The term root vegetable describes all the vegetables we eat whose edible part is the root. The best known of these in the Western diet is probably the potato, but common root vegetables include carrot, turnip, swede, onion, and garlic.
In culinary terms (at least in Western cookery) you could say that root vegetables are the basis of most stews and casseroles and give a feeling of warmth and comfort during the colder winter months of the year.
But there are many health benefits to eating all vegetables, and root vegetables are no exception.
THE HUMBLE POTATO
The poor potato comes in for a great deal of stick from those who are seeking to lose weight. It is true that overeating just about anything, potatoes included, can lead to obesity. But remember that potatoes do not have to be eaten in the form of fat-laden crisps or chips (chips or fries to those of you in North America) and that mashed potato need not contain bucketfuls of cream and spoonfuls of butter or margarine.
Eaten in moderation, potato, with its vitamin C content is good for the digestion and particularly beneficial to people with internal inflammation of the digestive system or intestines. The potato can also have its use in reducing high blood pressure due to the presence of vitamin B, though people with high blood pressure caused by diabetes should avoid potato, as it could also upset the body’s insulin balance.
THE SUPER CARROT
Our grandmothers’ wisdom told us that eating carrots could help us to see in the dark. That may have been an over-simplification, but the presence of beta-carotene, as well as a substance called lutein, can slow down the aging process for our eyes as well as protecting against cataracts.
But let’s not stop there…
The presence of vitamin K in carrots helps combat osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) and scientists at Harvard University discovered that the potassium content in carrots was an aid to lowering blood pressure and thus helping protect against heart disease and the risk of stroke.
ONION AND GARLIC
Onion and garlic can help in lowering cholesterol levels, lowering high blood pressure and protecting against certain types of cancer (particularly of the stomach in the case of garlic).
Some less common root vegetables with positive health implications are:
Sweet Potatoes, whose carotene content gives the same benefits as carrots and which supply starch and fiber to help you feel full without being as fattening as normal potatoes.
Eddoes, an alternative to potato or sweet potato with a unique flavor. The eddo (otherwise known as Taro Root) is grown in South America and China and is rich in vitamins A and C. It is good for the digestion and some claim that it produces fewer dental problems than other starchy foods.
There are many others you can try too, such as turnips, yucca (cassava), Jerusalem artichoke, yams, beets, or radishes.
Enjoy your root vegetables as part of your healthy five a day and stay healthy!
If you’re looking for delicious recipes containing root vegetables, try…
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Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.