits wait on the other table. The taste of food is thoroughly considered in every meal. Sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and savouries (also known as umami) are food qualities that affect the taste.

In the case of onion, on the one hand, it contributes to building the pop in savoury dishes, keeping in mind the accordance to the varieties, along with the degree of spice and bitterness. Major components like crude protein, crude fibre, carbohydrates, crude fat, and vitamin C are less than 2.5gm per 100gm, which we can obtain from other food varieties in the major amount.
Its higher moisture content, with 84-92% per 100gm, makes other components available in negligible amounts. The higher the moisture content, the less the onion pungency becomes. The taste of South Asian cuisine leans towards less moisture content and high pungency. Despite Nepal importing onions from India and China, households prefer the ones imported from India.

Bottom Line

We consume many food ingredients daily, such as spices, nuts, tea, coffee, sweets, etc.. These have many or few beneficial factors. Some compounds found in such ingredients are essential, like omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, iron, etc., which are necessary/ required for us to conduct our day-to-day lives. In the context of onion, it does not hold essential factors necessary for completing daily tasks nor shows any dreadful effect on its long-term absence. With the price increase, many should reflect on whether onion consumption is necessary. Weighing and correlating the meagre advantages of onion with the ongoing scenario of hiked-up prices, one can conclude that purchasing onion could be a better value for money.

Appsha Digital

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