8 Health Benefits Of Chives: Nutrition, Risks & Ways To Eat 2022

Alexandra Gregg

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

health benefits of chives

Most people know chives as the little green circles that are used as a garnish or addition to many dishes like salads, steak, baked potatoes, and deviled eggs.

However, the health benefits of chives include ample amounts of health-promoting nutrients that can help to protect your body against chronic diseases, boost your immune system, and even fight against cancer. 

So are chives and green onions the same? Actually, no, though onions and chives belong to the same allium family of vegetables. Typically you can substitute chives for green onions in most dishes, but they are not the same. Chives tend to have a more subtle flavor than green onions.

8 Great Health Benefits of Chives

Here are the top eight health benefits of chives you may not know. 

  1. A good source of choline
  2. Fight cancer
  3. Assist bone health
  4. Decrease Inflammation
  5. Anti-Anxiety
  6. Improve eye health
  7. A good source of folate
  8. Prevent disease

Health Benefits Of Eating Chives

Chives have excellent potential health benefits, including cancer prevention, bone health, and reduced inflammation. Below are the top eight reasons to eat chives today. 

A Good Source Of Choline

Most people do not get enough dietary choline[1]. This lack is unfortunate because choline plays a role in numerous bodily functions[2] such as

  • Cell integrity and support[3]
  • Making, transporting, and metabolizing fat
  • DNA synthesis
  • Heartbeat regulation
  • Muscle Movement
  • Memory
  • Nervous system health

You can see why getting enough choline in your daily diet is so important. Chives are a good source of choline. Other good dietary sources of choline include egg yolks, wild-caught salmon, liver, quinoa, wheat germ, and chicken.      

Fight Cancer

Chives are part of the allium[4] family of vegetables. Other allium vegetables include leeks, onions, and garlic. Consistent consumption of this vegetable family has been linked to anti-cancer qualities, specifically stomach and prostate[5] cancers.

For example, a large case-control study[6] in China of 750 adults showed that eating allium vegetables were associated with protection against stomach cancer.

The reason[7] for this protective effect is thought to be due to the organosulfur compounds found in these allium vegetables. These organic compounds are believed to alter the effects of enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogens while hindering the development and proliferation of cancer cells.

Another study[8] showed a correlation between increased allium vegetable intake and reduced prostate cancer rate. This is exciting as future cancer treatment and prevention could involve allium vegetables with negligible adverse side effects.

Assist Bone Health

Chives are high in vitamin K. Just one tablespoon contains five percent of your daily needs. Vitamin K does a lot for your body[9], including

  • Supporting blood clotting
  • Aiding in bone metabolism
  • Keeping bones strong
  • Assisting in bone health

Studies have shown a positive correlation[10] between supplementing with vitamin K, increased bone mineral density, and reduced risk of fractures.

This supplementation is especially encouraging in the older population, who see more bone fractures and have difficulty maintaining bone mineral density.

To ensure you are obtaining enough vitamin K in your diet, combine chives with other foods high in vitamin K, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, collard, or turnip greens.

Decrease Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal part of how our immune system works. It is necessary for physical injury and infection. However, suppose you endure chronic[11] inflammation, which can happen due to infections, physical inactivity, poor diet, environmental and industrial toxicants, and psychological stress.

In that case, inflammation can lead to several diseases. These disorders include

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders

Chives contain many antioxidants that help boost immunity, promote heart health, normalize glucose and fat metabolism, and fight chronic inflammation.

In addition, a study[12] published in 2021 showed that garlic chives have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They also noted that the active components in chives could be a potential treatment for inflammatory diseases in the future.

Anti-Anxiety

Chives contain choline, as mentioned previously. Choline does a lot for the body, including helping the nervous system and mood. A Hordaland Health study[13] published in 2009 looked at the relationship between choline and anxiety.

The participants with the lowest choline levels also had the highest anxiety levels. Unfortunately, there are not many studies on this topic, but these findings are intriguing.  

Improve Eye Health

Chives also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids. Carotenoids are potent antioxidants that have many health benefits. Lutein and zeaxanthin are especially helpful when it comes to eye[14] health.

These carotenoids accumulate in your eye, which helps to fight off free radicals and prevent several unwanted age-related eye issues such as 

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Uveitis

Chives do contain these carotenoids but in small amounts. Therefore, for the most optimal dose of lutein and zeaxanthin, combine chives with other foods rich[15] in these carotenoids such as green leafy vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, and lettuce) and egg yolks.

A Good Source Of Folate

Chives also contain vitamin B9, best known as folate or folic acid. Folate is the natural form of the nutrient, while folic acid is synthetic. Folate[16] is involved in several functions of the body, such as 

  • Formation of DNA and RNA
  • Production of red blood cells
  • Building of proteins

Even though folate deficiencies are rare, they can occur and cause an array of health problems. Folate deficiencies cause weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, headaches, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.

