What are Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables, also known as edible roots, are the underground plant parts that are eaten as food. They are technically not true roots. Botanically, they are non-roots and fall under the categories of tubers, bulbs, corms, and rhizomes. They act as storage centers that store nutrients to feed and nourish the plant in colder weather. Edible roots have been a part of our diet for millions of years when agriculture systems were absent. Our ancestors learned to dig for these vegetables and later store and protect them. Ever since they were found to be resistant to cold weather and having a delicious taste, were adapted into most of the cuisines around the world.

Which are some common root vegetables?

Here is the root vegetable list including vegetables that are commonly consumed around the world:

  • Rutabaga
  • Potatoes
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Salsify
  • Onions
  • Taro Root
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Fennel
  • Turnips
  • Beetroots
  • Parsnips
  • Taro roots
  • Celeriac
  • Carrots

How are Root Vegetables Eaten?

Edible roots are eaten in a variety of ways. They are boiled, baked, mashed or you can have roasted root vegetables. Besides these conventional methods, there are other creative ways of savoring these. You can braise, barbecue, and sear them and pair them with interesting flavors such as yogurt, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. They make delicious sandwiches, curries, salads, breakfast bowls, and much more.

What is the Nutritive Value of Root Vegetables?

Edible roots are powerhouses of not just nutrients, but also antioxidants, minerals, and plant-based chemicals. This is because they grow underground and absorb a great amount of these nutrients from the soil. Here is what their nutritive value looks like:

  • Vitamins like A, B6, C, K
  • Minerals such as potassium and manganese
  • Prebiotic plant fibres
  • Plant chemicals such as glucoraphanin, glucosinolates, and polyphenols
  • Folate
  • Soluble and insoluble fibers

What are the Benefits of Root Vegetables?

Edible roots are packed with so many health benefits that make them an essential part of our diet, despite their earthy and even bitter taste at times. They benefit not just our minds but also our bodies and help prevent scores of deficiencies and disorders. Here are some great reasons to load up on all those rutabagas, beetroots, celeriac, turnips, salsify, potatoes, and taro roots as each one of them have their distinct set of nutrients and health benefits:

  • Edible roots such as celeriac are rich in dietary fibers that get fermented in your colon. This helps in improving your glucose metabolism and is especially beneficial for people suffering from diabetes. This reduces sensitivity to insulin and insulin receptors and manages your blood sugar levels, which in turn helps in managing diabetes and its effects better.
  • Since they have high fiber content, they help in keeping you satiated for longer. This helps in avoiding the need to overeat and leads to weight loss. This, in turn, prevents several obesity-related problems like hypertension, diabetes, etc.
  • Their high fiber content also helps protect against conditions such as colon cancer.
  • They keep your eyes healthy and prevent age-related eye diseases.
  • The antioxidants in root vegetables such as rutabaga help neutralize harmful free radicals in your body and prevent damages caused by oxidation. This prevents heart diseases and certain types of cancers.
  • Root vegetables such as onions are rich in vitamin C. They prevent an iron deficiency that leads to anemia, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
  • They boost your immunity and prevent seasonal infections. Not just this, they also help you recover faster from bacterial and viral infections.
  • Root vegetables like celeriac are Rich in vitamin K, they regulate your blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart and hypertension.
  • Root vegetables such as ginger helps in fighting nausea and morning sickness, and are especially helpful for pregnant women. It also reduces cramps and discomfort during menstruation.
  • They are great for people with osteoarthritis as they reduce and prevent joint pain, stiffness, and inflammations.
  • Edible roots like potatoes increase the production of gut-friendly bacteria. This helps in reducing the occurrence of digestive disorders like constipation, diarrhea, changes in bowel movements, bloat, flatulence, etc.
  • Nitrate in these root vegetables helps in lowering blood pressure, dilating blood vessels, and improving your heart health. This lowers the risk of heart attacks and other health issues related to your cardiovascular system.
  • These vegetables improve your blood circulation. This in turn supports the optimum functioning of your organs. Not just this, when blood circulation to your brain improves, it helps in boosting your cognitive abilities. This lowers your risk of conditions such as premature memory loss, lack of concentration, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, etc.
  • Edible roots like radishes contain natural anti-fungal properties. This helps in preventing fungal infections of the skin, ears, and hair.

Are there any Side Effects of Root Vegetables?

Edible roots, when over-consumed, may have some side effects. These include:

  • Most of the root vegetables are high on starch. This is a carbohydrate that the body breaks down into glucose to produce energy for functioning. If you over-consume starch regularly, it gets stored as fats, which leads to weight gain in the long run.
  • Excess weight due to regular consumption of carbohydrates may cause serious conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, gallbladder diseases, and heart problems.
  • Excess starch in edible roots leads to spikes in blood sugar. This increases your chances of developing diabetes. In case you already have diabetes, this may make managing it difficult.

The key lies in moderation and choosing the root vegetables that contain fewer carbs. For example, you can choose carrots and onions over potatoes. Another way to manage these side effects is to pay attention to how the vegetables are being prepared. For example, instead of frying an aloo tikki, you can opt for a baked beetroot tikki. And, instead of coupling root vegetables with butter and heavy cream, opt for lighter recipes such as Vietnamese Veg Salad and Vegetable Salad with Nut.

Which are some of the Best Root Vegetable Recipes?

Here is a list of some of the most innovative, healthiest, and most delicious root vegetable list of recipes. What's more, they are super easy to try too.

  • Sweet potato gulab jamun: This recipe does away with the high-calorie and unhealthy maida and gives you super soft and yummy gulaab jamuns.
  • Carrot and oats whole wheat bread: Instead of the regular bread that's high in carbohydrates, try this amazing low-calorie bread. It is made with a healthy combination of carrots, whole wheat flour, and oats. This bread is sweetened using honey or jaggery instead of white sugar.
  • Salsify tikkis: How about some tikkis that are loaded with proteins, iron, and potassium? Salsify tikkis are savory, spicy, and are the perfect replacement for all the high-calorie foods that you have been having.
  • Turnip and zucchini soup: Made with zucchini, turnips, and spinach, this is a hearty soup that's pretty delicious and filling. It makes for a great wintertime appetizer.
  • Root vegetable juice: In case you are bored of eating roasted root vegetables, you can also juice them up. They make for a perfectly healthy and filling between-the-meal snack. You can combine vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and celery. Or try the all-time-favorite beetroot and carrot juice, a delicious wintertime treat.

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