Today we are going to cook up some roots – which I think are some of the most under-appreciated plant foods out there. Other veggies, like cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and even brussels sprouts have had their day in the sun, but roots, like turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, even carrots and some types of potatoes just don’t get the attention they deserve! When you know what varieties to look for, roots truly are some of nature’s most nutrient-packed, economical, delicious, and versatile foods.
So here are some of the most nutritious, fabulously delicious, and sometimes strangest-looking roots that you can find in supermarkets around town and at the Prescott Farmers Market, especially in the winter.
Beets – relatively low-calorie (58 cal per cup), high in fiber, packed with folate, an important B vitamin, relatively low in carbohydrates and shown to lower blood pressure and increase oxygen delivery throughout the body.
Turnips –really low calorie (36 cal per cup), very low in carbs, and packed with vitamin C.
Pink, purple or red-skinned potatoes – Potatoes get a lot of bad press, not all of it completely undeserved, but there are actually some really nutritious potatoes out there. Purple, red, or even red-skinned spuds have more phyto-nutrients and less sugar than your basic Russet or Idaho potato and most people with diabetes find these types of potatoes do not raise blood sugar levels like a Russet does. And – here’s a cool tip for you – any kind of potato that is cooked, and then chilled or even cooled to room temperature, will raise blood sugar levels a lot less than one eaten hot out of the oven.
Carrots – If you have diabetes, you’ve probably been told not to eat carrots, along with other root vegetables. However, the carbohydrate in carrots is actually quite low and although some of that carbohydrate is in a sugar-like form, for many people, carrots don’t raise blood sugar levels enough to worry about. Your basic orange carrot is really packed with fiber and vitamin A and a host of phytonutrients, but more colorful carrots, like purple/orange or purple/yellow have even more to offer. Look for these at the farmers market. And save the tops! We’ll be making some pesto from these guys later.
Sweet potatoes – the sweet potatoes and yams we buy in this country are all technically sweet potatoes – they all come from the same plant family, the morning glory family. The darker the color, the more nutrients there are, although all sweet potatoes are good sources of fiber, B vitamins, and calcium!
And I have saved my favorites for last – the underdogs of roots! Parsnips, rutabagas and celery root!
Parsnips – Parsnips have been around since Roman times and they used to be a major crop in Colonial America, until the potato took over as the primary starchy veggie in our diets. They have a unique flavor that is somewhat carrot-like and sweet and are perfect for roasting. Parsnips are also a great source of that important B vitamin, folate, fiber and vitamin C.
Rutabagas! These look like turnips, but have a creamy color to them. If you want a good substitute for potatoes, these are your guys. They contain half the calories and carbohydrate, 4 times the fiber, and much more calcium, vitamin C, and B vitamins than any kind of spud.
Celery root is just what it sounds like – it’s the root of the celery plant. It is used very often in Europe and Scandinavia, and is well known in French cuisine, but we don’t use much of this nutrient-packed root here. When I buy celery root in the supermarket, someone almost always asks me what it is and how it is used. Celery root is really nutritious – it contains a ton of fiber, magnesium, fiber, vitamin C, and even iron. It is also one of the lowest-calorie roots, with only 42 calories per cup and can also be used like a potato.
These are just some of the roots you’ll find in the local and farmers markets.
So remember, roots can be a satisfying and nutritious part of your diet. If you know what to look for and buy, root vegetables can be a healthy source of carbohydrate, fiber and those vitally important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. In fact, I’ve often helped people lose weight and lower blood sugar levels by adding healthy root-based carbohydrates to their diet while cutting out some or all of their grain- and flour-based high-carbohydrate foods.
We’ll be creating lots of delicious dishes with roots in future videos. For now, look for the link below for our Roasted Root Soup recipe.
See you next time!
Download the Roasted Root Soup Recipe: roasted-root-soup.pdf