Chives are a green vegetable with a mild onion-like flavor. They are in the Allium genus, which also includes garlic, onions, and leeks. People have cultivated allium vegetables for centuries for their characteristic pungent flavors in cooking and their medicinal properties.
Chives, or Allium schoenoprasum, contain nutrients that are important for sleep and bone health. Some research has also linked the chemicals in chives and other allium vegetables with anticancer effects.
This article provides an overview of chives, including a nutritional breakdown, their possible health benefits, and some ways to incorporate chives into the diet.
That said, to get a significant amount of these nutrients, a person would have to eat a large quantity of chives. Instead, people often use chives as a garnish. A common serving is about 1 tablespoon (tbsp), or 3 grams.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 tbsp of chopped chives provides the following nutrients:
- energy: 0.9 calories
- vitamin K: 6.38 micrograms (mcg), or 5% of the Daily Value (DV)
- vitamin C: 1.74 milligrams (mg), or 2% of the DV
- folate: 3.15 mcg, or 1% of the DV
- vitamin A: 6.43 mcg, or 1% of the DV
- calcium: 2.76 mg, or less than 1% of the DV
- potassium: 8.88 mg, or less than 1% of the DV
Vegetables are excellent sources of healthful nutrients. Chives contain a range of beneficial nutrients that may offer some health benefits, including anticancer effects.
The following sections will discuss the potential health benefits of chives in more detail.
For example, a 2019 review summarizes research that has linked 16 different species of allium vegetables with preventing or positively influencing cancer. The authors highlighted the compounds S‐allyl mercaptocysteine, quercetin, flavonoids, and ajoene for their potential anticancer properties.
One study in 285 women found that garlic and leeks were associated with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The authors also suggest, however, that eating high amounts of cooked onion could increase breast cancer risk.
Also, a 2015 review of studies reports that eating allium vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer, particularly gastrointestinal cancer. This is due to their sulfur-containing compounds and antimicrobial effects. Allium vegetables and their components may have effects at various stages of cancer and could affect biological processes that modify a person’s risk.
The authors of the review explain that although allium vegetables may help prevent cancer, more research has looked into the effects of garlic and onion on cancer than those of chives. Researchers therefore need to conduct more studies before they can determine the amount a person needs to eat for this effect, and the relative effectiveness of other interventions.
Sleep and mood
Chives contain a small amount of choline. Choline is an important nutrient that helps maintain the structure of cellular membranes. Choline also helps with mood, memory, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), the adequate intake (AI) of choline is 550 mg per day for adult males and 425 mg per day for adult females.
Chives contain a small amount of choline: 0.16 mg per tbsp. A person would need to eat a high quantity of chives and other foods that contain choline to get the recommended AI.
Other health benefits
Research has also linked chives and other allium vegetables with the following benefits for health:
A source of vitamin K
Chives contain vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting. Other sources of vitamin K include leafy green vegetables, vegetable oils, and fruits including blueberries and figs.
A source of folate
- dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
- congenital heart defects
- cognitive function
- cardiovascular disease and stroke
- preterm birth
Chives also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids. According to some research, lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the retina of the eye to help prevent age-related macular degeneration. This means that eating foods rich in these substances could benefit eyesight.
Some studies into allium vegetables and their organic compounds, such as allicin, suggest a positive relationship with certain health conditions.
For example, one study indicated a potentially positive relationship between garlic and health conditions such as heart disease and high blood sugar. Garlic may also have antitumor and antimicrobial effects.
However, the study was not clear about which compounds are responsible for these effects. Researchers will therefore need to perform additional studies to determine the effectiveness and safety of garlic and other allium vegetables for preventing certain health conditions.
Though no research has connected chives with inflammation, one 2015 study reported that garlic may reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked with various health conditions, including heart disease and several cancers.
Chives are not a common source of food allergies, though people with allergies or intolerances to onions or other allium vegetables may also need to avoid chives. People with food allergies may wish to talk to their doctor before adding chives to their diet.
Also, some people may find that eating a lot of chives can cause stomach upset. However, in moderation, most people can safely add chives to their diet.
Chives add a mild onion-like flavoring to dishes. People tend to use chives as a garnish or topping for main meals or salads, though they can also substitute chives for onions in other recipes.
Chives are a common topping for foods such as:
- chicken dishes
Chives are a common member of the allium family of vegetables, alongside garlic and onions.
Research has linked allium vegetables with a range of possible health benefits, including anticancer effects. However, a person would need to eat more than the average serving size of chives to get these health benefits.