What is a shallot exactly? It’s a type of onion and a member of the Amaryllidaceae plant family. Just like onion nutrition – and garlic, too, another closely related vegetable – shallots are known to have strong anti-cancer properties and immune-enhancing effects.
Historically, shallots have been used for both for their nutritional and aromatic properties in Indian, Asian, French and Mediterranean cooking. 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.
Shallots are considered an important plant in Indian medicinal practices and are commonly prescribed as an effective remedy for several ailments in the Ayurvedic system of healing. In fact, they’ve been used to heal numerous bodily conditions for thousands of years – both internally and externally. In Ayurveda, shallots and other onions are believed to have a natural “cooling” effect on the body, which makes them beneficial for lowering inflammation, muscle aches, swelling and water-retention.
What is a shallot used for today? Just like other types of onions, shallots can either be eaten raw or cooked, which makes them versatile and easy to incorporate into recipes you’re already making. Acting as a natural cancer treatment, reducing food allergies and detoxifying the body are all known benefits of eating shallots and other onions.
Shallots: Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant & Anti-Allergen Benefits
Even though they’re smaller, sweeter tasting and usually used less in common recipes, shallots 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. Plus, with their ability to add tons of natural flavor to recipes without many calories at all, why not use shallots and other onions more often when you cook at home?
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 shallots and other allium veggies or herbs have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that benefit skin, blood vessels, digestive organs and muscle tissue.
Shallot Nutrition Facts
What is a shallots (which have the scientific name Allium cepa, or previously aggregatum) a good source of? Turns out many more common nutrients aside from having multiple forms of antioxidants. Their pungent flavor is believed to an indication of their blood vessel-dialing properties and ability to improve circulation and lower disease-causing inflammation. This is the reason why shallots are known as a heart-healthy food, just like garlic is.
One-half cup serving of diced shallots has about:
- 56 calories
- 0 fat
- 5 gram fiber
- 6 grams sugar
- 12 grams carbs
- 832 milligrams vitamin A (17.5 percent DV)
- 25 milligrams vitamin B6 (12.5 percent DV)
- 5 milligrams vitamin C (10 percent DV)
- 25 milligrams manganese (10 percent DV)
- 234 milligrams potassium (7.5 percent DV)
In addition to the sulfoxides found in shallots and other alliums, there are also peptides and proteins present that are capable of various immune-boosting activities — making shallots an important source of therapeutic agents.
8 Health Benefits of Shallots
1. High Source of Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants
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.
2. Improves 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 is associated makes them a natural remedy for lowering high blood pressure. Onions can potentially help prevent atherosclerosis too, or a dangerous plague-build up within the arteries. Onions are also known to fight inflammation which is a leading cause of coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Shallots are also a good source of potassium and regularly consume can help prevent all-too-common low 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 to lower high blood pressure and off-setting the effects of a high-sodium diet.
3. 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.
4. Helps Prevent or Treat Allergies
What is a shallot going to do for allergies? Well, 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 2009 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 and heal leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disease that’s sprung up because of certain allergies.
5. Has 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 shallots have been studied, researchers have found that shallots’ 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 the natural way, 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 shallots, 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.
6. Helps Maintain Strong Bones
As part of a large 2004 analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, pre- and post-menopausal adult females were observed to see what effects onion consumption had on bone density. The women were divided into those who consumed onions less than once a month, twice a month to twice a week, three to six times a week, and once a day or more.
After controlling for factors like age, body mass index, and daily calcium or vitamin D intake, the researchers found that bone density increased as the frequency of onion consumption increased. Individuals who consumed onions once a day or more had an overall bone density that was 5 percent greater than individuals who consumed onions once a month or less.
Although this was a correlational study and doesn’t prove that onions improve bone health, onion consumption seems to have a beneficial effect on bone density and some research suggests that older women who consume onions most frequently might be able to decrease their risk of hip fracture by more than 20 percent, versus those who never consume onions.
7. Improves 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 which tastes pungent on your tongue, including shallots and garlic, are also thought to lower heat exhaustion and inflammation and prevent dehydration or over-heating, which is one reason why onions are commonly eaten in many warm climate countries.
Onions can help to 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’s a natural diabetes cure 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 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 to stimulate insulin production by the pancreas, which increases the amount of insulin within the blood and reduces glucose.
History of Shallots and Interesting Facts
Shallots are thought to have originated in Central or Southeast Asia thousands of years ago. They quickly traveled from there to India and regions within the eastern Mediterranean, where they are still widely used today.
