Health Benefits of Chives

You may think of weeds as unhelpful plants that grow wild throughout your yard, but did you know that some weeds are edible? Actually, you probably eat them all the time. Alliums — the scientific name for the family of plants that includes chives, scallions, and leeks — grow wildly all over the world. You may even find them in your own backyard, identifiable by their bulbous lavender flowers. 

Chives can take over a garden, and established chives need to be separated every three to four years if you want your other plants to have a chance. However, their appealing taste makes them more and more popular as intentional garden additions. In addition to their garlicky flavor, chives also offer numerous health benefits worth knowing about. 

Health Benefits

Although chives are often used in small quantities as a garnish, the promising health benefits of these alliums suggest adding them into your diet more often. Here are just a few of the many health benefits of chives. 

Prevent Cancer

Several studies have been produced which suggest that alliums, including chives, could help prevent or fight against cancer. Certain compounds found in chives, including sulfur, can deter cancerous cells from growing or spreading throughout the body. Although these studies are still in their early stages, there is a wide range of studies suggesting the same thing: that chives and other alliums could help prevent cancer. 

Prevent Osteoporosis

Chives are packed with Vitamin K, a critical component in bone density. Scientists are currently studying whether Vitamin K supplements are effective in treating osteoporosis, though it's commonly used as an osteoporosis treatment in parts of Asia. Vitamin K is recommended in childhood and early infancy to improve bone density throughout life, and Vitamin A-containing foods, like chives, may help prevent osteoporosis from developing later in life. 

Improve Memory

Chives contain both choline and folate. Individually, each of these components is linked to improving memory functions. Studies show that adults who eat more foods with choline in them do better on cognitive tests, while people with low levels of choline seem to be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Meanwhile, folate, or folic acid, has been studied in connection with both cognitive disorders and mood disorders. The combination of choline and folate in chives may help improve memory and prevent the development of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's

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Nutrition

Because chives are so often used as a garnish, rather than eaten in large amounts, nutrients per serving are calculated based on one tablespoon of chives. That single Tablespoon still contains: 

  • 3% Daily Value Vitamin A
  • 3% Daily Value Vitamin C

Other nutrients, including choline and folate, are present in smaller amounts. However, if you use chives in place of green onions in recipes, you'll see the benefit of these other nutritional compounds. 

Nutrients per Serving

1 Tablespoon of fresh chives contains: 

  • Calories: 1
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g

Things to Watch Out For

Because chives are usually eaten as a garnish, there isn’t a lot of data regarding eating chives in larger quantities. While adding a Tablespoon of chives to your food is healthy, and while larger quantities may be okay sometimes, too many chives in your diet could cause stomach pain and indigestion.

How to Prepare Chives

Chives have a unique, spicy flavor that's somewhere between the taste of garlic and the taste of onions. Their pungent flavor is best enjoyed when chives are taken straight from the garden.

The most common way to eat chives is to chop them into small ringlets and sprinkle them on cooked food as a garnish. However, chives can be enjoyed raw or cooked in larger quantities. Their unique flavor palette makes them an easy substitution for garlic or green onions in recipes, or a quick addition to recipes that include those flavors. 

If you're looking to add more chives to your diet, some easy ways to do so include: 

  • Sprinkling them on garlic bread
  • Dicing and cooking them with hamburger meat
  • Sprinkling them on a baked potatoes
  • Swirling them into homemade butter
  • Tossing them in a fresh salad
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 02, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

BMJ: "Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon. 

National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Choline."

National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin K."

Phytotherapy Research: "Allium vegetables for possible future of cancer treatment."

RX List: “Chives.”

University of Minnesota Extension: "Growing Chives in Home Gardens." 

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