Ever wondered why your eyes water when you chop onions?
Despite what you might think, the smell of onions is not what makes most people cry. You see, an onion gets it distinctive taste from compounds that contain sulfur atoms. When you slice an onion, you damage its cells, and this triggers a chemical reaction that converts these compounds into an acid that acts like tear gas. At the same time, the byproducts of this reaction condense to form the molecules responsible for the onion’s pungent odor.
In other words, the same chemical reaction that makes you weepy also releases the onion’s smell. A similar thing happens when you chop garlic. When it’s still in bulb form, garlic doesn’t smell like much. It’s only when you mince or dice and damage the garlic’s cells that a chemical reaction releases the smell we associate with garlic.
However, no one cries from slicing garlic. This is because the byproducts of the chemical reaction that takes place in garlic are different from the byproducts you get when you chop an onion. Scientists suggest that the same chemical that gives garlic and onions their distinctive smell helps them fight off bacteria and fungus and parasites. There might be something after all behind all those reports that garlic and onions are good for you.