“It’s hard to imagine civilization without onions,” Julia Child once remarked — and we agree. Onions add flavor to everything, from salads to casseroles to soups. No wonder the average American eats 20 pounds of onions a year. Though not conventionally considered in the company of other so-called “superfoods,” onions boast a bevy of nutrients, including vitamins C, B6 and fiber. Plus, they’re the highest veggie source of quercetin, a phytochemical which may reduce the risk of lung cancer, asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

New research highlights possible help against another health threat weighing — literally — on our minds: brain damage from stroke, or injury. Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year — that’s one in every nineteen deaths. Survivors often suffer debilitating damage to motor skills and brain function.  Enter the onion: A basic study recently published in the journal Nutrition found, using a rodent model, that onion extract limited stroke-induced brain swelling by up to 30%. More dramatic was the benefit to the blood brain barrier (BBB), the name given to the protective network of capillaries that help prevent toxins from getting into the brain, with the onion extract reducing BBB leakage by up to 50%.

While more research is needed to confirm such benefits in humans, the onion deserves a place of honor in your culinary repertoire for reasons of taste alone. We recommend our delicious featured recipe, Couscous Stuffed Oranges, which incorporates this savory staple.

Bonus: Could onions help prevent osteoporosis? That’s the implication of animal research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, which found that onion compounds significantly limited loss of bone minerals.

Published January 1, 2014