Onions, with their sweet aroma, are a popular cooking ingredient, used in both Western and Eastern cuisines. Today, however, information is appearing online suggesting that onions should not be eaten with fish, shrimp, seaweed or honey, as these combinations cause kidney stones. But is there any truth to this? The Taiwan FactCheck Center asked dieticians and experts and confirmed that this information was false. Onion loving foodies everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief.
According to information on certain social media platforms, onions should not be eaten together with fish, as the fish has a high protein content, and the oxalic acid in the onion will break down and destroy the protein in the fish and make it form a precipitate that is not easily absorbed by the human body.
The rumor that onions should not be eaten with shrimp suggests that the calcium oxalate formed by the shrimp produces kidney stones, while the problem with eating onions with seaweed apparently comes from the large amounts of iodine and calcium found in the seaweed, which can easily form stones due to the oxalic acid in the onions. Finally, there are rumors saying that eating onions with honey can be bad for the eyes, and can lead to impaired vision or blindness.
Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsien, Liberty Times照片：自由時報記者蔡宗憲
After consulting dieticians and experts, the FactCheck center was able to disprove these rumors.
According to Lee Pei-ni, director of the Department of Nutrition at Taipei Hospital, if one consumes large amounts of food containing oxalic acid, the body’s ability to absorb protein can be impaired. Onions, however, are not rich in oxalic acid, and people do not normally consume large amounts of onions in their meals (say, eight onions every meal continuously for a whole month), and therefore the situation indicated in the rumors is unlikely to happen.
So, what about the rumor saying that eating onions together with shrimps or seaweed will lead to the formation of calcium oxalate, and thus to the formation of kidney stones? According to Lee, there are many factors contributing to the formation of stones, and a person in a normal state of health will not develop kidney stones from eating specific types of food. The old wives’ tale that one should not eat spinach with tofu, for example, carries little water.
Lee adds that, even though stones have a lot of calcium in them, that doesn’t mean that eating foods containing calcium and oxalic acid will be a major contributing factor to the formation of stones, which is more likely the result of the individual’s constitution or hereditary factors. It is sufficient for normally healthy people to maintain a balanced diet and to make sure they are getting enough food.
On the rumor that onions should not be eaten together with honey, or it could be bad for the eyes and even possibly lead to a loss of eyesight, Lee clarified that onions and honey are both natural foods and that, if eaten as part of a balanced diet, there will be no risk of impaired vision. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that raw onions can be relatively spicy and cause abdominal bloating, and so she recommends that people with relatively sensitive stomachs should eat them sparingly, so that is doesn’t place an overly large burden on the body.
(Translated by Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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