Why do onions make you cry?

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  • Post category:Health & Food
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Ah onions, that bulbous wonder!
Available in the canned frozen, powdered or pickled, but most commonly chopped or sliced. It is the later form that always makes one a little teary eyed just thinking about it. Cutting onions gives such a bad taste to your eyes that they cry in response.
But did you ever think why do onions make us tear? Why does tear come down your cheeks while chopping onions? Here I am telling you why it is so.

When onions are sliced, the cells of onion are broken. There is a gas inside the cells. This sulfur gas is released in the process of chopping up the onion. The released gas diffuses through the air. When this gas reaches our eyes, it reacts with fluid in the eye to form dilute solution of sulphuric acid. The nerve ending in the eye; then become irritated, making them sting. And as we know tears are the part of the safety system of our eyes. Tears are then produced by tear glands, to help flush out the irritants.

So, what can you do to help minimize the tearing while slicing an onion? There are a number of theories or suggestions out there, here’s what I have found while reaching this article:

  • Freeze the onion for about two minutes and then peel. Freezing onion reduces the activation of enzymes that cause the irritating gas to be released from the onion cells.
  • Cut the onion in the basin with water or under running water in the sink. The sulfur gas from onion will react with water before hitting the eye thereby reducing eye irritation.
  • Try to put a piece of bread in your mouth. The bread will absorb the irritating gas before reaching to our eyes.
  • Using a sharp knife will reduce cells damage and the released gas will be minimized and hence a small number of tears.

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