Nutrition Information about Root Vegetables
By Sharon Denny, MS, RD
Root vegetables include tuberous roots and taproots, but not tubers, rhizomes, corms or bulbs. Yet this seemingly small category of vegetable offers a whole lot of variety. Low in fat and calories, many roots serve as good sources of fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and may help prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fiber can also help control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes and aid in weight management due to increased satiety.
Other root vegetables like jicama and rutabaga are high in Vitamin C, which aids in the absorption of iron and helps keep connective tissue and gums healthy. Beets, parsnips and rutabagas are particularly good sources of folate, which aids in producing DNA and RNA and lowers the risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects. Carrots are also excellent sources of vitamin A from beta carotene (which is absorbed better when vegetables are cooked).
Many root vegetables (especially parsnips, celeriac and rutabagas) contain potassium, which blunts the effect of salt on blood pressure and may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and possibly bone loss. Radishes, rutabagas and turnips hail from the cancer-fighting cruciferous family and contain phytonutrients such as sulphoraphane and dithioithiones that bolster antioxidant defenses in cells and contribute to a healthy immune system.
Cooking Root Vegetables
by Jill Nussinow, MS, RD
Root vegetables are like Rodney Dangerfield; Most aren’t beautiful and they don’t get much respect. But with flavors ranging from sweet to sulfurous, and colors from white to bright pink to orange to deep red, these winter mainstays are pleasing to both the plate and the palette. Most people can identify carrots, beets, radishes, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, but the lesser-known roots include celeriac (celery root), parsley root, burdock root (gobo), salsify (oyster plant), jicama, daikon and watermelon radish.
Choose young, fresh roots that are firm, never withered or shriveled. While size is not always a good indicator of tenderness, larger roots usually are more fibrous. Remove the green tops immediately and refrigerate in a tightly closed plastic bag for up to four days (burdock); one week (celeriac, daikon, parsley root, radish), two weeks (carrots, jicama, parsnips, rutabaga, salsify) or up to three weeks (beets).
Carrots, radishes, daikon, beets, celery root and young turnips may all be eaten raw— perhaps shredded into a salad or sliced and served with a low-fat dip—but many root vegetables are best when cooked. They can be roasted, baked, steamed, pressure-cooked, sautéed, fried or pureed. Boil root veggies in a broth until tender and mash them with salt and pepper for an earthy side dish. Chop them into soups or stews for chunky texture. Or stir-fry to add sweet, peppery layers to Asian fare. A splash of citrus or vinegar nicely complements root vegetables, as do dried fruit or jams, which boost the earthy flavor of roots.
Using Root Vegetables in Food Service
by Jessica P. Hoffman, MS, RD, CD
The humble but hearty root vegetable is a delicious and affordable way to add earthy flavors and vibrant colors to any menu. While the more common root vegetables may be a good starting point to gauge customer acceptance, some of the lesser-known roots may present a curiosity factor they cannot resist.
Mild-flavored beets can be thinly sliced, dredged and fried for a new take on the chip. For an upscale breakfast dish, add finely diced rutabaga to a traditional vegetable hash and top with a poached egg. And peeled and sliced jicama or celeriac add great crunch and new flavors to a vegetable tray.
Because they are less vulnerable to harsh weather conditions, root vegetables are generally a dependable crop and easy to handle –making them as economical as they are healthy and convenient. Store fresh roots in cool, ventilated areas. While most root vegetables are available fresh from your produce supplier, the more common root vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and beets, are also available canned or frozen. Beet powder is a dehydrated version of the beet that can be sprinkled on a plate for added taste and visual interest. Experiment with a variety of root vegetables this winter to add flavor, color and nutrition to your menus without sacrificing your bottom line.