I am nutrient rich, sometimes lightly sweet or even spicy, versatile and easy to prepare, found in many different colors, but often overlooked…what am I? I am a root!! A parsnip, a turnip, a rutabaga, a yam, a sweet potato, a russet, a carrot, or even perhaps a radish, a chioggia beet, or a sunchoke, gosh I am everywhere!!
Root vegetables are a great source of complex carbohydrates, meaning the digestive track has to work harder to digest the sugars within. This is great news, because the sugars are not able to immediately spike our blood sugar, as would a slice of white bread. This allows our body to produce a constant stream of energy versus a whole bunch at once. In addition, root vegetables pack quite a bit of fiber, helping to strengthen colon muscles, which reduces the risk for diverticulosis. Also, fiber helps clean the colon by sloughing off old cells including those that may be carcinogenic, and can help reduce cholesterol by trapping the molecule as the fiber works its way through the digestive tract.
Fiber, in its natural form, found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, is part of balanced diet. Did you know that the recommended intake of fiber for women is 25 g/day and for men 38 g/day? Sadly, many people do not get nearly enough fiber in their diet, consequently increasing their risk for GI diseases.
However, I know that besides potatoes and carrots, root vegetables seem to bring even the good cooks some anxiety. They are cheap and often grown local yet many people overlook these nutritional storehouses. It seems as though over the last generations roots have lost their dominance in the kitchen, but I am here today to prove to you why they should return as a mainstay in yours! Perhaps they intimidate you, perhaps you don’t even think about them, either way its time to give them a shot.
Rutabagas are peppery and delicious. When roasted they turn bright yellow and look beautiful mixed with a variety of other root vegetables. Rutabagas are a great source of vitamin c, and are considered a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and of course fiber. Why is potassium important for health? It is a natural electrolyte which helps maintain normal body functions and may even protect against high blood pressure.
What to look for:
A smooth, heavy for its size rutabaga without cuts or dents.
Beets are one of my favorite root vegetables. They come in many different colors, yellow, red, and even striped pink and white. If you like to get creative with color, beets can be a fun root vegetable to add to your plate. Full of phytonutrients called betalains, beets are able to provide anti-inflammatory, detoxification, and antioxidant support. They also contain excellent amounts of folate, which is an essential nutrient especially for women of childbearing age. Beets are also a very good source of fiber and a whole host of minerals needed for optimal health.
What to look for:
Chose small or medium sized beets that have a smooth surface void of any cuts, shriveled spots or bruises. If consuming beet greens, make sure they look crisp and tender.
Sweet potatoes taste just like their name and are a healthy substitution for potatoes. If baked or roasted they shine all by themselves, and all they need is a touch of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Sweet potatoes are unique because they are a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to reduce high levels of homocysteine in the blood. A high level of homocysteine is found to have toxic effects on heart health. In addition sweet potatoes are a good source of fiber and other minerals.
What to look for:
Chose firm sweet potatoes without damage marks or shriveled skin.
An easy and tasty way to incorporate root vegetables into your diet is by roasting them! Simply preheat the oven to 400 degrees and meanwhile wash, peel and dice your root vegetables into chunky bite size pieces. Toss them with melted coconut oil (or even olive oil), salt and pepper and spread out on to a large baking sheet. Do not let them overlap, and make sure to give them space. Then let them bake about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring them about every 10 minutes. I just set a timer for 10 minutes which makes it really easy. When they are tender and slightly crispy along the sides they are done!