What is a shallot named in different parts of the world? The name “shallot” dates back to Ancient Greek times, but around the world shallots go by many different names; the Indian names for shallots include kanda or gandana, while ham, brambang and other names are used in places like the Philippines and Thailand.
In Ayurveda, shallots are thought to contain five of six types of tastes that foods are classified by: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and astringent. This is why “a little goes a long way” when you use these ingredients: They make a big impact even when you use such small amounts!
What is a shallot used for mainly? It’s considered a staple ingredient for adding nutrients, along with big flavor, to recipes around the world. In India, they are used in curries and different types of sambar, a staple lentil-based dish. Shallots are also commonly pickled in red vinegar to mellow out their “bite” a bit and then served along with sauces and papad on a mixed condiments tray. Traditionally in India, shallots have also been used as a home remedy for sore throats (when mixed with sugar and gargled), bloating, infections and much more.
In Iran, shallots, called mousir, are grated and mixed into dense-savory yogurt which is served in almost every restaurant as a condiment for grilled kebabs. Throughout the Middle East and other parts of Asia, shallots are also pickled and used to make different types of sour side dishes consisting of a variety of vegetables soaked in vinegar. It’s common to find this type of dish in Iranian and Persian restaurants, for example.
In traditional Southeast Asian cuisines, including those of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia, shallots and garlic are used together as spices and commonly eaten raw. They are usually paired with cucumbers when pickled in vinegar or sometimes fried in coconut oil to make crispy shallot chips.
How to Buy and Use Shallots
Similarly to how garlic grows, shallots are formed in clusters, which is why you might see several packaged and sold together. Today, many types of shallots are grown around the world, with their skin color varying from golden brown to gray to light red. Most shallots have an off-white flesh that is sometimes broken up by green or magenta lines. Their peak season is naturally through the summer months, but you can usually find them in larger grocery stores year-round.
What is a shallot supposed to look like? Healthy shallots have their skin on and don’t have any visible bruises. It’s best to buy shallots that feel somewhat firm and store them at room temperature. Cut into shallots just before you’re ready to use them, which will keep their delicate antioxidants better protected within their skin.
Healthy Shallot Recipes
Anywhere you currently use yellow, red or white onions, you can substitute shallots. What are shallots paired well with? Definitely try using shallots with garlic, since you’ll get double the immunity-boosting benefits that way.
They make a great addition to sautés, stir-fries, whole grain side dishes, salads, soups and casseroles. You can choose to eat them raw (they taste similar to red onions), cooked or even pickled in vinegar. Also, try combining raw shallots with fresh fruit or vegetables to make healthy salsas (pineapple, jalapeno and shallot salsa, for example).
Some flavors they go well with include rosemary, thyme, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, so together these make a perfect sauce or marinade for lean beef or chicken recipes.
Here are some simple ways to use shallots when cooking:
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 6 cups firmly packed spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 ounce raw cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat.
- Add shallot and cook for about two minutes. Add spinach and cook for another 3–4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sun-dried tomatoes and mix well. Distribute spinach/tomato mixture into ramekins.
- Crack one egg on top of each ramekin over spinach mixture. Sprinkle Italian seasoning and salt and pepper over each egg. Place each ramekin on a baking sheet and place in oven to bake for 15–18 minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over eggs.
- Balsamic Peaches and Goat Cheese Salad Recipe
- Roasted Cauliflower with Chili Lime Butter
- Garden Squash with Sun-Dried Tomatoes Recipe
Concerns with Eating Shallots
Most people can eat shallots and other onions without any side effects, although for some people they might be hard to digest or cause interactions with medications. Higher intakes of onions may worsen existing heartburn or acid reflux, for example, although they don’t usually cause heartburn in people who do not already have it.
Onions and shallots are also foods that can worsen IBS-related symptoms for some people, since they contain FODMAP carbohydrates that have the potential to cause digestive issues when they aren’t properly broken down in the gut. If you have IBS and have related symptoms like constipation or bloating frequently, it’s worth doing an elimination diet and seeing if removing common-culprit foods like garlic and onions can help.
There have also been a small number of reports of allergies to onions, including among people with asthma, skin rashes and red, itchy eyes. Onions and shallots are safe for children and during pregnancy or nursing, but again they have the potential to add to acid reflux, which is something you’ll want to monitor.
From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.
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