Nutrition Notes from Nancy Howse, Bowen Road Nutrition Manager
In my heart I’m a summer girl, but in my stomach, it’s all about the fall food! I absolutely adore root vegetables, and always have. As soon as September rolls around, all I want to eat are root vegetables. I crave soups, stews, and roasted veggies all day long. I’d call myself the soup queen, but I bet plenty would argue they were, too!
There is a ‘rhizome’ family of roots that I include in the root vegetable family. They are pretty famous on their own. Ginger and turmeric being the most well-known. I use ginger in my soups and stews every time. I love to ramp up the heat in those dishes. I’ve taken to Peruvian ginger as I find this one spicier and hotter than the Chinese ginger. If you like milder, stick with the Chinese ginger.
Tubers like yams, Jerusalem artichoke, and potatoes are versatile and so good for you! I actually have been using a Jerusalem artichoke supplement (from A. Vogel) for years for digestive health. It is very gentle but powerful in promoting proper bile function in the digestive process. Bile breaks down fats into fatty acids which can be taken into the body to be used by our cells and help utilize nutrients. Just picture your juicy, healthy, happy cells giving you energy when you metabolize your nutrients!
The term ‘root vegetable’ is applied to all types of underground plant parts eaten by humans. Rhizomes like turmeric and ginger are mainly used as spices (by me). They are considered ‘non root’ but applied in cooking as root vegetables. True root vegetables more popularly recognized and used are turnip, rutabagas, beets, and carrots.
Tuberous roots like sweet potato and yam have become mainstream in todays’ fall inspired dishes.
Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots are members of the Allium family. They love to mix in with our root vegetable dishes and improve flavour and nutrition.
Root vegetables lower the glycemic index to improve digestive and inflammatory issues.
Nutrient dense, they can be stored well in a cool, dark environment. Root veggies are actually ‘storage organs’ for plants! Makes sense.
Raw, juiced, or cooked, carrots supply carotenoids known for protecting the eyes and skin, also contain lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, plus a dose of C, D, E, and K, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Turnips, a member of the cruciferous family, contain phytonutrients called indoles that are known to reduce your risk for certain cancers. Rutabagas are surprising in the fact that they are a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. They are a high source of zinc. Let’s not forget butternut squash for soup, stew, or roasted with the rest of them.
I have to give a shout out to beets! Beets are impressive for helping to lower blood pressure, detoxifying liver enzymes, combatting physical fatigue, and reducing lactic acid production from exercise. They are a source of potassium and electrolytes, and promote recuperation from physical activity. They are a good source of folate and betaine that together can help lower blood levels of homocysteine which can be a factor in damaging inflammation leading to heart disease.
Dietary nitrates in beets can convert to nitric oxide. This is a vital molecule that helps dilate blood vessels to promote proper blood flow that improves athletic performance and leads to better brain function. Beets help increase friendly bacteria in the colon, strengthen the immune system, and prevent metabolic disorders. Salus produces a great beet crystal product that you add to water. If you want to consider adding beets as a supplement, it’s a tasty and convenient way to accomplish this.
I don’t know how to end an article on root vegetables, I love them so much. I remember being a toddler in a high chair at my Nan’s house for Sunday dinner and getting mashed turnip. There was never enough on my plate as a kid of that stuff. Anyway, now I’m starving, so after this, I go home to roast some veggies! I’m going to roast them in the oven with lots of grass fed butter and a bit of olive oil. Nobody, not even Dave Asprey, loves butter more than me; but that is for another article …. Ta!