WHAT ARE THEY
From the words of Wikipedia… “Root vegetables are underground plant parts eaten by humans as food. Although botany distinguishes true roots (such as taproots and tuberous roots) from non-roots (such as bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers, although some contain both hypocotyl and taproot tissue), the term “root vegetable” is applied to all these types in agricultural and culinary usage. Root vegetables are generally storage organs, enlarged to store energy in the form of carbohydrates.”
But, in other words, they are literally root.. vegetables! Grown beneath the earth, generally in a large ball of goodness. And although they are adored for what they grow beneath the earth… their not so flattering, leafy greens above the earth also can have nutritional value as well!
why you should eat them
Aside from the fact that they’re DELICIOUS and probably one of the top vegetables used in the world (thanks to all them spuds/french fries we looove to have), when grown + prepared properly they can be loaded with nutritious goodness! Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil making the soil essential to their nutritional value.
Each root vegetable will have their own unique chemical make-up allowing for higher levels of certain nutrients in each individual plant however, generally speaking, root vegetables are typically:
- Rich in soluble + insoluble fibre which makes them a great prebiotic (essentially the fertilizer for your probiotics) which also helps to boost the health of your gut bacteria
- Generally high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat making them a great energy source (especially during the winter months) and are a great option for people transitioning to a more plant based diet
- Generally high in antioxidants allowing them to help reduce free radical damage/inflammation in the body and and some may have anti-cancer and antiviral properties
- Generally high in certain Vitamins such as: Vitamin C, A, B6 and K
- Generally high in certain Minerals such as: Manganese, Potassium and Phosphorus
However, because the soil is so essential in determining how nutrient dense the food will be, it’s always best to know where your produce comes from. This is why I always suggest buying locally (or growing your own) as it will generally have higher nutritional value as opposed to a big supermarket that shipped their produce half way across the world to get to your grocery store!
Yes, food is still fuel for the body nonetheless and will have a lot of the benefits listed above HOWEVER, why not increase the nutritional value of your food (and skip the supplements) by opting for locally grown produce?
Try going the good-better-best route when choosing your produce and always be working your way towards the best choice possible for you and your family <3 A great place to start (good) would be to buy organic/non-gmo products from your grocery store working your way towards (better) buying locally from the farmers market or opting for a local CSA/home-delivery program and eventually (best) growing your own!
On a more energetic/seasonal/Ayurveda look at root vegetables, they become more abundant in the fall/winter which is fitting given the nutritional benefits and the time of year that they produce. In the fall/winter, our bodies are preparing for “hibernation” and storing more body fat to keep ourselves warm, fed and nourished during the winter months. Root vegetables are especially high in Vitamin C and antioxidants which helps support a healthy immune system and detoxification system to ensure we do not get sick during this time. Root veggies are also very grounding, comforting and hearty which is why they make such great comfort foods such as soups, stews, shepherds pie and baked potatoes.
Being in tune with the seasons and eating local foods can help the body attain homeostasis more naturally and help to balance the mind and body. This will help immensely with your digestion as well- our bodies will generally tell us what we want! This is why we crave lighter, fresher foods in the hot summers and denser, hearty, warming foods in the cold winter.
Again, it is also the best way to get the optimal nutritional benefits from your food as they have been grown locally and naturally to your climate as opposed to being forced to grow in an unnatural season or warehouse.
For those of you that grow on the island, here are a few root vegetables that are available year round:
- Potential for some leftover or early: Celeriac, Garlic, Onions and Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes.
- Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
- Potential for some leftover or early: Beets, Carrots, Ginger, Jicama, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Parsnip, Radishes, Rutabaga, Scallions and Turnips
how to cook with them
Complex carbs are a great way to keep the body full for longer because of their high fibre content and because they digest a lot slower. That being said, pairing them appropriately with other foods can also make you feel satiated for a lot longer and avoid energy crashes! Ideally, pair your complex carbs with high quality fats/oils (such as grass-fed butter, avocado oil, olive oil, broth or quality fat foods) to help reduces spikes in blood sugar, offset the cortisol response and control your appetite. The high fibre in the complex carbs paired with the fat will allow the nutrients to stay in your system longer giving you more energy and allowing you to feel satisfied and less likely to be hungry before your next meal.
Root veggies are so simple to use. The easiest way? Roughly chopped up and roasted in the oven until cooked to perfection. However, there’s lots of ways to use root veggies! Get creative by using them as a fibrous base, boiled + creamed for side dishes, added to soups/stews or grated raw! And don’t forget about the leafy green stuff attached to the root veggies! Generally, they are detached from the produce when you get them in the store but if you are lucky enough to get the fully grown produce (example: beets with beet greens still attached!) then use the leafy greens in salads, juices, smoothies, sautéed or freeze them to make broths/soups or for future use!
Not feeling that creative? Check out my seasonal recipes here:
“Eat more plants. Do more yoga. Read more books.”