Everyone has seen them in the vegetable section of their grocery store. They look like tiny red onions and are shaped like large cloves of garlic. Which often begs the question: what exactly are these? Baby onions? How do you even cook them?
Shallots look very similar to onions and garlic because they’re part of the same allium family. This explains their clove-like shape and papery skins. However, unlike their pungent onion cousins, these tiny alliums actually have a much more delicate flavouring that’s softer on the taste buds while imparting notes of rich sweetness like garlic. Also, the cell structure that holds shallot slices together, break down a lot more easily. This allows the flavour to quietly permeate through the rest of the ingredients.
Other than the fact that shallots are delicious to eat, these tiny vegetables can also offer you some solid health benefits. Here are 7 reasons why shallots are so good for you.
1. They Can Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer
Did you know studies have connected shallots to a reduction in lung and oral cancers, as well as stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer?
Shallots, like other members of the allium family are known for containing a compound called ethyl acetate that induces the death of cancer-causing cells, thus halting the growth of cancer.1 But that’s not all.
Shallots also boast of a high and diverse range of antioxidants such as including quercetin and kaempferol.2 When the cell surface of a shallot is disrupted either by slicing, dicing, or crushing – these antioxidants get released, resulting in the formation of another valuable compound called allicin.3 According to research, allicin is potent enough to reduce cell mutation and various cancers.
2. They Help Fight Off Cholesterol
Turns out, apart from its proven ability to bring down the risk of certain cancers, allicin is also directly linked to regulation of cholesterol levels in the body. How? By inhibiting the action of a reductase enzyme produced in the liver, which is the enzyme that controls cholesterol production.4 5By bringing down the total level of cholesterol in the body, shallots can help offer protection against diseases like atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and even heart attacks and strokes.
3. They Aid In Managing Diabetes
There are two phytochemical compounds present in shallots – allium and allyl disulfide, that are best known for their ability to improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels in the body.6 7 For this reason, shallots are said to have hypoglycemic properties that are helpful for managing diabetes and its symptoms. And while shallots are not really recognized as one of the primary treatments of this disease, it can surely bring about some significant improvements to your health if you do have type 2.
4. They Help With Weight Loss
Whether you are naturally inclined to gaining weight or whether it’s age that’s getting in the way of your weight maintenance goals, everyone needs to avoid obesity, an ailment that increases your risk of not just diabetes, but also of cancer and heart disease. Maintaining an optimum weight is not easy, but eating certain foods can certainly help keeping you full for longer so you consume less calories.
Shallots contain ethyl acetate extracts (EEOs) that help suppress fat accumulation in the body.8 Meanwhile, the antioxidants in shallots help boost metabolism – a factor that contributes tremendously in weight regulation. Another bonus point? Shallots are low in calorie – making them excellent ingredients to cook with when on a calorie-restrictive diet!
5. They Help Improve Your Vision
Studies suggest that vitamin A-rich diets may offer protection against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. The reason is obvious. It’s because this vitamin is very important for optimum eye health.
Vitamin A helps keep the outer covering of your eye i.e. the cornea clear. In fact, it also forms one of the key components of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that helps you see in low light conditions. Shallots, like their other allium counterparts are a great source of vitamin A, and eating them would be a delicious way to improve your eyesight!
6. They Improve Brain Function
Shallots contain folate, one of the eight powerful B-vitamins that plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Studies show that folate has the ability to silence or “turn off” genes that produce the toxic compound – beta-amyloid proteins, an excess of which would otherwise increase risks of brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Folate also helps with other factors that affect brain health such as brain inflammation and homocysteine levels and therefore, automatically improves cognitive function as well.
7. They Help Combat Stress
Shallots are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals such as pyridoxine that aids in stimulating the release of gamma-aminobutyrate (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps maintain low stress levels maintain a balance between all the hormones in the body.
Additionally, shallots also contain folic acid, an essential B-vitamin that regulates enzymatic and hormonal reactions within the brain.
For these reasons, shallots are said to be the one of the best pick-me-ups to cure a particularly stressful mood!
|↑1||Farhadi, Leila, Hamid-Reza Mohammadi-Motlagh, Parivash Seyfi, and Ali Mostafaie. “Low concentrations of flavonoid-rich fraction of shallot extract induce delayed-type hypersensitivity and TH1 cytokine IFNγ expression in Balb/c Mice.” International journal of molecular and cellular medicine 3, no. 1 (2014): 16.|
|↑2||Beretta, Hebe Vanesa, Florencia Bannoud, Marina Insani, Federico Berli, Pablo Hirschegger, Claudio Rómulo Galmarini, and Pablo Federico Cavagnaro. “Relationships between bioactive compound content and the antiplatelet and antioxidant activities of six allium vegetable species.” Food technology and biotechnology 55, no. 2 (2017): 266.|
|↑3||Zeng, Yawen, Yuping Li, Jiazhen Yang, Xiaoying Pu, Juan Du, Xiaomeng Yang, Tao Yang, and Shuming Yang. “Therapeutic role of functional components in alliums for preventive chronic disease in human being.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2017 (2017).|
|↑4||Mikaili, Peyman, Surush Maadirad, Milad Moloudizargari, Shahin Aghajanshakeri, and Shadi Sarahroodi. “Therapeutic uses and pharmacological properties of garlic, shallot, and their biologically active compounds.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16, no. 10 (2013): 1031.|
|↑5||Gebhardt, Rolf, Halgund Beck, and Karl G. Wagner. “Inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis by allicin and ajoene in rat hepatocytes and HepG2 cells.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Lipids and Lipid Metabolism 1213, no. 1 (1994): 57-62.|
|↑6||Javad, Hosseini, Hosseini-zijoud Seyed-Mostafa, Oubari Farhad, Mahmoodi Mehdi, Abbasi Oshaghi Ebrahim, Rajabi Gilan Nader, Ghasemi Seyed Ramin, and Hashemi Behrooz. “Hepatoprotective effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Allium hirtifolium (Persian shallot) in diabetic rats.” (2012): 83-87.|
|↑7||Nicastro, Holly L., Sharon A. Ross, and John A. Milner. “Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties.” Cancer prevention research 8, no. 3 (2015): 181-189.|
|↑8||Wang, Yi, Wei-Xi Tian, and Xiao-Feng Ma. “Inhibitory effects of onion (Allium cepa L.) extract on proliferation of cancer cells and adipocytes via inhibiting fatty acid synthase.” Asian pacific journal of cancer prevention 13, no. 11 (2012): 5573-5579.|