WHEN IT COMES TO REPLACING GRAINS IN YOUR DIET WITH ROOT VEGETABLES, there are many benefits. First off, all root vegetables are naturally gluten-free, unlike many grains. Root vegetables are truly natural, unadulterated sources of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and important nutrients. Plus, they tend to be lower in calories, have a lower glycemic index load, and cause less digestive or inflammatory issues than many grains do. While their exact nutrition content differs between various types, most root veggies have about three or more grams of fiber. This makes them a nutrient-dense choice and a preferred way to add starch and sweetness to your diet naturally.
These are probably most people’s top pick for a tasty root vegetable that has so many uses. Sweet potato benefits include a very high supply of vitamin A (they’re one of the best sources on Earth), potassium, vitamin B5 and vitamin C — in addition to fiber and slow-absorbing starch. Even though they’re called “sweet,” they’re actually lower on the glycemic index than regular white potatoes and help stabilize blood sugar better.
What’s the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes are lower in calories and higher in antioxidants, but yams contain higher levels of potassium. They have a similar taste and texture, so both make great choices.
Carrots are one of the most popular veggies worldwide and can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Carrots and carrot juice get their signature orange color from antioxidants called carotenoids, which are known for protecting the eyes and skin. They also supply lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants. In addition to high levels of vitamin A, carrots also provide a good dose of vitamins C, D, E and K — plus magnesium, potassium and calcium.
As a member of the same plant family as carrots, parsley and celery, parsnips have a lot of the same benefits of celery, carrots and parsley. They’re a great source of dietary fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin C. About 1/2 cup of cooked parsnips provides three grams of dietary fiber, about 12 percent of the fiber you need daily. A high percentage of parsnips’ fiber is soluble, which is linked to a decreased risk of diabetes and high blood cholesterol. This same size serving also provides about 11 percent of your daily folate, which is important for energy, metabolism, nervous system health, synthesis of DNA and red blood cells formation.
Beet benefits are plentiful. Some evidence shows that beets can enhance your endurance during athletic performance and help you recover from exercise better. Beets naturally contain nitrates, which the body easily uses for muscle recovery, improved circulation, lower inflammation and increased physical performance.
Studies show that supplementing with the type of nitrates found in beets allows athletes to shave minutes off of their race times and experience less bodily stress from the exercise. Beets also naturally alkalize and detoxify the body, support hormonal health, and provide high levels of phytonutrients called betalains.
Turnips are a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, so they’re related to cancer-fighting veggies like broccoli, collard greens, cabbage, kale and brussels sprouts. Like other cruciferous foods, turnips and turnip greens nutrition contain a type of phytonutrients called indoles that are known to reduce your risk for cancer, especially of the prostate, lungs, stomach and colon. High in calcium, magnesium and potassium, they’re also a heart-healthy food that supports balanced blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Rutabagas are essentially a cross between cabbage and turnips, so they provide many of the same benefits. They’re high in fiber and a great source of vitamin C, with about 47 percent of your recommend daily intake. Additionally, they’re a high source of zinc, which plays a role in immune health, brain function, mood regulation, metabolism and protection from physiological stress, and help fight zinc deficiency. With a similar taste to turnips and white potatoes, they come out great when roasted and caramelized.
With a high supply of beta-carotene, butternut squash not only tastes great, but it’s a cancer defender and immune system booster. Generally speaking, the darker the orange hue of vegetables, the higher the content of beta-carotene.Like other carotenoids, beta-carotene can help turn up communication between cells that destroy cancerous tumor growth and promote lower levels of toxicity. Butternut squash tastes great roasted but can also work in baked goods to take place of sugar or excess butter and dairy.
Just like closely related butternut squash, winter squash provides protective antioxidants, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin. These are considered essential for eye health and preserving vision into old age since they protect the cornea, macula and retina from damage.
Winter and butternut squashes both have high starch contents, which means they contain polysaccharides found in their cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins and other starch-related components that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties.