Tear Drops on My Cutting Board

Last night I decided to make my ever delicious shrimp scampi with whole wheat linguine. This is one of my family’s favorite dishes and every time I make it, I have myself a good cry. What’s so sad about my linguini you ask? Well, it all has to do with the exorbitant amount of onions I add to my recipe. I happened to cut an unusually potent onion last night. The way the tears streamed down my face, you would have thought someone told me my dog ran away. I’ve tried all the old wives tales to stop crying when I cut onions – nothing's worked. This got me thinking, why do onions make me cry?

Posted on | Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD | Comments ()

Last night I decided to make my ever delicious shrimp scampi with whole wheat linguine. This is one of my family’s favorite dishes and every time I make it, I have myself a good cry. What’s so sad about my linguini you ask? Well, it all has to do with the exorbitant amount of onions I add to my recipe. I happened to cut an unusually potent onion last night. The way the tears streamed down my face, you would have thought someone told me my dog ran away. I’ve tried all the old wives tales to stop crying when I cut onions – nothing's worked. This got me thinking, why do onions make me cry? 

Crying is a reflexive response that occurs when cutting onions. It is comparable to the same response that happens if you get particles, like dust or smoke, in your eyes. Your body is trying to protect your eyes from any harmful invaders; thus releasing tears to flush away the intruders.

The same can be said for this tasty vegetable that provides our bodies with vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and many other great benefits. When you cut an onion it releases a gas that sends a signal to our brain saying, “Hey, this gas could harm our eyes, we need to start producing tears to keep it out.”

Fear not though, next time you are cutting an onion, thank your body for keeping your safe...and do one more thing: wear goggles. Sounds funny but it works. Find a pair of swimming goggles or pull out your grade school chemistry class mad scientist goggles, even use those safety goggles in your work shed. Sure, you may look funny, but who cares, at least you’re not sitting in the middle of the kitchen sobbing while preparing a healthy meal.

Blog written by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
Kristin Kirkpatrick is a registered dietitian and Wellness Manager for Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Kristin has...