Folate deficiencies are especially important to avoid if you are pregnant as folate helps to prevent birth defects. To ensure you are getting enough folate, pair chives with other folate-rich food, such as

  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Whole grains
  • Liver
  • Seafood
  • Eggs

Prevent Disease

Some research shows there is evidence that eating plants in the Allium genus (including chives, garlic, and onions) could prevent chronic diseases[17] such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Moreover, the research suggests that these plants’ organic compounds could someday lead to a natural treatment of chronic diseases as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. 

Nutritional Value

1 Tablespoon of raw chives 

Nutritional Values per the USDA[18] nutrient database

  • 1 calorie
  • 0.13 grams carbohydrates
  • 0.1 grams of protein
  • 0.1 grams of fiber
  • 0.2 milligrams of choline
  • 8.88 milligrams of potassium
  • 6.4 micrograms of vitamin K (5 percent of daily value)
  • 1.74 milligrams of vitamin C (3 percent of daily value)
  • 131 international units of vitamin A (3 percent of daily value)

Potential Side Effects

While chives are typically only eaten in small quantities, more significant amounts might lead to some unwanted side effects outlined below. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare professional before adopting new dietary habits. 

Upset Stomach

Chives contain a type of carbohydrate called fructans. This type of carbohydrate can lead to stomach discomfort, such as bloating and gas.

In addition, digestion of fructans is challenging for the body because gut bacteria end up consuming the fructans. In turn, this causes additional gas within the bowels. Of note, cooking high fructan foods can lessen these effects.

Bowel Problems

Chives can be potential gastrointestinal irritants in some people. The compounds released during chives’ digestion can aggravate bowel problems such as diarrhea and acid reflux.

Gastritis 

Vegetables from the allium family can cause worsening digestive disorders. Chives are very acidic, with a pH of 5.75. This is a ph that could worsen gastritis. Moreover, the high fructan content in chives could also increase acid reflux.

Allergies

If you’re allergic to other allium family vegetables such as garlic, onions, or leeks, consult a doctor before adding chives to your diet.

How To Incorporate Chives Into the Diet

So, what are chives typically used for? People will typically use chives as a garnish to main dishes. You can generally find chives at most grocery stores in the produce section.

However, you can also choose dried chives if you are unsure whether you will be able to use fresh chives before they go bad. 

Dried chives are usually located in the spices section close to thyme and oregano. Of note, some beneficial nutrients are lost in the drying process.

Therefore, freshness is the best option for maximal nutrition. When looking for the perfect chive, choose ones that are taut and very bright green.

Chives are aromatic herbs with a mild and delicate flavor. This combination makes it easy to add chives to almost any recipe

  • Potato dishes (mashed potatoes and baked potatoes)
  • Soups
  • Dips
  • Omelets
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Salad Dressings
  • Sour Cream   

Consuming chives that are sliced and eaten raw is the preparation method that preserves the most flavor. Heating chives slightly will reduce their flavor profile.

There are a few different types of chives, each with a different taste. The different types include common chives, Chinese chives, and Siberian chives. The differences in each type are outlined below.

Common Chives

health benefits of chives

As you can imagine, these are the most common type of chives and the easiest to find in your local supermarket. They can also be called onion chives for their slight flavor. Common chives originally came from Turkey and Greece.

Chinese Chives 

health benefits of chives

Sometimes called garlic chives, these chives are more potent than common chives and have a more garlicky flavor. These are an excellent addition to your savory meals.   

Siberian Chives

This is a less common type of chive. Siberian Chives are sometimes called blue chives because of their blue flowers. Native to Asia, China, and Russia, these can be grown upwards of two feet. The taste of Siberian chives is very similar to common chives (mild, slight onion taste).  

If you have too many chives, freezing them is a way to preserve them so they don’t go to waste. Simply add chopped chives and olive oil to an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

However, this method does change the taste slightly. Therefore, frozen chives are best suited for sauces and soups.

The Bottom Line

So, are chives healthy? Eating chives is a great way to boost essential nutrients and health. Chives are aromatic herbs with many health benefits ranging from disease prevention to eye health and cancer prevention.

Chives can also help reduce inflammation in the body and provide you with vital nutrients such as choline and folate.  

They are an easy herb to pick up in most grocery stores. Make sure to choose a vibrant and unwilted chive, as these will provide the best flavor.

Once ready to use them in a dish, simply chop and toss them onto potatoes, soups, or even egg dishes. They’ll provide a delicate flavor boost and many health benefits to your meal.


+ 18 sources

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  4. Sengupta (2014). Allium vegetables in cancer prevention: an overview. Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention : APJCP, [online] 5(3). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15373701/
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Alexandra Gregg

Written by:

Alexandra Gregg, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Alexandra Gregg is a registered and licensed dietitian with a private practice in Kansas City, Missouri. After studying Nutrition and Dietetics at Northwest Missouri State she completed her Dietetic Internship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. Following her dietetic internship, Allie worked at Mayo Clinic in a variety of areas including nutrition support, geriatrics, neonatology, and pediatrics. In addition, she was a regular presenter at Mayo Clinic conferences and an educator for dietetic interns.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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