With winter well on its way, finding enough fresh fruits and vegetables in season may seem like a daunting task. Contrary to popular belief, the cold season brings a number of hearty and tasty vegetables that are not only readily available at most grocery stores, but also pack quite a nutritional punch. When it comes to plant-based nutrition, look no further than root vegetables: parsnips, carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes and turnips are just some of the subterranean vegetables that offer considerable health benefits. These root veggies get their nutrients from the soil they grow in and provide high-protein, high-fiber options that generally contain no fat and minimal calories. Best of all, these roots are easy to incorporate into your favorite foods, store well in the fridge and are easy on your budget. Read on to learn about these incredible underground vegetables and how to incorporate them into your diet.
Boost Your Beta-Carotene
Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments found in a number of root vegetables like carrots, beets and yam that give them their vibrant colors. Besides providing pigment, carotenoids act as antioxidants within the body, helping cells regenerate and fight off free radicals. Beta-carotene has been attributed to improving your skin and eyes. Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene that contain over 20 percent of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C. Enjoy them baked, mashed or in a salad or soup and feel full all day long: these tubers are low on the glycemic index and are metabolized slowly in your body, meaning they’ll keep you full for longer.
While a number of root veggies are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, two that stand out are turmeric and beets. Turmeric is a close relative of ginger and is known for its curry-like taste and unique medicinal properties. Turmeric is a wonderful anti-inflammatory that’s been shown to block certain inflammatory chemicals in the body. Turmeric can be bought fresh or as a powder and added to curries, roasted vegetables and even smoothies. Beets on the other hand are not only naturally low in calories and high in fiber, but are also packed full with folic acid, an essential nutrient that’s been linked to prevent certain types of birth defects and protect against cancer. Beets also contain betalain, a unique source of antioxidants that’s been shown to reduce inflammation and promote detoxification. Beets can be enjoyed either raw or cooked, and can be incorporated into a number of salad and pasta dishes.
Load Up on Fiber
While mostly all root vegetables boast high fiber content, one of the most underrated are parsnips. A relative to carrots, parsnips provide four times the amount of fiber than potatoes, much of which is soluble. Parsnips contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals, providing 30 percent of the recommended Vitamin K, Vitamin C and Manganese intake in only one serving. Parsnips can actually be consumed raw and hold the most nutritional content this way—accent a salad or top off a soup with freshly shredded parsnip for an extra kick of flavor, or mash them up with potatoes for a nutritionally-boosted alternative to this holiday staple.
Save The Greens!
When you purchase fresh root vegetables with stems, don’t ditch their big leafy tops. The green leafy heads of beets, radishes, turnips and carrots are all edible and packed full of nutrients. Beet greens, for example, are packed full of fiber and protein and provide a whopping 220% of your daily Vitamin A intake. Comparable to Swiss chard or kale, use these greens in a smoothie or sauté them with garlic and onions for a nutritious side dish. Similarly, radish tops can be incorporated into smoothies or salads and resemble the same spicy flavor attributed to arugula. The best part? A three-ounce serving contains 20 percent of your calcium intake for the day as well as 280% of your daily Vitamin A intake.