Why Onions Make You Cry, And How To Prevent This Teary Reaction

Not only do we look like we just finished watching This Is Us or The Notebook for the 37th time after cutting shallots or onions. 

The subject has inspired countless newspaper comics, therefore we are not. It has inspired dozens of silly workarounds to slow the reaction during chopping, such as eating bread, lighting a match, and putting a spoon in one's mouth.

Onions and their allium siblings make tears so common that a Google search for "how to cut onions without crying" yields 2.3 million results.

The scientific foundations behind this response hint at attaining the goal without tears. Before making your next batch of French Onion Baked Brie, Caramelized Five-Onion Dip, Free-Form Onion Tart, or Soup, read these tips.

A smart scientific rationale drives this reaction. In self-defense, we break onion and other cell walls, causing extreme reactions. 

There are many more species in the underground onion chambers that seek food. Texas A&M College of Medicine ophthalmologists say cutting an onion releases sulfenic acid from sulfoxides and enzymes.

Together with onion enzymes, this acid produces syn-propanethial-S-oxide gas. The gaseous molecule approaching the eyes reacts with ocular water to produce sulphuric acid and other tear-inducing irritants.

Animals trying to eat underground scallions have the same problem. Our eyes are fragile because they see.

Onions with high enzyme concentrations for this process are white, yellow, or red. However, sweet onions, green onions, shallots, and scallions have less enzyme. 

As mentioned, most tear-free onion-cutting methods waste time and make you look silly without improving your eyesight. 

Start with a sharp scalpel. Sharp knives prevent cell bruises when slicing scallions. In contrast, lower enzyme secretion prevents tears. 

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