Root Vegetable Roundup: Five to TryBy: Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN
Exploring nontraditional root vegetables is a great way to explore new foods. They can easily replace or compliment other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions. Parsnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, jicama and daikon may be lesser known, but are easy to add to meals and dense in important nutrients. Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb vital minerals and vitamins from the soil. They also offer antioxidants and fiber, making them heart-health heroes. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of five unusual root vegetables and how to get creative with them in the kitchen.
Parsnips look like white carrots and can generally be used in the same ways. They have a sweet taste and pack a huge nutritional punch. Parsnips are high in fiber, providing over 6 grams per cup. The benefits of eating high-fiber foods are well known, including maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and promoting healthy digestion and weight. Parsnips are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.
How to use parsnips: Try mashing, baking or roasting parsnips like these Roasted Parsnips with Thyme. They’re also an easy, delicious addition to soups and stews.
Think of a rutabaga as a cross between a turnip and cabbage. High in antioxidants, fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E, the rugged rutabaga can defend your body against harmful molecules that promote cancer and chronic disease. Vitamin E promotes healthy cells and is important for brain and skin health. Potassium is an essential mineral that promotes muscle health, nerve function, fluid balance and blood pressure.
How to use rutabaga: Make sure to peel rutabagas before cooking. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Try using them in place of potatoes: grated, mashed, roasted or as fries.
Kohlrabi is related to cabbage and is similar in taste and texture. It is often mistaken as a root vegetable (so we’re including it here!), but kohlrabi actually belongs to the Brassica genus of plants and is related to cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Its taste and texture are similar to those of broccoli stems and cabbage, although sweeter. Its leaves, stems and bulbs are all edible. Low in calories and high in fiber, it’s a nutrition superstar! This unique vegetable boasts high amounts of vitamin C to support immune health and increase iron absorption.
How to use kohlrabi: Use kohlrabi leaves in salads and soups or sauté in a stir fry. Make a kohlrabi and lemon warm slaw. Chop or grate the bulb to add crunch to many dishes.
Jicama is also known as “Mexican potato” and has a taste similar to a water chestnut. Like other root vegetables, jicama has an impressive nutrient profile, which includes vitamins C and E and plenty of fiber. Jicama’s combination of nutrients is beneficial for heart health, digestion and weight control.
How to use jicama: Eat it raw or cooked after removing the peel. Try jicama sticks as an alternative to carrot sticks for dipping in hummus or in a zesty slaw.
Daikon is a variety of winter radish with a crunchy texture and a milder flavor than spring radishes. Daikon radishes can be found in a variety of colors and shapes; you may be familiar with the green skin and pink flesh of watermelon radishes. Daikon radishes are high in vitamin C, fiber and folate. Folate is a B vitamin that helps make blood cells and is especially important during pregnancy to ensure healthy development of the baby.
How to use daikon: Eat daikon raw, cooked or pickle it for a refreshing crunch! Try it roasted, in stir fry dishes, in curries or as an addition to soups and stews.
Adding these unusual vegetables to your weekly shopping trip can help you get out of a recipe rut and offer benefits for your health! For more information on root vegetables or other nutrition topics, make a telenutrition appointment with one of our Kroger dietitians.
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