Root vegetables are comfort foods from nature that we get to enjoy every fall, but they're also nutritional powerhouses. Here are the best nutrient-filled root veggies to add to your table, and the healthiest ways to cook them.
These jewel-toned bulbs are a marvellous source of antioxidants. Though you might think beets are too sweet to be good for you (certain varieties are used in sugar production), the root as a whole vegetable is super healthy. Beets' dark purple pigments support your body's natural detox process and may help fight cancer. The vegetables also contain the nutrient betaine, which is known to combat inflammation, a factor connected to many chronic illnesses. For the healthiest beet dish, keep the skins on and don't overcook them. Healthy pigments are lost through cooking, so the longer you steam or roast beets, the fewer phytonutrients you'll end up with.
Orange vegetables are known to be great for your heart, and carrots are no exception. A study found that carrot consumption was related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. But that's not the carrot's only claim to fame. Its carotenoids, specifically beta-carotene and lutein, can help protect eyes to keep vision healthy later in life. Studies have also shown that carrots have promising effects on the prevention of colon cancer. While the orange variety have lots of benefits, switch it up once in a while to try red and purple carrots in order to benefit from different nutrients. When cooking carrots, try leaving the skin on, then steaming rather than boiling to avoid loss of nutrients.
These aren't your typical starchy root vegetables. Onions belong to the allium family, but they are roots too. Leeks and onions are potent with polyphenols. The vegetables are great for the heart, containing flavonoids that protect blood vessels and sulfur compounds that prevent clotting. They're also super anti-inflammatory, and packed with B vitamins like B6 and folate. Don't overpeel an onion. Some of the most concentrated nutrients occur in the outermost layers.
This knobby root might look intimidating, but it's worth it to get below the dirty, bumpy exterior. Celeriac, a member of the celery family, has a low caloric density, weighing in at just over 60 calories a cup. But there is no shortage of nutrients, including cancer-fighting antioxidants and bone-building vitamin K. Celeriac is a lower-calorie alternative to potatoes. Try mixing it half-and-half with your mashed potatoes—no one will ever know.
Sweet potatoes pack in a lot more nutrients than regular potatoes. They're brimming with vitamin A—more than the recommended daily value in half a cup. But that's not the only antioxidant you'll find in these. Sweet potatoes are also full of vitamin C and anthocyanins (particularly in purple sweet potatoes). They're also anti-inflammatory and, though they're sweet, they can actually help with blood sugar control. Skip the sugary toppings, but don't be afraid to add a little butter or oil when you bake or boil sweet potatoes. A small amount of fat will help you absorb all that vitamin A. And try using pureed cooked sweet potato in baking—such as muffins—the same way you would use pumpkin puree.
These peppery little vegetables are great for weight loss. With just 20 calories per cup, they add flavour and help fill you up without fattening you up! Full of vitamin C, fibre and potassium, as well as flavonoids called anthocyanins, they are great for your heart health. Radishes have long been used to help the body's natural detoxification process, aiding with the breakdown and removal of toxins (they also act as a diuretic, flushing out the kidneys). Enjoy radishes on salads, as crunchy crudités or roast them in the oven like potatoes.
Here's another vegetable that will let you feel like you're filling up on carbs without costing you too many calories. Turnip comes in at just over 30 calories a cup! Still, the root vegetable is surprisingly sweet, and you'll get plenty of vitamin C, fibre and potassium. Turnip contains phytonutrients called indoles, which may protect against colon cancer and even lung cancer, as well as glucosinolates, which may protect against prostate cancer. Turnip is typically roasted, but you can enjoy it many ways: thinly sliced turnip can be added to a slaw , it can go into soups or stews, or it can even be cubed and pickled.
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