Chives are part of the allium family of vegetables and herbs. This family also includes garlic, scallions, onions and leeks. Allium vegetables have been cultivated for centuries for their characteristic, pungent flavors and for their medicinal properties.

This article is one of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

It provides information about the nutritional breakdown of chives, possible health benefits, and ways to incorporate them into the diet.

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The stems and flowers of chives are edible.

Chives are a nutrient-dense food. This means they are low in calories but high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

One tablespoon containing 3 grams of chopped chives provides 1 calorie and less than 1 gram of fat, protein, or carbohydrate.

It provides 3 percent of the daily value of both vitamins A and C. One tablespoon contains 131 international units (IU) of vitamin A and 1.7 milligrams of vitamin C.

A tablespoon of chives contains 6.4 µg of vitamin K, 3 µg of folate, 3 milligrams of calcium, 1 milligram of magnesium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus and 9 milligrams of potassium. Chives also contain choline.

The nutrients in chives may offer a number of health benefits, including prevention of cancer and mood enhancement.

Cancer: Researchers have studied allium vegetables extensively in relation to cancer, especially stomach and colorectal cancers. Their beneficial and preventative effects are likely due in part to their rich organosulfur compounds. The authors recommend consuming 10 or more servings of vegetables a day, including allium vegetables.

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Chives are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Prostate cancer: In a study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers investigated the relationship between allium vegetable intake and prostate cancer. They found that men with the highest intake of allium vegetables had the lowest risk for prostate cancer, especially when the cancer was localized rather than advanced.

Esophageal and stomach cancer: Frequent intake of allium vegetables, such as chives, appears to be linked to a lower risk of esophageal and stomach cancer. Studies in humans have suggested that alliums might protect against these types of cancer. In animal studies, administering allium compounds led to reduced tumor growth.

Sleep and mood: Chives contain choline. Choline is an important nutrient that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. It also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation. In one study, rats that consumed 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of quercetin-rich allium vegetable, onion, powder had increased dopaminergic activity. Dopamine turnover is linked to a reduction in depression.

Bone health: Vitamin K is related to bone health, as it helps to maintain bone integrity and density. Chives contain vitamin K, so they may contribute to bone strength.

Folate also occurs in chives. Folate may help relieve depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body. Too much homocysteine can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain.

It can also interfere with the production of the feel-good hormones, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These hormones regulate not only mood but also sleep and appetite. Folic acid also helps prevent birth defects.

Chives contain the carotenes lutein and zeaxanthin. These are believed to reduce oxidative stress in the eyes, and to slow the development of cataracts. In this way, chives may help to boost vision.

The immune system may benefit from the vitamin C content of chives.

Heart health may be boosted by the presence of potassium and the organic compound, allicin. Another organic compound, quercetin, may help to reduce cholesterol levels and arterial plaque, leading to better cardiovascular health and a lower risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.

Allicin in garlic has also been found to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.

Other ways in which chives may boost health are by easing the digestive process and enhancing the immune system. However, some of these claims may not be supported by research.

Chives pair well with many dishes, especially those with eggs and cheese such as omelets, scrambles, quiches and frittatas.

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Chives pair well with many dishes, especially those with eggs and cheese such as omelets, scrambles, quiches and frittatas.

Chives add flavor to a dish without adding extra calories, fat or sodium.

Like cilantro, mint, and basil, chives are a tender herb with soft stems, so it is best to add them either raw or near the end of cooking in order to maintain their delicate flavor and texture.

Preparing chives

When preparing chives, use a sharp knife and cut gently. Using a dull knife or over-chopping will bruise the herb, and much of the flavor will be misplaced onto the cutting board surface.

Apart from egg and cheese dishes, chives go well with creamy vegetable dips and as a topping for soups and salads.

The flowers are also edible, and they can be used in salads.

Here are some ideas for incorporating chives into the diet:

Another kind of chive, known as garlic chives, or Chinese chives, have a flat leaf and a garlic flavor. They can be used dried or fresh, in the same way as the more familiar Allium schoenoprasum.

Growing chives

Chives are easy to grow and can be cultivated in small pots on a sunny windowsill. They do best in well-drained soil with a pH of between 6 and 7. They prefer 6 to 8 hours of direct light.

Who should not eat chives?

Chives are not normally considered allergenic, but people who need to avoid onions and other foods of the same family may need to be cautious.

Too much chive may provide too high a concentration of certain organic compounds, which may lead to abdominal discomfort.