If you’ve been hanging around this newsletter for any time at all, you know I often advise people to “eat with the seasons” in order to get the most health benefits and flavor from their food. With winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, we get to enjoy root vegetables … and there’s a huge variety of nutrient-rich roots out there to explore.
Unfortunately, this category of vegetables often gets whittled down to just potatoes, onions and carrots – but there are so many root vegetables with much to offer in terms of vitamins, minerals, and great taste.
Root veggies include tubers, corms, and rhizomes – strange words for a class of root veggies that includes potatoes and yams, water chestnut, turmeric and ginger. Then there are bulbs … think onions, garlic, fennel, shallots and Jerusalem artichokes. “True” roots include those that we automatically think of such as carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, jicama, turnips and sweet potato.
What makes these vegetables truly unique is that root veggies evolved to store nutrients for the plants themselves, so they offer us a true powerhouse of energy, minerals, vitamins and more.
3 Healthy Reasons to Eat More Root Veggies
- Dietary fiber. Because root veggies tend to be rich in complex carbs, including dietary fiber, they promote glucose stability and improved digestive health. Fiber is definitely one of those nutrients we could all use more of!
- Resistant starch. This type of complex carb doesn’t easily break down in the gut. It arrives intact in the colon and ferments there, feeding gut bacteria and producing beneficial short-chain fatty acids.
- Vitamins and minerals. Here’s where the list gets very impressive. Due to the close contact with the soil, root veggies are particularly rich in minerals like potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus and magnesium. However, mineral content is contingent upon the type of soil they’re grown in – another reason why organic is better. Also, the high mineral content makes root crops alkalizing foods. As for vitamins, many roots are loaded with vitamins A, C, and B6 and those with edible greens like beets and radishes are also a great source of vitamin K.
But what about carbs?
Limiting your carb intake because of concerns about weight gain or insulin resistance? You may be trying to avoid “starchy” root vegetables like potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips.
But “low carb” doesn’t mean no carb. If you’re “not eating carbs” it is better to focus on cutting out simple sugars like sucrose and fructose. Both are readily absorbed in the gut, unlike the resistant starch present in many of the root veggies we’re talking about.
Get all the health benefits of root crops
Many root veggies also have antioxidant properties. Some, like onions, ginger, beets and turmeric, have known anti-inflammatory capabilities.
A few, like garlic, contain natural antibacterial qualities that can help limit bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Radishes have long been known to have a mild hypoglycemic effect in diabetes. Ginger and turmeric both have widely been researched for their anti-inflammatory properties.