Diet

Chives: Nutritional Value, Health Benefits & Side Effects

With a subtle hint of onion flavour, chives are an edible herb found in most grocery stores. In our kitchen, they often serve as a finishing ingredient in recipes. Due to their palatable savoury nature, people add chives to Mexican cuisine, salads, sauces, soups, potato dishes, and fish. Culinary media calls chives the classic herb of every kitchen. In addition, this herbaceous plant with lavender-coloured flowers exhibits versatile medicinal qualities.

People are constantly looking to consume superfoods. The term refers to food items that provide exceptional nutritional benefits with fewer calories. That said, chives are loaded with beneficial nutrients but are low in calories. Moreover, the plethora of bioactive nutrients and antioxidants in chives makes it a potential superfood.

Chives are one of the easiest perennial herbs to grow, making them widely available. You can simply grow them along walkways, in a herb garden, or container gardens if needed. All you need is a sunlight-enriched spot. In addition, chives have been well accepted in traditional Chinese medicine owing to their antimicrobial components.

What are Chives?

Chives, scientifically termed Allium schoenoprasum, belong to the allium plant family. It is an aromatic herb closely related to spring onions, leeks, garlic, and onions. Usually eaten raw, chives are common in the Mediterranean diet. However, it gets extensively cultivated in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Chives may be related to onions, but they’re different from green onions. Both are visually different, despite having a similar mild, oniony flavour. Chive stems are long, tender with a solid green appearance. In contrast, green onions exhibit a thicker, solid stem that is white at the bottom and green toward the top. Besides, this white portion of green onions imparts a more robust onion flavour than chives. Also, unlike green onions, chives don’t last long in the refrigerator. 

Types of Chives

Common Chives

As the name suggests, common chives are the easiest to find. It grows wild in many areas and is well known for its mild onion flavour. It also has edible flowers, hollow stems and grows in slender bulbs. These have a maximum height of 15 inches. The flowers can be red, purple, pink, or white. Common chives are rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and ensure smooth digestion. They are primarily an addition to French cuisine.

Chinese Chives

Chinese chives, also referred to as garlic, grow taller than standard varieties. As a result, it exhibits flatter leaves and a more potent garlic flavour. In addition, unlike common chives, Chinese chives are devoid of hollow stems and have only white blossoms. 

Due to their savoury flavour, people use Chinese chives in salad dressing and mashed potatoes. It is also an excellent source of Thiosulfinates, a potent anti-cancer compound.

Siberian Chives

Siberian chives, also called blue chives, are the lesser-known variety. It is native to China, Russian, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. The height of Siberian chives can reach up to two feet, making them significantly taller than Chinese or common chives. However, their flavour is almost similar to common chives and is available in local herb farms or gourmet food stores.

Nutritional Properties of Chives

Chives can be a part of any balanced diet due to their nutritional properties.

Nutritional Values in Chives – The following nutrients are present in 100 grams of fresh chives:

  • Calories – 30 kcal
  • Dietary Fiber – 2.5g
  • Protein – 3.27g
  • Carbohydrates – 4.35g 
  • Total Fat – 0.73g

Health Benefits of Chives

When used in recommended quantities, chives show multiple health benefits.

1. Antimicrobial Properties

Chives possess remarkable antimicrobial properties. It exhibits antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Thus, chives can protect us against seasonal viral infections and harmful microbes. The antiviral nature of chives inhibits the growth of viruses, fights foreign pathogens, and boosts immunity. Most importantly, a study shows that chives have the highest antibacterial activity against food-borne pathogens. Chives through herbal infusions are an effective remedy against yeast and viral infections.

2. Anticancer Potential

Chives are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. These are two types of flavonoid antioxidants that work wonderfully in fighting mouth and lung cancers. In addition to the flavonoid antioxidants, chives are rich in allicin. Scientific evidence suggests that allicin is a salient antioxidant that lowers breast cancer probability. Moreover, the dense fibre content in chives also helps fight colon cancer.

Numerous other studies ascertain that chives can prevent prostate cancer as well. That is because it stimulates glutathione synthesis within the body. Glutathione, a water-soluble antioxidant, acts as a cancer identification agent. It identifies carcinogenic components and helps to eliminate them. Thus, making chives all the more beneficial for cancer prevention. 

3. Promotes Hair Growth

Chives extract serves as a home remedy for promoting hair growth. Its antimicrobial properties can treat scalp infections, which, in turn, supports new hair follicle formation. In addition, chives direct more blood flow towards our scalp. A better blood supply ultimately facilitates hair growth. Using chive extract as a hair pack nourishes the scalp and strengthens the hair follicles.

4. Diabetic Friendly

The flavonoids in chives help fight side effects associated with high blood sugar. These flavonoids provide anti-diabetic properties and treat type 2 diabetes. Chives have a meagre glycemic index value of 15, which keeps blood sugar levels steady. Moreover, with only 0.1g carbohydrates in a serving of 5g, chives seem beneficial for diabetic patients. Thus, chives do not cause blood sugar to shoot up.

