The humble onion is found in every kitchen, but its curative powers make it an important medicinal plant too. Like garlic, it is a member of the lily family. Quite apart from its medicinal properties the onion is simply delicious. It forms the basis of so many dishes – whether raw, sautéed, baked, steamed or boiled, that it would be difficult to imagine the cuisine of any country without it. Did you know there are different types of onions that vary in taste and health benefits? Here is a list:


This long, thin varietal is commonly found in Asian cuisine. Green onions are mild and need little to no cooking time. You can cook with the entire stalk if you wish: the white lower portion as well as the green leaves.


  • A green onion stalk contains 24 micrograms of vitamin A in the form of provitamin A carotenoid compounds that the body converts to retinol, the active form of the vitamin. This amount of vitamin A fulfils 2.6 percent of a man’s required daily intake and 3.4 percent of a woman’s.
  • The vitamin C and vitamin A found in foods like green onions both have strong antioxidant properties.
  • Green onions are a rich source of phytochemicals, especially flavonoid compounds such as quercetin and anthocyanins. These particular phytochemical compounds are naturally occurring plant chemicals that may support the function of the immune system.


Brown onions which have a brown or almost yellow skin and creamy flesh are usually strongly flavoured and are suitable for cooking. This is the most widely used onion.


  • The phytochemicals that are present in significant amounts in brown onions act as a stimulant to vitamin C within the body.
  • You can apply brown onion juice to reduce the pain caused from honeybee stings. Fresh brown onion juice or paste can be used for external applications for other insect bites and scorpion stings as well.
  • Brown onions have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that give relief to upset stomach and other related gastric syndromes. This is due to the saponins that can be found in these brown onions.


Typically the next most common onion at the market, Red Onions actually contain less sugar than other types.


  • Red onions are one of the best natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that is particularly well suited for scavenging free radicals.
  • Aside from its antioxidant properties, quercetin has been found to possess cancer fighting, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • In addition to quercetin, red onions provide allicin, a potent health-promoting compound that is found in onions and other members of the Allium family when the plant is crushed or chopped. Allicin has been shown to promote cardiovascular health, prevent and treat cancer, and reduce high blood pressure.


White onions are an all-purpose onion and have longer shelf life than the other types. They are commonly used in white sauces, pasta salad, potato salad, and in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. But they’re an all-purpose onion, and they work in any recipe that calls for onions. They are a best bet when sweating onions or sautéing them for a sauce or stew.


  • White onions have blood thinning properties as they contain a high amount of flavonoids and sulphur compounds.
  • Studies have shown that the consumption of white onions reduces the risk of stomach, colorectal, oral, laryngeal, oesophageal and ovarian cancer.
  • White onions contain 0.5 more grams of fibre and a higher amount of sulphur as compared to red onions.


Though they look like jumbo scallions, leeks are actually quite different, and heartier. They are typically best sweated or sauted, and leeks can add body to a soup, stew, or other recipe that their smaller relatives cannot.


  • Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K. They are very good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, foliate, and vitamin C.
  • Leeks contain important amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has repeatedly been shown to help protect our blood vessel linings from damage, including damage by overly reactive oxygen molecules.
  • Leeks provide measurable amounts of protection against several different types of cancer, mostly likely including colorectal cancer.