When people talk about their favorite vegetables and vegetable dishes they generally don’t talk about root vegetables. They mean familiar and comforting vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and the other vegetables that most people grew up eating. Root vegetables look strange to most. They have the reputation for being hard to cook and having a bitter and fairly earthly taste. When root vegetables are mentioned, some don’t even know what they are.
The truth is, root vegetables are very healthy for you. If prepared correctly, they can also be quite delicious. Now that we are becoming more committed to eating local produce, restaurants are able to offer these vegetables at their seasonal peak. (The more we help them out, the more they can help us in return) But root vegetables are more than just good seasonal choices. There are some very significant health benefits associated with them, especially for people that are gluten sensitive.
The Health Benefits of Root Vegetables
People don’t eat enough vegetables, yet they are great for you. There are some very good reasons why you should start adding more root vegetables into your diet. Root vegetables have a huge amount of health benefits that can keep you fit and healthy even as you get older. Some of the many benefits include:
For people with Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or autoimmune disorders like Fibromyalgia, eating an anti-inflammatory diet is extremely important. Food allergies and sensitivities can trigger widespread pain and other problems in the body. Root vegetables can be used to replace grains in your diet so that you are not eating wheat, pasta, and other things that trigger inflammation in the body. These vegetables have lower amounts of sugar and fewer calories than other types of vegetables. But most importantly, they can help regulate blood sugar and prevent inflammation in the body. This is critically important for anyone with food sensitivity or food allergies.
There is some research that indicates eating cruciferous vegetables, including some root vegetables, can help prevent cancer and fight cancer. Research is ongoing, but according to the studies that have been done, it may be that eating lots of nutrient rich root vegetables can help naturally. Any advantage that you can get when it comes to fighting cancer will help, including help from root vegetables.
Good For Brain Health and Cognitive Function
One of the nutrients that help fight cognitive decline and helps keep the brain healthy is Vitamin A. Luckily, root vegetables are packed with Vitamin A. Inflammation can also have an impact on brain health and cognitive decline. Because root vegetables are anti-inflammatory and contain a lot of Vitamin A, replacing the grains in your diet with root vegetables can help a lot. They will keep your brain working the way it’s supposed to and help keep your cognitive function strong. People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury can also benefit from eating a lot of root vegetables. It will give their brains the nutrients needed to repair any damage that was caused.
Full of Antioxidants
Root vegetables are known for their deep colors. Earthy purples, bright oranges, and rich browns are common colors. Those brilliant colors come from the large amounts of antioxidants and flavonoids that root vegetables contain. Antioxidants have many health benefits. They will keep your immune system healthy, help your cells reduce and push out waste, and they can also bind the free radicals in your body. This will help your skin look firmer, younger, and healthier. Antioxidants can also help keep your heart healthy.
Great For Skin and Eyes
The Beta Carotene in root vegetables is a nutrient that your eyes need to stay healthy. Remember when you were young and your parents would tell you to be sure to eat your carrots so you could see better? Well, carrots are a root vegetable packed with Vitamin C and Beta Carotene which will keep your eyes strong and healthy even as you get older. (So seems that our parents were right.) Vitamin C and antioxidants are also fantastic for your skin. It can slow down the signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging so that your skin looks young and healthy.
Better Heart Health
Heart health is a particular concern for people over 50, especially women. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among senior women. Changing your diet to include more heart healthy root vegetables can make a big difference. Working out regularly, drinking enough water, and eating a balanced diet that includes root vegetables is a great way to keep your heart strong and healthy. Root vegetables can also help maintain your cholesterol at a healthy level or reduce your cholesterol when it’s too high.
Good For Weight Loss and Preventing Diabetes
Root vegetables can be substituted for grains like pasta and rice and they are a healthy way for people that want to lose weight to get fiber that they need. Root vegetables have a very low glycemic index which means that they don’t have a big impact on your blood sugar. So eating them won’t cause blood sugar spikes like eating rice and pasta can. The extra fiber in root vegetables will make you feel full longer. So if you’re trying to lose weight, replacing pasta and rice with diced or shredded vegetables will help you stay full so you won’t snack. Also, because they are very low in calories, you can eat a full meal without feeling guilty.
What Vegetables are Root Vegetables
So what vegetables are root vegetables? Some of these you’re already familiar with and some you might have never heard of before. But one thing is, all of these root vegetables should be available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. These are most common during the fall season which is when they naturally ripen. Here are 13 examples:
- Celeriac (Celery root)
- Jerusalem Artichokes
Cooking Root Vegetables
Cooking these are something that a lot of people find challenging. Most learn how to cook early on from a parent, but if your parent wasn’t familiar with root vegetables, you may have knot learned the proper way to cook them.
Most root vegetables are heavy and have a hard outer shell or layer that can make them difficult to cook. If you have ever tried to slice into an uncooked root vegetable you know it can be downright dangerous to try and cut that vegetable into pieces. Most are the best when they are prepared simply.
Roasting and baking these vegetables are the most popular ways to cook them. You can also grate them if you want to use them to replace pasta or rice. Spaghetti squash is a fantastic substitution for pasta because when it’s cooked properly the squash comes out in long strands like spaghetti noodles. You can top it with sauce and meatballs just like you would normally, but using the squash instead of pasta makes the dish much healthier. Many root vegetables are best when roasted in the oven at a moderate temperature until they are soft enough to eat.
Preparing Root Vegetables
Each type of root vegetable needs to be prepared differently, but in general they must all be cleaned properly. Also, be sure to cook them before you attempt to dice or take them out of the shell. Root vegetables’ hard exterior can cause serious injury to oneself. For root vegetables like potatoes and smaller, you can simply pierce the outside several times with a fork so that the steam can escape while the vegetables are cooking. Then when the vegetable is soft you can remove the shell or the skin. It is also an option to eat the skin if it was cleaned good enough.
To prepare squash like acorn squash or spaghetti squash cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and put them aside because you can roast them with spices later on. Put the squash with the open side down into a shallow pan that has about an inch of water in it. Cover with foil and roast in the oven until the center is soft. You will know when spaghetti squash is done because when it’s ready to eat, you can take a fork and scrape down the middle of the open side. This will cause strands of limp squash which should peel off looking like spaghetti. Then just add sauce or even just butter and eat.
Root vegetables are a very important part of one’s diet. Though they may be the less common vegetable to eat, root vegetables are extremely healthy for you. With a little bit of practice and some good recipes, they can easily become your favorite meal of the day. Find some ways to fit these vegetables daily and start gaining all their benefits instantly.