Let’s Talk: Root Vegetables


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 bulbscormsrhizomes, 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.[1] 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 can also 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 and prepared properly, they can be loaded with nutritious goodness! Root vegetables, being grown underground, absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil making the soil essential for their nutritional value.

Each root vegetable will have their own unique chemical make-up allowing for higher levels of certain nutrients in each plant. A few quick & easy ways to tell which veggies are higher in nutrients? COLOUR, GLYCEMIC-LOAD and of course how they are GROWN! The more colourful the vegetable, generally the higher the nutrients (ex: did you know there are PURPLE potatoes grown locally? Eat the rainbow as often as possible- even with your potatoes!). Likewise, if they have a lower glycemic index, they’re generally considered a more nutrient-dense carbohydrate as it acts more like a complex carb than a simple carb. Most root veggies are considered low-glycemic with the exception of: white potatoes, carrots, and sometimes some other sweeter root veggies like parsnip and and beets. 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
      • Doubled with goodness: Not only are they rich in hearty complex-carbs, they ALSO come with nutrient-packed toppings that can be used in salads, as bitters, for juicing (my fave), in soups/stews, or anything you would use dark leafy greens in. Again, each plant will have its own nutritional value and taste but most will still be high in antioxidants. If you’re using the whole plant, you really want to be consciences of how it has been grown! I really like using beet greens but get creative and see if you can get more bang for your buck.

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 and is ALWAYS more cost effective and affordable as opposed to buying from a big supermarket that has shipped their produce half way across the world just to get it 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, save money (and maybe skip the need for 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, your family, your community and planet ♥️ A great place to start

      • GOOD is opting for non-gmo/organic/consciously grown products from your local grocery store working your way towards..
      • BETTER by buying locally from the farmers market or opting for a local CSA/home-delivery program and eventually..
      • BEST growing/sharing home grown goodies amongst your family, friends and community! Ideally homegrown yourself or through a community farm.

On a more energetic/seasonal/Ayurvedic 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 us 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, baked potatoes, etc.

By involving ourselves with our community and surrounding through connecting.. growing.. eating.. local foods, we can help the body attain homeostasis more naturally. When we live in tune with earths rhythmic cycles, it supports our body.. mind.. soul.. to move fluidly with the ever changing seasons. This will help immensely with our digestion as well- in fact, our bodies will generally tell us what they want! This is why we crave lighter, fresher foods in the hot summers and denser, hearty, warming foods in the cold winter. When we feed our bodies what it nutritionally craves, our body won’t work as hard to process or digest what it is being fed.

Again, it is also the best way to get the optimal nutritional benefits from your food as they have been grown locally and organically to its climate as opposed to being forced to grow in an unnatural season or warehouse.

For those of you that grow on Vancouver Island, our growing zone is generally zone 8 and 9. Learn more about growing zones here. But here is quick overview of a few root vegetables that are available on the island year round:

        • Beets
        • Carrots
        • Ginger
        • Jicama
        • Kohlrabi
        • Leeks
        • Parsnip
        • Radishes
        • Rutabaga
        • Scallions
        • Turnips
        • Potential for some leftover or early: Celeriac, Garlic, Onions and Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes.
        • Artichokes
        • Celeriac
        • Garlic
        • Onions
        • 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/tallow, avocado oil, olive oil, broth or quality fat foods) to help reduce 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.

My quick and easy go-to recipe:

    • Ingredients:1 – 2 cups Root Veggies (yams, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, potatoes..) diced in sm-med chunks (like hash browns) or long strips (like french fries)
      • 1 – 2 tbsp fat/oil (melted grass-fed butter or virgin coconut/olive/avocado works well)
      • 1 – 2 tbsp flavour (I just use salt and pepper but sometimes spice it up by adding cayenne/cinnamon or fresh herbs like rosemary
    • Directions:Preheat oven to 415. Toss ingredients in a bowl and lay evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 min, stir and roast for another 15. OR lightly boil until semi-soft and then pan fry for 10min over medium heat.
    • Get Creative: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!

For more inspiration, check out my seasonal recipes here:




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With love,
Heidi MacAulay, R.H.N.
“Eat more plants. Do more yoga. Read more books.”
Learn more about me, my credentials or how to work with me here!

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