Nutrition Guide to Root Vegetables

root vegetables

Did you know that each part of a plant is edible? All plants have the same basic parts: roots, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit. Ever think about which part of the plant you are eating when munching on your fruits and veggies? Asparagus is a stem, spinach is a leaf, broccoli is a flower, and a cucumber is a fruit. But what are some examples of root vegetables?

What Are Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables grow underground at the base of a plant. There are several different types of root veggies as well. Some absorb water and other nutrients while others store those nutrients to feed the plant during colder months.

  • Bulbs: fennel and onion
  • Corms: celery root and water chestnuts
  • Rhizomes: ginger and turmeric
  • Tap Roots: beets, carrots and parsnips
  • Tuberous Roots: sweet potatoes and yucca
  • Tubers: potatoes and yams

Why Should We Eat Them?

Root vegetables are relatively low in calories, high in antioxidants, and contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. For example, one cup of raw carrots and the skin of a baked sweet potato both contain enough vitamin A to satisfy your daily recommended intake for the day. One cup of mashed turnips contains half the calories, no fat, and the same amount of calcium as half of a slice of cheddar cheese. Eat a whole baked russet potato with the skin on for less than 200 calories and more than twice the amount of potassium as a banana.

Moderation is Key

While root vegetables contain many important nutrients, they are also higher in their starch content. Starch is a kind of carbohydrate that the body will break down into sugar to use as energy. When you eat an excess amount of carbs above what your body needs, they will get stored as fat, which may lead to weight gain. Too many carbs in one sitting can also spike your blood sugar. Do this continuously and it may put you at an increased risk for diabetes.

Be aware of your root vegetable intake and use moderation to avoid overindulgence. Consuming one or two servings of root vegetables per day should be sufficient for most people. You should also be careful of how you prepare your root veggies. Many times a baked potato is topped with butter, sour cream and bacon bits. These additional ingredients add fat and calories and do little in terms of nutritional value.

How to Enjoy Them

Eating a variety of root vegetables will provide some of the vitamins and minerals necessary for our bodies. Use them more as a side dish or in place of other starchy items. Spread the wealth as well! Do not just stick with the same root veggie over and over. Get a wider selection of nutrients and flavors by exploring different kinds of root veggies. Preparation techniques may help keep the taste buds guessing too. Try them boiled, mashed, baked, roasted with olive oil, or added to soups and casseroles. They are denser and can hold up to heavier flavors so use your imagination!

Have additional questions about root vegetables or any other types of foods? Meet one-on-one with one of our nutrition coaches for a FREE consultation!

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Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD

Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

 

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