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Published on September 04, 2017

carrots, beets, rutabaga, celery root

Get to the Root of Nutritious, Flavorful Vegetables

You certainly know the common ones like carrots and radishes. But the earthy, hard-to-describe flavor of lesser-discovered root vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga and celeriac, as well as the powerful nutritional punch they offer, makes them worth trying this late summer and autumn.

“They’re really delicious and it gets you out of the boring rut of corn, carrots – all the popular vegetables,” said Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center Chef Troy Baum. “They seem foreign to most folks, but they are packed with good minerals and nutrients, and they aren’t that hard to prepare. They offer these amazing flavors and I recommend getting them as fresh and as intact as possible, so you can use their green leaves as well as the root itself.”

There’s a rich realm of root vegetables (see list below) and Baum said he’ll scrub them clean and then work them into a variety of dishes that already are commonplace on your table. You probably already enjoy peppers and onions on pizza now and then – here’s a chance to get creative.

“Getting them whole at a farmers market gives you the entire vegetable’s flavor to work with and with them intact, you can be more of a showboat with the plate presentation,” Baum said. “But you can also get the processed bags of radishes, turnips and others. I really like to clean them up and roast them, a little olive oil or butter and salt and pepper and you’re all set. Or have them on pizza. They add so much variety.”

If radish pizza sounds a bit too far afield for your family, you can sub-in root veggies with other dishes, too. Slice them, oil them and add them to the grill first, and then incorporate them into a lasagna-like baked casserole or boil them so they get soft and work them into a meal in the place of mashed potatoes.

“You can even make them the centerpiece of a meal – or add them in a 50/50 mix with potatoes so they don’t overwhelm anyone,” the chef said. “I’ve tried beet hummus and it’s a colorful way to approach that dish that everyone’s starting to eat more of. The beets give it a nice earthy taste. I’ve done a nice shepherd’s pie with a root vegetable medley – instead of the mashed potatoes.”

With their versatility and unique flavors, especially now that the summer growing season is winding down, Baum said it’s a great opportunity to try something new. Sometimes the only barrier between a new food love and you is your own fright.

“Don’t be scared of these tasty, sometimes crazy-looking vegetables – they can go great in anything from a breakfast omelet to your main dish,” he said. “There’s so many of them, when you start trying them out, you’ll find some flavors you like.”

List of Root Vegetables with Taste Profile and Nutrition

Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Sweet potato benefits include a very high supply of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin B5 and vitamin C. Sweets are also a great source of 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.

Sweet potatoes are lower in calories and higher in antioxidants, but yams contain higher levels of potassium.

Red, Yellow, Purple or Orange Carrots

Carrots supply lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants. In addition to high levels of vitamin A, carrots also provide 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. 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.


Beets ARE AWESOME! Beets naturally contain nitrates, which the body easily uses for muscle recovery, improved circulation, lower inflammation and increased physical performance.

Beets also naturally alkalize and detoxify the body and provide high levels of phytonutrients called betalains.

Turnips (use the greens people!)

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. 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.. With a similar taste to turnips and white potatoes, they come out great when roasted and caramelized. No harm in whipping these with potatoes for a tasty mashed option!


Fennel is a celery-like winter vegetable with an interesting licorice-like flavor. Although the taste may take some getting used to at first, fennel provides an enormous amount of health benefits. Fennel is a great topping for pizza, sandwiches and salads. Grill it a little to add another layer of flavor.


Jicama (hee-cama) is made up of 86 percent to 90 percent water, so it’s naturally low in calories, natural sugars and starch, and therefore it has a low score on the glycemic index. It’s also a good source of immune system-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

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