Why Do Chopping Onions Make You Cry?

Onions absorb sulphur from soil while they are growing which when combined with amino acids within the onion’s cells, form amino acid sulfoxides. Recent studies from Japan reveal that when an onion is cut, an enzyme, known as the lachrymatory factor synthase is released which converts the sulfoxides into sulfenic acid, which in the form of gas (syn-Propanethial-S-oxide) releases and irritates the lachrymal glands in our eyes to produce tears. That is why chopping onions make you cry.


Why do Onions Make You Cry?

Why do Onions Make You Cry? (Image via: morgueFile.com)

So, is there any way to avoid these snuffles?

You could try the following methods to prevent onion crying:

  • Use a very sharp knife. The enzyme that causes tears is released when cells are broken or crushed. A sharp knife slices through the onion without disturbing the cell structure, so fewer enzymes are released.
  • Chill the onions in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before cutting.
  • Wear protective glasses to prevent onion crying.
  • Soak onions in salt water to help reduce the effect of the enzyme.
  • Apply vinegar on the chopping board, which helps to denature the enzyme.
  • Some people suggest that chewing gum while cutting onions keeps the tears at bay.

(And finally, if none of the above work, try delegating this job to someone else, which, out of personal experience, works the best!)

Read more on onions and their health benefits

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