Root vegetables are exactly what they sound like: edible plants that grow underground. The leaves and stems sprout above the ground, while the actual vegetable grows under the earth. Potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, and turnips, among many more, are the ones you are most likely familiar with. While all of these root vegetables exhibit several health benefits, some of them are healthier than others.
Starchy root vegetables tend to provide nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and magnesium. They are versatile, easy to prepare, and inexpensive, depending on the variety you purchase. Strong evidence suggests that certain compounds in root vegetables may help fight diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer, and other inflammatory-based disorders.
During the chilly fall and winter nights, you can get creative with an assortment of fall and winter root vegetables. Many of the seasonal produce items during these seasons are root vegetables, so enjoy them while they are in season. Learn all about the healthiest root vegetables below.
Turnips belong to the cruciferous vegetable family, meaning they are related to collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cabbage. They are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and indoles, which are phytonutrients that exist in turnip greens. These phytonutrients may reduce cancer risk, especially in regards to prostate, lung, stomach, and colon cancers.
Most root vegetables are technically called tubers, but ginger is in fact a rhizome. It’s a flowering plant native to China and it is closely related to turmeric and similar plants. One study monitored 1,278 pregnant women who consumed ginger as a way to combat morning sickness. The results indicated that ginger was effective at reducing both morning sickness and nausea. Ginger may also help reduce inflammation and fight free radicals, thanks to the compound gingerol.
Belonging to the allium family, which includes leeks, onions, chives, and shallots, garlic contains several important nutrients. Garlic is renowned for its medicinal properties, which many researchers attribute to allicin, the compound that releases upon crushing, mincing, or chopping the cloves. Several studies found that garlic can promote heart health by lowering blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Almost every dish improves when you add garlic, so eat more of it in your diet!
Sweet potatoes are vibrant, delicious, and incredibly versatile, going great in sweet and savory dishes. They are excellent sources of vitamins A & C, in addition to other antioxidants like beta-carotene, anthocyanins, and chlorogenic acid. The impressive vitamin A content prompted many researchers to study how sweet potatoes benefit the body. Many studies indicated that the vitamin A in sweet potatoes may help improve skin health, enhance immune function, and protect against vision loss.
Don’t let the appearance scare you away because the rutabaga is rich in many nutrients that benefit overall health. They are purple and whitish, being a cross between cabbage and turnips, so they provide similar health benefits. In addition to being a great source of vitamin C, the rutabaga is high in zinc, which plays a role in brain function, mood regulation, immune health, and more.
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, offer lots of fiber and protein with very little calories. Just like sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes are great sources of vitamin A, although they don’t contain as much as sweet potatoes. They are naturally rich in potassium and iron, an integral nutrient to obtain on a plant-based diet. Iron aids with red blood cell formation, healthy metabolism, and anemia prevention.
Onions serve as a staple ingredient in many cuisines, often providing a great base flavor for sauces, soups, stews, and a variety of other dishes. One study found that eating 3.5 ounces of raw onion per day was able to reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Additionally research noted that onions may exhibit powerful anti-cancer properties. Some observational studies linked higher intake of onion to a lower risk of common types of cancer.
Also known as celery root, celeriac is the bulbous root of celery. It is very easy to cook with and serves as an excellent alternative to potatoes. Celeriac is naturally rich in vitamin C, phosphorus, and vitamin K, offering 80% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K in a one cup serving. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting, but the body also uses it for the function of osteocalcin, a protein hormone that plays a vital role in bone health.