We’ve all heard about the importance of eating our vegetables. They are a perfect source of many vitamins and minerals we need. But there’s a certain group of vegetables that provide special benefits. They’re called allium vegetables, and studies have shown that they have some pretty amazing effects.

Allium vegetables are members of the of the plant genus Allium. They include strongly scented and distinctively flavored veggies such as garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and chives. These are popular ingredients in traditional and vegetarian meals. But few people realize just how much these vegetables have to offer. Even I didn’t think of them in a health standpoint. I just add them for flavor to recipes.

Allium vegetables are among the oldest cultivated plants. They have been used medicinally and in cooking for centuries. They are high in sulfur compounds, which have been used to prevent and help treat a variety of ailments. These include:

  • Cancer (particularly stomach and colorectal cancer)
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Cataracts
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances

Herbalists often use garlic against infection. It is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent, and is believed to even be effective against viruses. It has been used against parasites in the intestinal tract, and as an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots. Garlic is truly a multi-purpose herb.

Including Allium Vegetables in Your Diet

With all of these health benefits, it’s easy to see why doctors recommend making allium vegetables a regular part of one’s diet. Garlic offers the most health benefits when eaten raw, and may be added to salads. When cooked, it is often used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Onions are often consumed raw in salads and on sandwiches, but they may also be sautéed or added to recipes. Chives are popular additives to dips and of course, to baked potatoes.

Some people, however, simply do not like the taste of onions or garlic. But there are other plants in the family to choose from, and some are relatively mild.

Scallions are a popular alternative to regular onions. They are actually immature bulbing onion plants that are harvested before the bulb has had a chance to fully form. Allium fistulosum, or bunching onions, produce scallions with a pleasantly mild flavor.

Leeks also have a milder taste, and they are not as bitter as scallions. Leeks are often used in making soup. They make a delicious soup without any other vegetables or meats, or they may be used in potato soup or vichyssoise.

There are many ways you can include allium vegetables in your diet. By doing so, you can decrease your risk for several serious health problems. Even if onions bring tears to your eyes and the thought of eating garlic makes you cringe, there are other allium vegetable options that may be more to your liking.

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