Root vegetables come in a variety of colors, textures, and flavors to brighten up your meal this Fall and Winter. Not only are these foods pretty to look at, but they are relatively low in calories compared to grains while providing a variety of important nutrients. However, for those trying to lose weight, don’t over-indulge in these energy-dense powerhouses.
Fiber is abundant in root vegetables, and promotes healthy digestion, helps in the control of blood sugar levels, is associated with prevention of heart disease and some cancers, and supports weight management by making you feel fuller for longer.
Root vegetables contain many beneficial micronutrients as well, including vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and potassium. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron and keeps connective tissue and gums healthy. It also supports our immune system – especially important during the cold and flu season! Vitamin A, here in the form of beta-carotene, is important in vision, skin health, and boosting immune function. You’ll know a vegetable is high in vitamin A from it’s bright orange or red color! Folate, found in beets and parsnips, is an important nutrient in the production of DNA and is an essential component of many metabolic processes which help to prevent depression, cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders. Potassium, found in parsnips, celeriac and rutabagas, helps to reduce the heightened effects of salt on blood pressure, and may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and bone loss. Radishes, rutabagas, and turnips also contain phytonutrients such as sulphoraphane and dithioithiones that boost antioxidant defenses.
There are many ways to incorporate the vibrant colors and health benefits of root vegetables into your menu. Carrots, radishes, daikon, beets, celery root and turnips can be eaten raw while other root vegetables are better when roasted, baked, steamed, pressure-cooked, sautéed, fried, or pureed.
Tips for selecting and cooking root vegetables
Turnip – Select small, firm turnips for a more delicate flavor. As turnips age, their taste becomes stronger. Can be mashed, pureed, stir-fried or used raw in salads.
Radish – Choose young, fresh roots that are firm. Soaking in ice water for several hours increases crispness. Generally eaten raw.
Parsnip – Small to medium-sized parsnips are less bitter and should contain firm flesh with no soft spots. Pleasantly sweet flavor and often served boiled and mashed.
Carrot – Can come in white, yellow, purple, red, or orange colors and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways. Avoid storing near apples which can give carrots a bitter taste.
Jicama – Select medium-size jicama that are blemish-free. This vegetable has a sweet, nutty flavor and can be steamed, baked, broiled, or fried. Peel before using.
Parsley root – This root tastes like a combination of carrot and celery and is best when purchased with firm roots. Can be used in soups and stews.
Celeriac (celery root) – Choose a root that feels heavy for its size and does not contain wilted bits of stalk at the top. Tastes like a cross between celery and parsley and works as a gratin or celery “chips”.
Burdock root – Select this vegetable with young, firm roots and do not wash until ready for use. It is often sliced and added to stir-fry but may be eaten raw.
Rutabaga – Choose rutabaga that are smooth, firm and heavy. Always peel before use and steam, saute, boil, or roast.
Beets – Beets may range in color from red to white. The smaller the beet, the more tender it will be. Wash before use and, while wearing gloves, peel skin after cooking (the beet juice will stain your hands).
Salsify – Select firm, full salsify and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. This root is often used in savory pies and soups.
Daikon – Choose daikon with a shiny skin. This vegetable has a crisp texture with white or black skin and is commonly used in salads or stir-fry dishes.
Written by Emily, revised by Flannery, both student interns
“Wonder Root Vegetables”, Food & Nutrition Magazine, November/December 2014 issue
Andrews, Ryan. “All About Folates and Folic Acid | Precision Nutrition.”Precision Nutrition. N.p., 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2016.