Written by UConn Dietetics student Joseph Oliva
What are Root Vegetables?
Root vegetables are vegetables that grow underground and serve as the base for the plant. Some other common names for root vegetables include bulbs, roots, and tubers. While they are called “roots”, this does not imply that they are actual roots, but instead, they are growths of a plant that serve to store nutrients for plants during cold winter months. Since these roots can store nutrients, they become large and are packed with vitamins and minerals. Root vegetables are available year-round; however, their peak season is in between fall and spring. In other words, winter is when you can get your hands on the freshest root vegetables!1
Root Vegetables and Health
Some root vegetables you may know are carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, beetroots, turnips, parsnips, and ginger.2 They are great sources of fiber (for a healthy GI tract!) and antioxidants which keep our body cells healthy. Some common nutrients found in root vegetables include potassium, iron, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, B, and C.
Root vegetables are starchy foods. This means that they are packed with carbohydrates. Consuming large number of starchy foods in one sitting can cause blood sugar to rise and give you more calories than your body requires, leading to weight gain. It is important to eat root vegetables in moderation, like any food you eat.
How Can I Prepare and Enjoy Root Vegetables?
Root vegetables can be enjoyed in many different ways! They should always be washed. They can be eaten raw and will provide an earthy taste and crunchy texture to your snack or meal. They can be steamed or boiled which is perfect for mashing or pureeing. Roasting root vegetables brings out their natural sweetness, flavor, and texture. Dicing and sautéing a root vegetable is a quick and easy way to prepare for lunch or dinner. Grilling root vegetables (many cook very well in tinfoil packets on a hot grill) is another easy way to prepare.
How to Choose Root Vegetables in the Store
When going to the grocery store or food market, make sure you’re getting high quality and safe foods. When selecting root vegetables, make sure they are smooth and free of gashes or bruises or mold. Some root vegetables, such as beets and turnips, come with a leafy green part of the vegetable (the ones that grow out of the ground!). Make sure these leafy parts are bright and firm; they are edible (especially beet greens, radish greens, carrot tops and turnip greens! They can be sauteed or chopped and added to salads for a wonderful additional flavor). Be sure to stay clear of potatoes, onions and garlic bulbs already sprouting.
This material is funded by UDSA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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