Vegetables appeal to each of our senses. From the beautiful spectrum of colors to the delectable crunch of raw veggies...
But if you really want to be one with your vegetables, you should learn how to grow them yourself. Your backyard is a place where you can make and prepare delicious meals. A lot of people know to grow greens, tomatoes, and peppers. But I'm here to tell you, as you start digging into the earth, don't forget your roots!
Root vegetables have been highly praised as nutrient rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Why you may ask? It's simple -- because they grow underground they have the ability to absorb more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Keep in mind, the quality of the soil can impact the "nutrition" they get. That being said, here are all the health benefits "rooted" in root vegetables.
They may be white, but onions pack a nutritional punch. Like other white-hued produce (such as apples), they contain quercetin, an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They're also great for your heart: studies have linked their consumption with improved blood lipid profiles and reduced blood pressure.
Potatoes are villainized, but it's usually how they're prepared -- or what they're served with -- that gives them a bad rap. Potatoes are actually a great source of potassium as well as vitamin B6, a micronutrient that plays a role in cardiovascular and neurocognitive health.
Carrots -- a favorite of both kids and adults -- are a fantastic source of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. This nutrient boosts eye health, and plays an important role in supporting the immune system.
If you're an athlete, pick up some beets! In addition to fighting inflammation associated with post-workout soreness, they contain high levels of nitrates. These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, which improves blood vessel dilation -- allowing more (oxygen and nutrient-rich!) blood to get to your exhausted muscles sooner so that they can work harder.
You may not know this, but radishes also belong to the same family as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and horseradish. They are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family. With under 20 calories per cup, radishes are a great snack with hummus and work really nicely in a salad dish. A good source of folate, fiber, and other B vitamins, radishes like other cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients that protect against cancer. They can also aid in digestion and decrease bloating.
Garlic consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers -- but its benefits are all in its preparation! The active agents responsible for these health benefits are allyl sulfide compounds, and they're produced when the cell walls in garlic are chopped or smashed. Add chopped garlic to just about anything -- just chop and let it sit for about ten minutes before you add it to a recipe!
Whether chopped, powdered, dried, or in tea, ginger imparts strong anti-inflammatory properties, and it's been found to reduce muscle-related soreness in a number of studies. It may also calm your stomach: its phenolic compounds are thought to calm the digestive tract, making it useful to treat nausea, motion sickness, and morning sickness in pregnant women.
For extra credit, get to know these other fabulous root vegetables: daikon, horseradish, turmeric, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, kohlrabi, yucca, jicima, maca root, and yams.
Here's to healthy eating habits!