Ever wonder how those thin strips of green in your stir-frys can make a difference in your health? Scallion is often an underappreciated vegetable that has an extensive list of benefits for human health. On top of that, it also lends its flavour known to culinary arts, making it somewhat of an underdog amongst the great variety of vegetables we consume each day. Here, we unpack the benefits of scallions and describe how to prepare them for your next meal.
What is scallion
Scallions (Allium fistulosum L.) are a type of perennial herb that you might have seen growing out of mason jars in homes or chopped up in your local takeaway boxes. This ubiquitous herb also goes by many names such as “Chinese spring onion” and “green onion”. From Siberia to Japan, and later on to Europe, the crop has been domesticated primarily for its culinary potential and has developed different signature characteristics over the years, categorized under five botanical varieties and three cultivar groups; according to the different botanical classification criteria. These differences include the colour and size of leaves, flavour, number and overwintering traits.1
Unlike some of its siblings such as A. cepa (onion) and A. ascolonicum (shallot) within the large and widespread genus Allium (Liliaceae), scallions feature a long white shank and tender leafy green tops that are both edible, delicious and nutritious. This crop has also been ranked as one of the most important vegetable crops in the world, amounting to a production size of 553,000 tonnes on 24,000 acres of land in Japan, in 1985 (2).
Health benefits of scallion
On top of providing a unique and addictive accent flavour across a variety of cuisines, scallions have a lot more to offer when it comes to your well-being. Here are some of the health benefits of scallions.
Scallions are rich in bioactive phytocompounds which have anti-inflammatory properties, further protecting our cells from damage and even have a positive effect in suppressing inflammatory compounds.
In 2017, a study documented the anti-inflammatory effects of scallions in reducing oedema and found that the extract from the bulb of the scallion was able to relieve and reduce symptoms of oedema caused by oedema. This study has also highlighted the other many anti-inflammatory effects of scallion extracts on lowering pain levels of patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.3
Consuming scallions may also have a beneficial effect on your gut microbiome. This is because the prebiotic fibres that scallions possess can be broken down by the good bacteria in the large intestine. Thus, helping with the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome and reducing the presence of any invading pathogens that may disrupt the unique intestinal flora your gut has produced. Additionally, scallions may also help relieve symptoms of constipation due to their fibrous nature and protective effects on the distal colon.4,5
Scallions are rich in vitamin A and phytonutrients such as carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are lipid-soluble antioxidants that have distinct roles in contributing to the physiological and pathophysiological functions of the human body. Together, they aid in maintaining eye health and prevent ophthalmic diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataract. These natural antioxidants can also protect the eye from free radicals produced by the consequences of complex physiological reactions, leading to the inhibition of oxidative stress, inflammation, apoptosis and mitochondrial dysfunction.6,7
Furthermore, scallions are found to be one of the richest sources of vitamin K, which is a nutrient thought to be essential in the maintenance of bone health. This is because vitamin K can activate proteins involved in bone formation and a deficiency of this nutrient is associated with conditions such as osteoporosis.6,8
May help lower blood pressure
Scallions may also help with regulating symptoms of hypertension as they carry quercetin, a flavonol and an antioxidant that are also present in berry crops and apples. A study in 2010 has documented a clinically relevant reduction in high blood pressure when hypertensive individuals are supplemented with quercetin. This suggests that the consumption of scallions may benefit individuals with hypertension.9,10
The nutritional facts for 1 cup of scallions (chopped, 100g) are as follows:6
- Energy: 32 Kcal
- Carbohydrates: 7.34 g
- Protein: 1.83 g
- Fat: 0.30 g
- Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
- Vitamin A: 997 IU
- Vitamin C: 18.8 mg
- Folates: 64 µg
- Iron: 1.48 mg
- Calcium: 72 mg
- Phosphorus: 37 mg
- Carotene-ß: 598µg
- Lutein-zeaxanthin: 1137µg
Culinary uses of scallion
Fresh scallions are almost always readily available all year round and are typically sold in bunches in most supermarkets or your local Asian grocery store. Once purchased, rinse each scallion carefully and pat them dry using a dry cloth. If the leafy tops of the scallions have wilted, do not throw the whole stalk away as it can still be used. Carefully cut and discard the wilted leaves, and your green onions are as good as new. However, if the white part of the scallion is slimy, do not consume it and discard immediately as it means it is already in the rotting phase of its life cycle.
Scallions are generally an extremely versatile vegetable that has been incorporated into a variety of dishes for its flavour or even as a garnish. These are some recommended methods of serving green onions:6
- Chop fresh scallions thinly in a diagonal fashion and top it off on your favourite salad.