5. Beneficial During Pregnancy

Consuming chives during pregnancy has potential benefits for moms-to-be. It is safe to eat and contains the goodness of folate. Doctors always stress the impression of folate during pregnancy. It is a vital B vitamin that prevents congenital disabilities of the brain and spinal cord. Folate also aids in DNA synthesis and cell division.

Chives are also rich in vitamin C, necessary for developing immunity during pregnancy. Just make sure to clean and wash the chives before consumption properly.

6. Improve Sleep Quality and Mood

Chives are capable of improving and enhancing sleep quality. It is rich in choline, an active ingredient that stimulates sound sleep. Therefore, you should consume chives to help treat insomnia.

Chives are also full of folic acid. It is known for triggering serotonin and dopamine production. These are hormones linked with uplifting a person’s mood.

7. Treatment for Kidney Stones

A recent study shows that both fresh and dried chives leaves infuse can dissolve calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals are infamous kidney stones. In addition, chives contain an organic compound called ethyl acetate. It has anti-inflammatory properties and treats calcium kidney stones. Thus, taking chives can be an effective herbal treatment for kidney stones.

8. Improves Heart Health

Allicin, a chief compound present in chives, reduces bad cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It works by stimulating nitric oxide release in the bloodstream. This process reduces blood vessel stiffness and eventually brings down blood pressure.

Furthermore, chives contain another organic compound known as quercetin. It is directly involved in arterial plaque prevention and lowers stroke risk.

Ways to Use Chives

Hair Rinse Solution

Boil chives in water for 10 minutes and strain. Once cooled, add in one squeeze of fresh lime juice. Mix the contents and use it for rinsing hair. 

Facial Mask

Chives can be a face mask for people with dry skin. First, clean the chives and make a puree out of them. Then, apply it as a mask and keep it for about 25 – 30 minutes. Wash off with water and apply moisturiser afterwards.

Remedy for Sore Throat

Chives are an anti-flu remedy that gets added to daily meals. In addition, as chives have anti-inflammatory properties, it relieves the sore throat by reducing inflammation. As a sore throat remedy, pour boiling water over cut chives. Let it steep and then drain. Drink the water extract once it becomes lukewarm.

Insect Repellent

You can use chives as an insect repellent by extracting the juice from chives and spraying it on leaves. You can boil a solution of chives and water. Once cooled, use it to water vegetable plants to protect against mildew.

Healthy Recipes Using Chives

1.  Chive-Cheese Cornbread

Chives: Nutritional Value, Health Benefits and Potential Side Effects- HealthifyMe
  • Serving: 15 pieces
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • Chives (minced) – 3 tablespoons
  • Cheddar cheese (shredded) – 1 cup
  • Butter (melted) – 1/4 cup
  • Milk – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 2
  • Baking powder – 4 teaspoons
  • Sugar – 1/4 cup
  • All-purpose flour – 1 cup
  • Cornmeal – 1 cup

Method of Preparation

  1. Combine baking powder, sugar, flour, and cornmeal in a large bowl.
  2. In another bowl, whisk butter, milk, and eggs.
  3. Stir the dry ingredients with the moist ones. Later add cheese and chives.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased baking pan. Bake at 400°, for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Cut into rectangular strips. Serve warm.

Potential Side Effects of Chives

Bloating and Gas

Chives can cause a bloated stomach because it contains fructans, a type of carbohydrate, which leads to gas. The body faces trouble while digesting fructans, and the gut bacteria end up feeding on this carbohydrate. It, in turn, causes a gas build-up within the colon. However, briefly cooking the chives can lower these effects.

Bowel Problems

Chives can be potential gastrointestinal irritants in some people. The reactive oxidants released by chives can stimulate bowel problems such as diarrhoea and acid reflux.

Not Ideal for Gastritis

Alliums can cause digestive disorders. Chives belong to the Allium genus and have an acidic pH of 5.75. It is a pH range that would make gastritis worse. Moreover, the high fructans content in chives triggers acid reflux. It would aggravate gastritis.

Toxic for Pets

The organic sulfur compounds present in chives may trigger chives toxicity in dogs. Ingesting chives leads to toxicosis, an illness caused by poisoning, in cats and dogs. Furthermore, the absorbed chives in their gastrointestinal tract convert into highly reactive oxidants.

Metal and Metalloid Accumulation

Eating excess chives is linked with toxic levels of inorganic selenium build-up. It also contributes towards the accumulation of heavy metals such as cadmium. In addition, it would cause the dysfunction of the kidney, brain, or liver.

Things to Remember

  • People with allium intolerance should refrain from consuming chives. Despite being intolerant, experimenting with chives may cause painful gas, acid reflux, and bloating.
  • Allergic reactions to chives vary drastically from person to person. So, if a person shows less to no response towards chives, that doesn’t indicate it’ll be the same for you as well.
  • If you’re allergic to onions or garlic, consult a doctor before adding chives to your diet.
  • You should consume chives orally during pregnancy and breastfeeding in average amounts. Pregnant women must avoid raw chives to prevent any soil-borne pathogens.

