Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Green Onions Bad For You?

Also Known As: Scallions, Spring onions



Short answer

Green onions are not bad for you; in fact, they are nutrient-rich and low in calories, providing a host of benefits including essential vitamins (A, C, K), minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They support vision, immune function, bone health, heart health, and have anti-inflammatory effects. While allergies and sensitivities are rare, caution is advised during raw consumption due to potential bacterial contamination. Overall, green onions can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet.



Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Green Onions

Green onions, also known as scallions or spring onions, are a nutrient-rich vegetable that offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds in a low-calorie package. A significant feature of green onions is their vitamin and mineral content which includes Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and minerals such as potassium and manganese. To provide a clear picture of their nutritional value, let us dive into the specifics.

One cup of chopped green onions (about 100 grams) typically contains:

  • Calories: 32 kcal
  • Protein: 1.83 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.34 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 g
  • Total Fat: 0.19 g
  • Vitamin A: 997 IU (20% of the Recommended Daily Intake, RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 18.8 mg (31% of RDI)
  • Vitamin K: 207 µg (259% of RDI)
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): 64 µg (16% of RDI)
  • Potassium: 276 mg (8% of RDI)
  • Manganese: 0.16 mg (8% of RDI)

It's important to recognize that green onions are particularly high in Vitamin K, which plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health. Their impressive Vitamin A content, provided in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene, is crucial for maintaining good vision, immune function, and skin health.

The presence of dietary fiber in green onions is noteworthy for its contribution to digestive health. Soluble fiber, which is present in green onions, can help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, supporting cardiovascular health.

Green onions also contain small amounts of other nutrients, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium, all of which have varied roles in the body, from supporting bone health to aiding in the production of DNA.

In addition to these macro and micronutrients, green onions are loaded with various antioxidants and phytochemicals such as quercetin and flavonoids. Studies have linked these compounds to reduced inflammation, lower risk of chronic diseases, and overall enhanced health benefits. For instance, research has suggested that the antioxidants in green onions may have anti-cancer properties. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry highlighted that the flavonoids in green onions could inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells.

It's clear from their nutritional profile that green onions can be a valuable addition to a well-balanced diet. While they are often used in small amounts due to their potent flavor, incorporating green onions into dishes regularly can still contribute to the intake of essential nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.

Given this rich nutritional profile, one can conclude that green onions are far from being 'bad' for you when consumed in moderation and as part of a diverse diet. However, it's also crucial to consider individual health conditions and dietary preferences when assessing their role in one's diet.

For those seeking to enhance their dietary choices by including more nutrient-dense foods, green onions offer a substantial nutrient return for a very modest calorie investment, contributing to overall dietary quality without adding excessive calories.

Allergic Reactions and Food Sensitivities to Green Onions

When evaluating whether green onions, also known as scallions, could be bad for someone, it's essential to consider the potential for allergic reactions and food sensitivities. While green onions are generally well-tolerated and healthy for the majority of people, as with any food substance, they can trigger allergic responses in a sensitive segment of the population. Here's a closer look at what you need to know about these potential adverse reactions.

Understanding Allergies to Green Onions

Allergies to green onions, though relatively rare, can occur. These allergies are typically a form of food allergy known as a Type I hypersensitivity. This means an individual's immune system overreacts to certain proteins found in green onions, mistakenly identifying them as harmful. When these proteins, known as allergens, are encountered, the body produces IgE antibodies, leading to an allergic reaction.

Common Symptoms of Allergic Reactions

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Itching or tingling, especially around the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Swelling of the lips, face, and eyelids
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Anaphylaxis in extreme cases

It is critical that anyone experiencing severe symptoms, such as signs of anaphylaxis, which may include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening and requires prompt treatment with epinephrine.

Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Additionally, certain individuals may experience food sensitivities or intolerances to green onions, which, while not immune system-mediated, can still cause discomfort. Symptoms are often less severe than allergic reactions and can include:

  • Bloating or gas
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) flare-ups
  • Nausea
  • Headaches

Those with existing gastrointestinal conditions may find that green onions aggravate their symptoms due to non-allergic factors, such as the presence of fructans (a type of fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols, or FODMAPs) that can cause issues for those with sensitivities.

Diagnosis and Management

Diagnosing an allergy to green onions typically involves skin-prick tests or specific IgE blood tests, conducted under the guidance of an allergist. For sensitivities, elimination diets followed by reintroduction of the food can help determine the cause of symptoms.

Managing an allergy or sensitivity to green onions primarily involves avoidance of the food. Reading ingredient labels and inquiring about dish contents at restaurants becomes crucial to prevent unintentional ingestion.

Expert Opinions

Nutritional experts and allergists agree that those with confirmed green onion allergies should avoid them altogether. In the case of sensitivities or mild intolerances, it may be possible to consume green onions in limited, tolerated amounts. Experts also stress the importance of individualized dietary recommendations, as reactions can vary significantly from person to person.

Through conscientious dietary management, understanding potential symptoms, and working with healthcare professionals, people with allergies or sensitivities to green onions can navigate their diets safely and effectively.

Risk of Contamination in Leafy Greens

When considering the safety of green onions, it's essential to recognize that all leafy greens, including green onions, can be susceptible to contamination. These contaminations often occur due to pathogens such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes. These bacteria can be introduced to leafy greens at various stages, from growing through handling, due to contact with contaminated water, soil, or through improper food handling practices.

