Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. It seems that’s all you hear about when it comes to losing weight and eating healthy. Well, there is a good reason for that and this article explains why root vegetables are so valuable to your health.
Long demonized because of their “starchiness” and supposed high calorie count, they have been staples of cultural diets for thousands of years. Why? They fill you up faster with less calories than other foods, the are high in fiber, high in vitamins A and C and a host of other reasons cited below.
I hope this information helps you view them with new eyes and that you will reach for them in your grocery store the next time that you shop.
8 Benefits of Root Vegetables
by Dr. Josh Axe
1. Provide Complex Carbs and Starch
While the average person consumes way more carbohydrates than may actually be beneficial, most people still feel and operate their best when they consume a certain moderate level of carbs from natural sources. Starchy root vegetables are a great way to obtain fiber and nutrients along with some complex carbs and relatively little sugar. This especially applies if you’re an athlete, child, someone looking to gain weight or if you exercise a lot. Starchy veggies also help to fulfill “carb cravings” or a sweet tooth without bombarding your body with sugar and inflammatory refined grains.
2. High in Fiber
Although they contain some natural sugars in the form of starch, root veggies are high in fiber and therefore they’re still mostly considered low glycemic index foods that are absorbed relatively slowly. High-fiber foods stay in your digestive tract longer, and in the process they keep you full.
Part of their fiber also holds valuable polysaccharides, which are found in plant foods and shown to exhibit multiple biological activities, including anticarcinogenic, anticoagulant, immune-stimulating and antioxidant effects. A high-fiber diet not only helps prevent inflammation and disease formation, but it also works wonders for helping with digestion and preventing IBS or naturally relieving constipation.
While many grains, especially refined grains and flour products that are low in fiber, are considered “fast carbs” that spike blood sugar abruptly, root veggies are known for being “slower-burning carbs.” According to many large studies, like one that appeared in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012, higher root vegetable intake is even associated with a reduced risk for diabetes.
3. Good Source of Vitamins A and C
Root vegetables are some of the best sources of carotenoid antioxidantsand vitamin A and C in the world. Beta-carotene, a precursor to active vitamin A, is found in high quantities in sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and other root vegetables and is crucial for lowering inflammation, protecting skin and eye health, and fighting free radical damage. Both vitamin A and vitamin C foods benefit the immune system by lowering inflammation that is at the root of most chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
There are two types of vitamin A that we acquire from foods. The type found in root veggies and other colorful fruits and vegetables is called “pro vitamin A,” a type of carotenoid antioxidant that is converted to retinol by the body after the food is ingested. Beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid found primarily in plants, needs to first be converted to active vitamin A in order to be utilized by the body.
4. Can Help You Lose Weight
One of the secrets to losing weight fast and easily? Up your fiber intake. While you might be hesitant to include more root vegetables in your diet because they’re starchy and higher in carbs than other veggies, their fiber can actually help you lose weight because it fills you up. Compared to grains, most root vegetables are lower in calories and lower on the glycemic index, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar as quickly or drastically.
The fiber in starchy veggies slows down the release of glucose (sugar), which is important for energy and insulin balance. Starchy vegetables eaten with a balanced meal can help control appetite and delay hunger cues, which is important for weight management, fighting cravings and reducing the risk of insulin resistance.
5. Help Maintain Healthy Skin and Eyes
If you want healthy, glowing skin, consider eating more root vegetables; many are packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C that helps build and defend skin cells. A high content of beta-carotene is used to convert vitamin A in your body that triggers DNA to produce new skin cells.
Beta-carotene also helps reverse free radical damage, which can lead to age-related eye disorders, sun spots or wrinkles, UV damage, and potentially skin cancer. In fact, a diet high in vitamin A and vitamin C can act like a natural treatment for macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and skin cancer.
6. Contain Anticancer Antioxidants
You might not think of things like potatoes and turnips as high-antioxidant foods, but they definitely are. Many root vegetables are a great source of antioxidant flavonoids, which are actually responsible for some of their deep colors — like the orange of sweet potatoes or purple of beets.
Considered to be alkalizing and anti-inflammatory foods, nearly all root veggies supply carotenoid antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin — but that’s not all. Purple sweet potatoes contain the antioxidant anthocyanins, which has been shown to preserve cognitive function and stop oxidative damage and degeneration of the brain. And beets contain betalains, which are highly anti-inflammatory.
7. Help Lower Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health
A high-fiber diet filled with whole foods containing both soluble and insoluble fibers is key for heart health and balanced cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eating fiber is a way to naturally lower cholesterol because it binds to cholesterol particles and helps carry them out of the body. This means cholesterol is less able to form sticky plaque buildup in arteries, which can raise the risk of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes. Many root vegetables also are potassium-rich foods, which is beneficial for healthy blood pressure, nerve signaling and fluid balance.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science Technologyfound that a Paleolithic-type diet improved both cardiovascular risk factors and glycemic control when compared to a standard diet or even “diabetes diet.” While the paleo diet included root vegetables, it did not include any type of grains. The results showed that the group following the Paleolithic diet for three months experienced statistically significant lower mean values of hemoglobin A1c, triglycerides, diastolic blood pressure, weight, body mass index and waist circumference.
8. Help Fight Cancer and Cognitive Disorders
Vitamin A found in many root vegetables has been correlated with better brain function, cognitive health and cancer protection. Inflammation and oxidative stress are two primary causes of cancer formation, but vitamin A, vitamin C and other antioxidants can act like natural cancer treatments and help lower the body’s inflammatory responses.
This means better protection against a dangerous overreaction to things like a poor diet, exercise, UV light, pollution and environmental toxicity. Reduced levels of inflammation are also correlated with a lower risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
To your health!
Are root vegetables part of your weekly diet?
How might you incorporate more of them into your meals?
Please share your questions and comments below.