Scallions is the popular name for fresh immature onions, also known as spring onions or green onions. The vegetable doesn't yet have the distinctive round bulb and consists of a white part and a long green stalk. The entire plant is edible in both raw and cooked form and is a popular ingredient in many recipes.
Scallions are part of the Allium family, which besides onions also includes leek, garlic or shallots. The plants are usually cultivated in clusters and have green leaves that resemble tubes due to their hollow center.
The name is commonly used to designate several varieties of young onions. However, the real scallions have a straight white base, while other species of onion will have more or less rounded sides, which show that a bulb is about to form. From the bottom of the white part, there are usually a few short white root leftovers.
This vegetable is basically a young onion, harvested for fresh consumption before the formation of the bulb. It has a content of allicin, which makes it part of the group of so-called allium vegetables, which provide this compound with important healing benefits. It is entirely edible and has a long straight shape, with a spicy taste typical of onions. The base is white but becomes progressively green until the leaves have a deep green color. The nutritional and medical properties of the scallion are similar to the ones of normal onions, as well as other related species such as garlic.
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Scallions are used in cooking all around the world and provide a spicy flavour to many dishes. They are especially popular in the cuisine of Asia. They can be consumed raw but are also a very common ingredient in numerous recipes, such as salads or soups. Sometimes, pieces of scallions are simply added on top of food, as a garnish. They are important for both their nutritional value and their benefits to human health.
The taste of scallions is similar to the one of normal onions but not as strong. However, the flavour is more powerful than the one of chives, which is another related species. Scallions are widely available and cheaper than chives and the green part can be used as a substitute for chives in most dishes.
Scallions are a great choice for a weight loss diet because they supply vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers but have a very low content of calories and are completely free of compounds that are dangerous for human health, such as saturated fats or cholesterol. Their chemical composition consists of water, vegetal fibers, some proteins and carbohydrates. They provide a number of important nutrients, which will be described below.
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Folates are especially important for pregnant women because they are one of the key elements in the synthesis of DNA in unborn babies. Since a serving of scallions supplies 16% of the recommended daily amount of folates, they are a great source for this essential nutrient.
These vegetables are even richer in vitamin A, providing one third of the daily required amount. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant from the carotenoid group and plays many roles in our body. It is needed for the maintenance of skin, good vision as well as the health of mucous membranes. It is also known to prevent mouth and lung cancer.
Like many plants, scallions are rich in vitamin C and one serving offers 31% of the daily necessary amount. This vitamin is known to boost immunity but is also a strong generic antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and protects tissues from their destructive action, which is today considered to be the root cause of many diseases as well as early aging.
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One of the most important nutrients found in scallions is vitamin K, which is provided in generous amounts. Vitamin K is involved in many key processes, in particular neural development and brain health, as well as the formation of bone mass.
Scallion offers a good amount of iron and especially allows us to assimilate this mineral faster from any other source. This is a common effect of vegetal sources of iron and can be very effective. In order to take advantage of it, try to pair scallions with meat or grains rich in iron, to allow you to metabolize a larger dose of this key mineral.
Like most green vegetables, scallions are very helpful in weight loss diets due to their low content of calories. There are no more than 31 calories in a serving of 100 grams of fresh leaves.
Most leafy vegetables are great sources of antioxidants and scallions are no exception and provide a significant package. Antioxidants are various compounds that are able to neutralize the free radicals that are a dangerous by-product of human metabolism. They are considered to be the cause of many conditions, with potentially lethal consequences.
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A serving of 100 grams of scallions supplies 7% of the recommended daily amount of fibers (around 2.6 grams). They are richer in fibers than normal onions or shallots. Fibers are important for proper digestion but have other health benefits as well, especially for heart maintenance.
Scallions include thiosulfinates such as propyl disulfide, diallyl disulfide and allyl disulfide but these are only present in low amounts. Garlic is a much better source for these compounds but scallions are an alternative as well. Enzymatic reactions can convert these thiosulfinates into allicin. This is an important reaction because it decreases the production of cholesterol, especially by the liver cells.
Allicin is also found directly in scallions and is considered to be a very useful compound for heart health. It makes blood vessels more flexible, besides the already mentioned effect of reduced cholesterol production. It decreases blood pressure by injecting some nitric oxide into the blood flow. It is also known to reduce the risk of strokes, coronary artery disease or peripheral vascular diseases because it blocks platelet clotting.
The anti-cancer effect of scallions can be traced to a number of compounds. The most important of these is vitamin A, for which scallions are a very rich source. Other strong antioxidants are carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and other types of flavonoids. Flavonoids are considered to be especially effective in the mouth and lungs, protecting the body from tumours that can appear in those areas.
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These vegetables provide a powerful package of vitamins that offer a general health boost. The ones found in the highest amounts are vitamins A, C, and K. Scallions are even considered to be one of the richest natural sources of vitamin K, since 100 grams supply 207 µg of this vitamin, or 172% of the required daily amount. It plays a key role in the development of bones and their structural strength but has other uses as well and a good supply of vitamin K decreases the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Except for the roots, scallions are fully edible and all parts of the plant are nutritious. Due to the combination between significant health benefits and a pleasant taste, scallions can be a welcome addition to your diet.
Allicin, which is an organosulphur substance, might be the most interesting bioactive compound found in scallions. Also found in related species like onions and garlic, it seems to have many important health benefits and new ones are being discovered.
When inside the body, allicin releases nitric oxide in the blood flow. This chemical relaxes blood vessels and is used by doctors to prevent heart attacks, so it can be extremely beneficial for heart health. It greatly reduces the risk of strokes and coronary diseases by controlling blood pressure and decreasing the amount of blood clots. Another benefit that was discovered after modern tests was that allicin reduces the overall level of cholesterol. Its effects pair very well with the ones of quercetin, another compound found in scallions that reduces the level of glucose in the blood and counters inflammation.
At the same time, allicin has proven antiseptic effects and can prevent infections such as cold or flu. When used as an infusion, scallions also have antiviral effects and can calm sore throats. Eating this vegetable is helpful for patients who have parasites or gastrointestinal viruses. It is also used as a support treatment in cases of Candidiasis or Lyme disease, a serious infection triggered by ticks.
Eating scallions causes a sensation of interior warmth in the body. This is especially useful for women during periods of menstrual pain, who should consume dishes prepared with this vegetables. The warming effect was known in ancient Chinese medicine and used to treat dysmenorrhea.
Scallions are very good for neural health and the integrity of our bones, due to the powerful mix of vitamins C and K. A serving of scallions actually supplies almost twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin K, a nutrient that is also considered effective against the dreaded Alzheimer's disease.