What Are the Health Benefits of Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables are grown underground and include onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, and beets, among others. They offer a variety of flavors and can be prepared in many ways. They're also dense in essential nutrients and come with a number of health benefits.

What Are Root Vegetables?

Root vegetables are starchy veggies that grow underneath the soil. The starchy part, called the storage organ, grows underground while other parts of the plant grow through the soil and to the surface. The storage organ provides the rest of the plant with the nutrients it needs to keep growing.

While the peak season for most root vegetables is spring through fall, they're available all year long. 

Examples of Root Vegetables

There are many kinds of root vegetables, some of which you're probably familiar with.

Bulbs. These root vegetables have a large bulb where nutrients are stored. Some examples of bulb vegetables include:

  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Shallots
  • Garlic

Corms. Corms have short, thick stems. Some examples of corms include:

  • Celery root
  • Water chestnut
  • Taro 

Tubers. Tubers grow underground horizontally. They include:

Root crops. These are starchy vegetables with roots, such as:

  • Beets
  • Parsnips
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas 
  • Carrots 
  • Jicama
  • Maca 

Nutrients in Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are packed with fiber and antioxidants, and low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Root vegetables are also excellent sources of carotenoids. These are naturally occurring pigments that may decrease the risk of certain cancers and help protect your eyes.

Root vegetables with carotenoids are brightly colored, including:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Rutabagas
  • Turnips 

Experts say it’s best to eat a variety of colors of vegetables. Different colors signal different nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. In general, root vegetables are e good sources of:

  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins A, B, and C
  • Manganese 

Health Benefits of Root Vegetables

Some popular root vegetables are especially rich in certain essential nutrients.

Carrots. Carrots have high levels of beta carotene, a carotenoid. Inside the body, beta carotene is turned into vitamin A. In addition to helping your eyes, vitamin A supports a healthy immune system.

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Beets. Beets have high levels of betaine, an antioxidant that has heart benefits. They contain nitrates, which support better circulation and help lower blood pressure. Beets are also good sources of:

  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Folates
  • B vitamins

Beets have the most sugar of any vegetable, but they're still low in calories.

Potatoes. Potatoes are one of the most popular root vegetables. A medium-sized baked potato has only 164 calories but provides you with 935 milligrams of potassium. That’s twice the amount of potassium found in a banana. Potatoes are also good sources of vitamin C and B6.

Turnips. Turnips are high in vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system and helps fight off infections. They're also rich in fiber, which can aid in digestion, and are good sources of:

  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Copper 

Sweet potatoes. A medium-sized sweet potato only has 103 calories and 1,096 micrograms of vitamin A. One sweet potato is enough to meet your daily requirement of vitamin A.

Cons of Root Vegetables

Root vegetables are starches. That means they’re rich in carbs that your body turns into glucose, a type of sugar, to use for energy. Your body needs carbs. But if you eat more than your body burns, they'll be stored as fat.

Think of them as you would grains like rice or pasta. Control your portion size. Think of a serving as about the size of your fist.

Eating large servings of root vegetables or other carbs in one sitting can cause your blood sugar to spike. Repeated blood sugar spikes may increase your risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, sugar spikes can make it difficult to manage.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Arizona Farm Bureau: “Getting to the Root of Root Vegetables.”

CUESA: “Get Rooted: A Farmers Market Guide to Root Vegetables.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “The pros and cons of root vegetables.”

National Foundation for Cancer Research: “Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month: Getting These Superfoods on Your Plate.”

Penn State Extension: “Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes and Tubers.”

Piedmont Master Gardeners: Root Vegetables: Underground Culinary Treasures.”

Swedish Hospital: “Rooting for root veggies.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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