Chives: Things you should know

Chives are a green vegetable with a mild flavor like an onion. They are in the genus Allium, which includes garlic, onions, and leeks as well. For decades, individuals have cultivated allium vegetables for their distinctive pungent flavors in cooking and their medicinal properties.

Nutrients that are essential for sleep and bone health are found in chives, or Allium schoenoprasum. The chemicals in chives and other allium vegetables have also been associated with anticancer effects in some studies.

An overview of chives, including a nutritional rundown, their potential health benefits, and some ways to integrate chives into the diet, is given in this article.

Nutrition

Chives
Eating chives can help improve the sleep and health of a person’s bones.

Chives are a food which is nutrient-dense. This means they are low in calories but high in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are beneficial.

That said, a person would have to eat a large quantity of chives to get a significant amount of these nutrients. Instead, people often use chives as a garnish. About 1 tablespoon (tbsp) or 3 grams is a common serving.

1 tbsp of chopped chives provides the following nutrients, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • energy: 0.9 calories
  • vitamin K: 6.38 micrograms (mcg), or 5% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • vitamin C: 1.74 milligrams (mg), or 2% of the DV
  • folate: 3.15 mcg, or 1% of the DV
  • vitamin A: 6.43 mcg, or 1% of the DV
  • calcium: 2.76 mg, or less than 1% of the DV
  • potassium: 8.88 mg, or less than 1% of the DV

Benefits

Vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients which are healthy. Chives contain a range of beneficial nutrients, including anti-cancer effects, that may offer some health benefits.

In more detail, the following sections will discuss the potential health benefits of chives.

Cancer

Research has associated diets rich in vegetables with a reduced risk of many types of cancer. Some research has specifically suggested that allium vegetables might have anticancer effects, including chives.

A 2019 review, for instance, summarizes research that has linked 16 different species of allium vegetables to cancer prevention or positive influence. For their potential anticancer properties, the authors highlighted the compounds S-allyl mercaptocysteine, quercetin, flavonoids, and ajoene.

One study of 285 women found that a reduced risk of developing breast cancer was associated with garlic and leeks. However, the authors also suggest that eating high quantities of cooked onion could increase the risk of breast cancer.

In addition, a 2015 study review reports that eating allium vegetables may decrease the risk of cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancer. This is due to their antimicrobial effects and compounds containing sulfur. At different stages of cancer, allium vegetables and their components may have effects and could affect biological processes that alter the risk of a person.

Although allium vegetables may help prevent cancer, more research has examined the effects of garlic and onion on cancer than those of chives, the authors of the review explain. Therefore, researchers need to conduct more studies before they can determine the amount a person needs to eat and the relative efficacy of other interventions for this effect.

Sleep and mood

A small amount of choline is found in chives. Choline is an important nutrient that helps to preserve the integrity of cell membranes. Choline also aids with mood, memory, regulation of muscles, and other functions of the brain and nervous system.

The adequate consumption (AI) of choline is 550 mg a day for adult males and 425 mg a day for adult females, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

A small amount of choline is present in chives: 0.16 mg per tbsp. To get the recommended AI, a person will need to eat a high amount of chives and other foods that contain choline.

Other health benefits

In addition, research has linked chives and other allium vegetables with the following health benefits:

A source of vitamin K

Vitamin K, which is essential for bone health and blood clotting, is found in chives. Leafy green vegetables, vegetable oils, and fruits, including blueberries and figs, are other vitamin K sources.

A source of folate

Chives contain folate as well. This water-soluble B vitamin plays a role, according to the ODS, in conditions such as:

Eye health

Lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids, are also present in chives. Lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the retina of the eye to help avoid age-related macular degeneration, according to some studies. This suggests that the eye will benefit from consuming foods rich in these substances.

Medical conditions

Some research on allium vegetables and their organic compounds, such as allicin, show that these health problems have a positive relationship.

One research, for instance, showed a potentially positive link between garlic and health conditions such as heart disease and high blood sugar. Antitumor and antimicrobial effects can also occur with garlic.

The research, however, did not make it clear the compounds were responsible for these results. Therefore, to assess the efficacy and protection of garlic and other allium vegetables in order to avoid certain health problems, researchers would need to undertake additional studies.

Inflammation

While no research has linked inflammation to chives, one 2015 study stated that garlic may decrease inflammation in the body. Inflammation, like heart disease and many cancers, is associated with numerous health conditions.

Dietary considerations

Chives are not a common cause of food allergies, although chives may also need to be avoided by people with allergies or allergy to onions or other allium vegetables. Before adding chives to their diet, people with food allergies may need to speak with their doctor.

Some individuals may also feel that eating loads of chives will induce an upset stomach. However, in moderation, most people can safely add chives to their diet.

Chives give dishes a mild onion-like flavoring. People prefer to use chives for main meals or salads as a garnish or topping, but in other recipes, they may also substitute chives for onions.

Chives are a common topping for foods like:

  • omelets
  • chicken dishes
  • pastas
  • casseroles

Conclusion

Chives are a common member of the allium family of vegetables, alongside garlic and onions.

Research has linked allium vegetables, including anticancer effects, with a variety of potential health benefits. To get these health benefits, however, a person will need to eat more than the average serving size of chives.

Sources

  • AICR’s foods that fight cancer. (n.d.).
    (LINK)
  • Arreola, R., et al. (2015). Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds.
    (LINK)
  • Asemani, Y., et al. (2019). Allium vegetables for possible future of cancer treatment [Abstract].
    (LINK)
  • Bayan, L., et al. (2014). Garlic: A review of potential therapeutic effects.
    (LINK)
  • Chives, raw. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Choline: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • Eisenhauer, B., et al. (2017). Lutein and zeaxanthin—Food sources, bioavailability and dietary variety in age-related macular degeneration protection.
    (LINK)
  • Folate: Fact sheet for professional. (2019).
    (LINK)
  • What are the health benefits of chives? (LINK)
  • Nicastro, H. L., et al. (2015). Garlic and onions: Their cancer prevention properties.
    (LINK)
  • Pourzand, A., et al. (2016). Associations between dietary Allium vegetables and risk of breast cancer: A hospital-based matched case-control study.
    (LINK)
  • Wiedeman, A. M., et al. (2018). Dietary choline intake: Current state of knowledge across the life cycle.
    (LINK)

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