General News Health

Shallots: the Type of Onion with Cancer-Fighting and Heart-Improving Properties


Historically, the shallot has been used for both for its nutritional and aromatic properties in Indian, Asian, French and Mediterranean cooking. Are shallots good for you? You bet. They not only add a sweet and pungent flavor to recipes, but they also come loaded with antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C and some important minerals, too.

The shallot is considered an important plant in Indian medicinal practices and is commonly prescribed as an effective remedy for several ailments in Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, it’s been used to heal numerous bodily conditions for thousands of years – both internally and externally, thanks to its natural “cooling” effect on the body. This makes shallots (and onions too) beneficial for lowering inflammation, muscle aches, swelling and water retention.

Just like other vegetables that have a similar taste, including onions and garlic, shallots can either be eaten raw or cooked, which makes them versatile and easy to incorporate into recipes. Studies suggest that fighting cancer, reducing food allergies, and enhancing detoxification are all known benefits of eating this vegetable.

What Are Shallots?

What is a shallot exactly? Are shallots onions? A shallot, which has the scientific name Allium cepa (or previously aggregatum), is a type of onion and a member of the Amaryllidaceae family plant   (also called the allium family), which includes more than 1,600 different plant species.

Shallots, onions and garlic all are bulbs, or underground stems, that have strap-like leaves, strong tastes and a high concentration of antioxidants. Just like with onion nutrition and garlic nutrition, shallot nutrition is known to have potent anti-cancer properties and immune-enhancing effects.

Shallots are smaller than white, yellow and red onions. Today, many types are grown around the world, with their skin color varying from golden brown to gray to light red. Most shallots have a copper-colored peel and an off-white flesh, which is sometimes broken up by green or magenta lines.

Compared to white and yellow onions, shallots are described as having a richer and sweeter taste. Some people also describe their taste as more potent, while others say they are more subtle. This seems to depend on size. Smaller ones usually taste milder.


  • Brown shallots (also known as English or Dutch) are the most commonly available in many parts of the world. These are small, have a light brown skin and have a mild flavor.
  • Pink shallots have a pink skin and a crisp texture. Their flavor is more pungent. These are sometimes called “false shallots” or “Jersey shallots.” Their skin is pinkish-orange, and their flesh is usually white to light purple.
  • Banana shallots are the largest variety. They have a smooth, tan-colored skin and are slightly milder in taste.
  • Asian shallots are smaller and have a deep purple color.
  • French gray shallots, also known as griselles, are pear-shaped and have a subtle flavor.

Health Benefits

1. High Source of Antioxidants

Are shallots better than onions in terms of their antioxidant health benefits? Even though used less often in recipes, they are thought to contain more flavonoid and phenol antioxidants than most other members of the onion family. This makes them one of the best  anti-inflammatory foods for reducing free radical damage and fighting various chronic diseases.

Two sets of compounds make up the majority of shallots’ known healing properties: sulfur compounds, such as allyl propyl disulphide (APDS), and flavonoids, such as quercetin. These compounds’ effects are primarily how both onions and garlic have benefits for reversing disease.

According to a report published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, both onions and garlic contain protective sulfur-containing compounds mainly in the form of cysteine derivatives called cysteine sulfoxides. These wind up naturally decomposing when you eat them because they interact with your digestive enzymes, in the process producing beneficial compounds called thiosulfinates and polysulfide. These special decomposed products are considered valuable but delicate. They are mostly found in the oils of onions and garlic.

Because they hold the majority of sulfoxides, the oils of shallots (and other onions too) possess “antidiabetic, antibiotic, hypo-cholesterolaemic, fibrinolytic and various other biological actions.” This means they can help control blood sugar levels, help prevent insulin resistance, fight bacterial and viral infections, help lower cholesterol levels naturally, and prevent blood clots from forming. Other studies also show that allium veggies or herbs have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that benefit skin, blood vessels, digestive organs and muscle tissue.

Cancer Fighting

You probably already know there’s a strong link between cancer prevention and your diet. Research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2012 showed that ethyl acetate extracts (EEOs) found in shallots and other onions have potent inhibitory effects on animal fatty acid synthase (FAS) that help slow down the growth of cancerous cells.

What is a shallot capable of helping with when it comes to cancer prevention? The ability to induce apoptosis, or self-destruction and death of dangerous cells, is well-researched in allium vegetables. This appears to be especially beneficial for fighting some of the most common types of cancers, including breast, stomach and colon cancers.

