What Scallions Can Do for Your Health

Your grocer might label them as green onions. Scallions are an allium (Latin for "garlic") vegetable. Their pungent relatives include onions, leeks, shallots, and chives. Cooks worldwide toss scallions into soups, salads, stir fries, and any dish that needs a punch of flavor.

Humans started growing scallions in central Asia hundreds of years ago. The hollow, tube-like green tops have a mild, oniony zing, while the small, white bulb ends offer a sharper bite.

Nutritional Profile

Like almost all vegetables and fruits, scallions are mostly water. A cup of it has just 32 calories, only trace amounts of fat, and zero cholesterol. It also has less sugar and fewer carbs than vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and corn.

A 1-cup serving of scallions packs:

  • Twice the daily recommended amount for adults for vitamin K, which helps your blood clot and keeps your bones strong
  • About 25% of your daily value for vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage
  • About 16% of your daily requirement for folate, a vitamin your body needs to make DNA and which is especially important for women who are pregnant

Health Benefits

Fills you with fiber. A cup of cut scallions has about 10% of the fiber you need for the whole day. Getting lots of fiber helps you feel full, keeps your cholesterol levels down, and may lower your chances for diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.

Helps fight cancer. Scallions and other allium vegetables may block cancer growth, especially in the stomach. Researchers aren’t sure how. They believe that a compound called allicin, which is what gives you garlic breath, may prevent cells from turning cancerous or slow tumors from spreading.

Prevents infections. Extracts of onions, garlic, and their relatives have long been used as medicine. They can kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Lab tests on certain varieties of onions showed that at high enough concentrations, some can kill or slow the growth of salmonella or E. coli.

Protects your body. Vegetables in the onion group are packed with phytonutrients, including chemicals called antioxidants that defend your cells against damage. Antioxidants in onions like flavonoids and polyphenols hunt down free radicals, substances that that can lead to cancer, inflammation, and age-related diseases. The antioxidants lose their power during cooking, so fresh is best.

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What to Watch For

Scallions are high in vitamin K, which works against blood thinning medication. If you’re taking warfarin to prevent strokes, heart attacks, or blood clots, ask your doctor if green onions are safe for you.

It’s rare, but people have been sickened or died of hepatitis after eating contaminated scallions. Always wash all fresh vegetables, including those that are sold prewashed and bagged.

How to Use Scallions

You can find them practically anywhere. Wild scallions might be growing in your backyard. Your produce aisle likely stocks them year round.

Here are some shopping tips:

  • Pick scallions with crisp leaves and bright color.
  • Trim the top and bottom tips and rinse with water. You can eat both the green and white parts.
  • Store scallions in the fridge for maximum freshness.

People often use green onions as a garnish on salads or stews. But you can enjoy them in lots of other ways!

Grill them whole. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them for a couple of minutes for a sweet, charred flavor.

Puree them. Put cooked scallions in a blender and mix in eggs, flour, and a dash of soy sauce. They taste similar to scallion pancakes served at Chinese or Korean restaurants.

Pair them with asparagus. Next time you roast these spears in the oven, toss in some scallions, too. The heat will temper the oniony bite and turn them into a delish side dish.

Slurp them. Make vichyssoise, the creamy soup that’s usually made with leeks and potato and eaten cold. Swap in scallions for onions or leeks.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on June 04, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

George E. Boyhan, PhD, University of Georgia department of horticulture.

Cancer Prevention Research: "Garlic and onions: Their cancer prevention properties."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Choose My Plate,” “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release,” “Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

Cogent Food & Agriculture: “Status and trends of nutraceuticals from onion and onion by-products: A critical review.”

Oncology Reports (Greece): “Allicin induces apoptosis in gastric cancer cells through activation of both extrinsic and intrinsic pathways.”

Mayo Clinic: “Nutritional Sources of Vitamin K.”

University of Iowa Health Care: “Warfarin, your diet, and vitamin K foods.”

University of Minnesota: “FDA Confirm Mexican Scallions caused three hepatitis outbreaks.”

University of California San Francisco: “Increasing Fiber Intake.”

Health.gov: “Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin C,” “Vitamin K.”

The New York Times: “Fast Scallion Pancakes.”

Food Network Kitchen: “Grilled Scallions.”

Saveur: “Scallion Soup.”

Current Opinion in Biotechnology: “Antimicrobial properties of allium species.”

Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences (India): “Antibacterial Effect of Onion.”

Free Radical Biology and Medicine: “Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: How are they linked?

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