Several studies have underlined the importance of understanding the risks associated with consuming raw greens. For instance, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted that from 2009 to 2018, leafy greens have been responsible for 40 outbreaks of foodborne illness. The contaminants could be traced back to various sources, but the majority were linked to leafy greens consumed raw.

It's also worth mentioning that green onions tend to have a high surface area relative to their size due to their slender shape. This feature means that they can harbor more bacteria than some other vegetables when contaminated. Green onions are often eaten raw, which eliminates the possibility of killing pathogens through cooking. Below is a list of ways consumers can minimize the risk of contamination:

  • Choosing green onions from sources that follow good agricultural and handling practices.
  • Looking for reputable brands that prioritize food safety.
  • Washing green onions thoroughly under running water before consumption, removing any visible dirt and outer layers.
  • Storing green onions at the right temperature to inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Considering the use of a vegetable wash designed to help remove some surface microbes.
  • Buying refrigerated or iced green onions, as these conditions reduce bacterial proliferation.

Understanding that organic doesn't necessarily mean contamination-free is crucial. Organic leafy greens, including green onions, can still be subjected to similar risks of contamination despite being grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They may still come in contact with pathogens through natural fertilizers like manure, water, and contaminated surfaces.

Expert opinions often suggest that it's not the green onions themselves that pose a health risk but the presence of contaminants which are a byproduct of poor agricultural or food handling practices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidelines on how to select and serve produce safely, which can help in reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Consumers who are particularly vulnerable to infections, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems, should be exceptionally careful and might prefer to consume cooked green onions to minimize the risk.

Benefits of Incorporating Green Onions into Your Diet

Green onions, also known as scallions or spring onions, are a versatile ingredient that can add both flavor and nutritional value to a variety of dishes. Consuming green onions can offer numerous health benefits, bolstering your diet with essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Nutrient Profile
Green onions are low in calories yet high in important nutrients. One serving contains:

  • Vitamin K: Essential for blood clotting and bone health
  • Vitamin C: An antioxidant that supports the immune system
  • Vitamin A: Important for eye health and the immune system
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): Crucial for cell division and the production of DNA, which is especially important during periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence
  • Fiber: Aids in digestion and maintaining a healthy gut
  • Potassium: Helps maintain electrolyte balance and blood pressure regulation

Antioxidant Properties
Green onions are rich in antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress. Chronic oxidative stress has been associated with numerous diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. The antioxidants in green onions, such as quercetin and anthocyanins, have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of these conditions.

Heart Health
The allyl sulfides present in green onions are compounds that may have cardiovascular benefits. Studies suggest that they can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Additionally, the vitamin C and folate found in green onions are known to contribute to heart health by reducing homocysteine levels in the blood, a known risk factor for heart disease.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Regular consumption of green onions can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Inflammation is a response of the body to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to diseases like arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. The various phytochemicals in green onions, such as flavonoids and sulfur compounds, may help reduce this chronic inflammation.

Weight Management
Green onions can also aid in weight management due to their low calorie content and high fiber levels. Fiber promotes satiety, which can prevent overeating, making green onions a great addition to a diet for those looking to maintain or lose weight.

Immune Support
The vitamin A in green onions is vital for maintaining the health of the immune system. It helps in the production and function of white blood cells, which capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream. Furthermore, the vitamin C content boosts the immune system by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system.

While green onions bring a plethora of benefits to the table, it's important to consume them as part of a balanced diet. Incorporating green onions into meals can not only enhance flavor without adding significant calories, but also contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle through the various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients they offer.

References for the health benefits mentioned can be found in studies and reviews such as:

  • Kuete, V. (Ed.). (2017). Medicinal Spices and Vegetables from Africa: Therapeutic Potential Against Metabolic, Inflammatory, Infectious and Systemic Diseases. Academic Press.
  • Block, E. (2010). Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science. Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Chu, Y. F. (Ed.). (2012). Coffee: Emerging Health Effects and Disease Prevention. Wiley-Blackwell.

These studies offer insights into the specific components of green onions that contribute to their health benefits and outline the mechanisms by which they may affect the body positively.

Frequently asked questions

Green onions can be a suitable addition to a diabetic diet as they are low in carbohydrates and have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. Additionally, their soluble fiber content can aid in blood sugar regulation, which is beneficial for individuals managing diabetes.

While no single food can prevent cancer, the antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, found in green onions may contribute to a reduced risk of certain cancers by protecting cells from oxidative damage and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, according to some studies.

Yes, green onions can contribute to skin health due to their high content of Vitamin A, which is involved in the production and repair of skin cells. The antioxidant properties of Vitamin A can also help in protecting skin from damage caused by UV rays and environmental pollutants.

To safely include green onions, ensure proper food safety practices such as thoroughly washing them under running water, removing the outer layers, and storing them refrigerated. Additionally, cooking green onions can eliminate most pathogens, so consider adding them to cooked dishes.

Ask a question about Green Onions and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • tingling around lips
  • tongue or throat swelling
  • blocked or runny nose
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • bloating or gas
  • ibs flare-ups

Ingredients to be aware of

  • allergens
  • fructans
  • fodmaps
  • potential contaminants like e. coli, salmonella, listeria


  • low in calories
  • high in vitamins and minerals
  • antioxidant properties
  • cardiovascular benefits
  • anti-inflammatory effects
  • aids in weight management
  • immune system support

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-20-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-20-2023

Random Page

Check These Out!