- Separate the white bottoms from the leafy green tops and chop both of these components thinly. Use the white bottoms for stir-frys such as fried rice or pulao and use the top part as garnish.
- Lay each scallion on a baking dish carefully, making sure each stalk is evenly spaced. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste.
Side effects and other concerns
In moderation, scallions do not cause any harm or any noticeable side effects. Individuals who are allergic to scallions may experience symptoms of hives, itching, contact dermatitis, rhino-conjunctivitis, swelling, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.11 If you happen to experience any of these symptoms after consuming scallions, please seek medical attention immediately and steer clear of it in the future.
Overconsumption of scallions may trigger symptoms of nausea, bloating, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn.12 Hence, it is crucial to only consume an appropriate amount as part of your daily meals.
In conclusion, scallions can be considered as a super-vegetable as they represent a perfect harmony of great flavour and good health; jam-packed with nutrients such as vitamins c, k, and certain phyto-compounds that may be beneficial to human health.
The health benefits of consuming scallions could range from regulating blood pressure, maintaining bone health, improving eye health and even preventing inflammation caused by certain diseases. This suggests that a scallion a day may keep the doctors away.
From stir-frys to salads, this historical and flavorful crop has been incorporated into dishes originating from different cultures and regions of the world, making it one of the most important vegetable crops to grow on earth.
In addition to purchasing them from the store, you can easily grow them and add this aromatic vegetable to your favourite dishes at any time upon harvest. So if you haven’t already, start including scallions in your daily meals and reap the benefits of this wonderful vegetable.
- Padula G, Xia X, Hołubowicz R. Welsh onion (Allium fistulosum L.) seed physiology, breeding, production and trade. Plants (Basel) [Internet]. 2022 Jan 27 [cited 2023 Jun 21];11(3):343. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8839942/
- Ford-lloyd BV, Armstrong SJ. 5 - welsh onion: allium fistulosum l. In: Kalloo G, Bergh BO, editors. Genetic Improvement of Vegetable Crops [Internet]. Amsterdam: Pergamon; 1993 [cited 2023 Jun 21]. p. 51–8. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780080408262500096
- Aslam Z, Saeed A, Muhammad I, Muhammad N, Amir Gilani S, Elnashar M, et al. Antioxidant Activity, Anti-Inflammatory Activities, Anti-Cancer and Chemical Composition of Spring Onion (Allium Fistolisum) Extracts. Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences [Internet]. 2023 May;8(2):1880–90. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330410620_Antioxidant_Activity_Anti-Inflammatory_Activities_Anti-Cancer_and_Chemical_Composition_of_Spring_Onion_Allium_Fistolisum_Extracts
- Jovanovic-Malinovska R, Kuzmanova S, Winkelhausen E. Application of ultrasound for enhanced extraction of prebiotic oligosaccharides from selected fruits and vegetables. Ultrasonics Sonochemistry [Internet]. 2015 Jan [cited 2023 Jun 26];22:446–53. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1350417714002533
- Franco-Robles E, López MG. Implication of fructans in health: immunomodulatory and antioxidant mechanisms. The Scientific World Journal [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 Jun 26];2015:1–15. Available from: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2015/289267/
- Nutrition And You.com [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 28]. Top 7 Scallions nutrition facts and health benefits. Available from: https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/scallions.html
- Johra FT, Bepari AK, Bristy AT, Reza HM. A mechanistic review of β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin in eye health and disease. Antioxidants [Internet]. 2020 Oct 26 [cited 2023 Jun 28];9(11):1046. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/9/11/1046
- Health Research Authority [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 28]. Vitamin K in osteoporosis. Available from: https://www.hra.nhs.uk/planning-and-improving-research/application-summaries/research-summaries/vitamin-k-in-osteoporosis/
- Mlcek J, Jurikova T, Skrovankova S, Sochor J. Quercetin and its anti-allergic immune response. Molecules [Internet]. 2016 May 12 [cited 2023 Jun 28];21(5):623. Available from: http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/5/623
- Larson A, Symons JD, Jalili T. Quercetin: a treatment for hypertension? —a review of efficacy and mechanisms. Pharmaceuticals [Internet]. 2010 Jan 19 [cited 2023 Jun 28];3(1):237–50. Available from: http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/3/1/237
- Centers NY& AS. Onion allergy | new york allergy and sinus centers [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 29]. Available from: https://www.nyallergy.com/onion-allergy/
- Netmeds [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 29]. Spring onion/scallion: health benefits, nutrition values, recipes and side effects. Available from: https://www.netmeds.com/health-library/post/spring-onion-scallion-health-benefits-nutrition-values-recipes-and-side-effects