The Bottom Line

As an Allium family member, chives are an absolute cooking necessity. It is a perennial herb with a hint of onion flavour and long green stems. In addition to being a culinary statement, chives get utilised as a superfood. Chives provide outstanding health benefits as they are rich in plant-based antioxidants and nutrients, which possess anti-cancer qualities, support pregnancy, improve the sleep cycle, and prevent plaque accumulation. 

There are multiple varieties of chives, such as common chives, Chinese chives, and Siberian chives. While the appearance differs slightly, these chive varieties are laden with high nutritional quality.

You must cook them briefly to retain the flavour. It may not be a common allergenic substance, but excessive consumption of chives leads to gastric discomfort, gas, bloating, and acid reflux. Furthermore, chives might also result in inorganic selenium and cadmium accumulation in humans. Nonetheless, chives can be a healthy alternative to other allium vegetables.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What are chives good for?

A. Chives are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, quercetin, allicin, vitamin C, folate, and choline. As nutrient-dense herbs, they promote heart health, immunity, sleep, and mood.

Q. What are the side effects of chives?

A. Eating excess ratios of chives leads to bowel disorders such as acid reflux, gas, and bloating. In addition, intolerance towards chives exhibits abdominal pain and gastric discomfort. 

Q. Are chives Superfood?

A. Yes. Superfoods are rich in beneficial nutrients and low in calories. For example, chives possess supple vitamins, antioxidants, dietary fibre, and bioactive compounds. They’re also very minimal in calories. Therefore, chives can be considered a superfood. 

Q. Is eating too many chives bad?

A. Chives are intensely loaded with bioactive compounds and antioxidants. Eating too many chives will elevate the concentration of potent organic compounds within the body. That would lead to stomach discomfort and gut inflammation.

Q. Can I eat chives every day?

A. You may add chives to your daily diet, but you should eat them in moderation. Eating an excess of chives is not ideal for gastrointestinal health. Despite being rich in nutrients, taking a higher concentration of chives is not advised every day.

Q. Do chives make you sleepy?

A. Yes, chives are known to enhance sleep. As they include choline, an active agent behind sleep stimulation, chives make a person fall asleep. Therefore, regularly consuming chives is ideal for insomniac people.

Q. How do you make chive tea?

A. For 4 cups of chive tea, you should boil two cups of water and milk. Then, add at least 1/2 cup of finely chopped chives to the boiling liquid. Once cooked, strain the tea into the cups and add sugar to taste. 

Q. Are chives acidic?

A. Raw and unprocessed chives have a pH range of 5.75 to 6.0. Therefore, it may not be strongly acidic and probably won’t cause heartburn. However, raw chives are still considered in the acid scale of pH and not alkaline. 

Q. Are chives good for hair growth?

A. People use chive extract as a hair rinse solution. Its antibacterial nature will treat scalp infections to promote new hair follicle growth. Chives also increase the blood flow in the scalp region to facilitate better hair growth.

Q. Can chives give you diarrhoea?

A. Sometimes, chives are broken down into potent reactive oxidants that may irritate the gut. It eventually leads to bowel irregularities and diarrhoea. However, the chance of getting diarrhoea from chives is rare unless you’re allergic to it.

Q. Are chives and green onions the same?

A. No, chives are not the same as green onions. However, they share a similar oniony flavour and substitute each other in various food recipes. In addition, chives are visually different from green onions as they have long, thin, and completely green stems. On the other hand, green onion has a substantial stem with thicker dimensions. 

Q. Are chives suitable for people with diabetes?

A. Yes, chives have been used for treating type 2 diabetes since ancient times. The glycemic load of chives is 15, which is considered very low. It also contains low carbs. In addition, specific flavonoid compounds found in chives carry anti-diabetic effects. 

Q. Is chives bad for gastritis?

A. Yes, chives are not an ideal dietary option for people with gastritis. Due to fructans and acidic pH, chives initiate gastric reflux. In addition, it would worsen gastritis and cause abdominal discomfort.

Q. Do chives cause gas?

A. Yes, chives are more likely to cause gas. That is because raw chives contain fructans, and the body finds it hard to digest them. As a result, the gut bacteria feed on the undigested fructans, causing gas and bloating.

Q. Are chives suitable for kidney stones?

A. Yes. People use chives in the herbal treatment approach for kidney stones. Either fresh or dried, chives leaf infuses can successfully dissolve kidney stones. It is also rich in ethyl acetate, an anti-inflammatory agent that treats kidney stones.

16. Are chives antiviral?

A. Yes, chives exhibit antiviral properties. People have been using it for years to treat viral infections. Chives get consumed in moderation to block the growth of viral pathogens. In addition, it works by enhancing the immune response. 

Q. Can you eat chives while pregnant?

A. Yes, chives are safe to consume during pregnancy. It is rich in folate, a type of B vitamin that prevents neural tube defects in the fetus. In addition, the goodness of vitamin C in chives boost the immunity of both mother and baby. 

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