Results from one large case study indicate that consumption of allium vegetables may considerably reduce the risk of stomach cancer. The association was investigated in the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer, which started in 1986 and followed 120,852 men and women ranging in age from 55 to 69 years. A strong inverse association between onion consumption and stomach cancer incidence was found, and many other studies have found similar findings.

3. Improve Heart Health

Onions’ many antioxidants, including allicin and quercetin, are considered anti-hypertensives. Based on human and animal studies, onions’ quercetin may reduce blood pressure. Allicin is a special and somewhat unique compound found in shallots, garlic and other onions that is released when you puncture their skin.

According to a 2013 review done by the Department of Applied Biology at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, “Allicin was discovered to further protect the cardiovascular system by enhancing antioxidant status and lowering the level of reactive oxygen species and stimulating the production of glutathione.” Glutathione is often called a “master antioxidant” and known for powerfully improving health in multiple ways.

Allicin compounds can inhibit a certain reductase enzyme that is produced in the liver in order to make cholesterol. They help improve circulation and dilate blood vessels, which makes them a great food for lowering high blood pressure.

Shallots are also a good source of potassium. Potassium helps regulate your body’s fluid levels and plays an essential role in nerve and muscle functioning, including one of your one most important muscles: your heart. Eating plenty of potassium-rich foods supports a healthy metabolism since this mineral is needed to break down carbohydrates into usable energy. Plus potassium is linked to cardiovascular health by way of helping lower high blood pressure and offsetting the effects of a high-sodium diet.

4. Might Help Fight Obesity

Some studies have found that EEOs present in shallots can also suppress lipid (or fat) accumulation and potentially help prevent obesity. Since obesity is closely related to heart disease, diabetes and cancer formation (obese patients are considered to be at an elevated risk of developing various cancers and other chronic diseases), onions might be useful for preventing both weight gain and obesity-related complications.

5. Help Prevent or Treat Allergies

Results from numerous studies have shown that shallots have promising anti-allergic effects that can be attributed to their anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that shallots and onions are effective for impacting various events responsible for allergic reactions.

When shallot extract was given to mice, they experienced a reduced histamine release and other benefits related to common allergy symptoms. A substantial reduction in lipid peroxidation within the lungs was found, and a higher level of protective antioxidant activity, especially superoxide dismutase activity, was also observed with lung tissue. This means that shallots and onions can help reduce symptoms of certain allergies.

6. Have Antibacterial and Antiviral Properties

Both shallots and garlic produce biochemical reactions that are known to fight infections, viruses and inflammation. When various immunological parameters of the shallot have been studied, researchers have found that the vegetable’s antioxidant enzymes (especially superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase) help fight common illnesses and more serious infections, too.

Onions have also displayed antifungal activity against various fungi in many studies, including candida. If you want to fight candida symptoms naturally, low-sugar, healing veggies like shallots should be at the top of your list.

Research has found that onions contain natural antibacterial activities that can help alkalize the body and fight even strong, potentially deadly forms of bacteria. Allicin found in the shallot, onions and garlic is also a powerful antimicrobial that offers protection against a wide range of bacteria, including some multidrug-resistant bacteria that are especially dangerous.

7. Improve Circulation and Detoxification

Both shallots and garlic are thought to help remove carcinogens and toxins from the digestive tract thanks to their circulating-boosting abilities. According to traditional forms of medicine, something that tastes pungent on your tongue, including the shallot and garlic, are also thought to lower heat exhaustion and inflammation and prevent dehydration or overheating. This is one reason why onions are commonly eaten in many warm climate countries.

Onions can help stimulate digestive enzymes, heal the gut, lower oxidative stress within the digestive organs, and prevent inflammation associated with food allergies or sensitivities. They are also an effective ingredient for helping with liver detox.

8. Can Help Control Blood Sugar Levels

Onions are known to be natural anti-diabetics, since many studies have shown that they have beneficial effects on insulin and might also help control weight gain. Shallots and other alliums are thought to be a part of a diet that helps naturally treat diabetes since they have hypoglycemic-preventing effects that stimulate insulin secretions. This lowers inflammatory responses that are associated with diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

According to researchers from the University of Michigan, eating large amounts of onions has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, possibly by blocking the breakdown of insulin in the liver. APDS compounds in shallots have been shown to block the breakdown of insulin by the liver and possibly stimulate insulin production by the pancreas, which increases the amount of insulin within the blood and reduces glucos


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