Root vegetables are the edible parts of plants that grow underground, but these super-nutritious, health foods are finding their way into the spotlight and onto the plates of healthy eaters. Carrots are the most familiar root vegetable—we eat the long, orange bottoms, not the leafy tops. These six other roots are, like carrots, rich in flavor and nutrients, and they’re ideal for slow-cooking in diet dishes that warm you up on cool fall days. Here’s why each is a healthful addition to your diet plan and a few ideas for enjoying them:
Most of us recognize the dark red roots, though you can also find varieties that are striped with white inside and some that have golden yellow skin and flesh. All are naturally sweet—beets are a raw ingredient in table sugar—yet they’re low to medium on the Glycemic Index, so you can enjoy them even when you’re trying to lose weight.
Nutrition facts: A cup of raw beets has 58 calories, 3.8 grams of fiber, 13 grams of complex carbohydrates, 22 milligrams of calcium and 442 milligrams of potassium.
Try: Beet salad with arugula and goat cheese blends the sweetness of the roots with peppery greens and the creamy texture of the cheese. When you roast beets, the sugars are caramelized, giving them an even deeper, richer flavor.
They look like large, white carrots and they have a similar mildly sweet flavor and crunchy texture. When cooked, parsnips become very tender and even sweeter.
Nutrition facts: A half-cup of raw parsnips has just 50 calories, yet gives you 3.3 grams of fiber, 250 milligrams of potassium, and more than 10 percent of your RDA of vitamin C, folate and manganese.
Try: Steamed and pureed parsnips make a hearty foundation for low-fat, creamy soups. Slice raw parsnips into “sticks” and bake them in the oven with a little oil, salt and pepper to make crispy “fries.”
A roundish bulb shaped a bit like a large radish, turnips often have purplish tops and white bottoms but some varieties are all white. The insides of both are a creamy white color. They taste lightly spicy. When shopping, look for smaller turnips, which are more tender than larger ones.
Nutrition facts: In a cup of raw turnips, you get 36 calories, 2.3 grams of fiber, 27 milligrams of vitamin C, and no fat or cholesterol.
Try: Instead of ordinary mashed potatoes, try boiled and mashed turnips with apples, a sweet and spicy weight loss combination that just might become a new family favorite. And don’t toss the green tops in the garbage—they’re also loaded with nutrients and they taste delicious raw or sautéed.
Sometimes called swedes or wax turnips, rutabagas are a hybrid created from turnips and cabbage. Rutabagas are mildly spicy but become more sweet-tasting when cooked. They look a bit knobby on the outside, but they have smooth, starchy texture inside.
Nutrition facts: In a cup of raw rutabaga, you get 52 calories, 3.2 grams of fiber, 60 milligrams of calcium, 35 milligrams of vitamin C, and 427 milligrams of potassium.
Try: With their sturdy texture, rutabagas make a solid base for a vegetable tart made with layers of potatoes, carrots and garlic. For a hearty and healthy side dish, toss chunks of rutabaga with mustard and dill, then roast them to tenderness.
The bulbous exterior of kohlrabi may be light green or deep purple, but all are white inside. Like its close relative broccoli, kohlrabi has a mild peppery flavor.
Nutrisystem category: Vegetable
Nutrition facts: A cup of raw kohlrabi has 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 83 milligrams of vitamin C, 472 milligrams of potassium, and a substantial amount of vitamin A.
Try: You can eat kohlrabi raw, sliced into salads or grated into your favorite slaw. Add cubes of kohlrabi to vegetable soups, where they become tender after slow cooking. Shredded kohlrabi mixed with egg and a little flour make tasty fritters your family will love.
Also called celery root or knob celery, celeriac is a variety of celery grown for its edible roots. While celeriac won’t win the vegetable beauty pageant, its scent is fresh and sweet, and when cooked its aroma has a savory smell that may remind you of Thanksgiving dinner in the oven. The taste is mild, with gentle herbal notes that make it an ideal companion to stronger flavors.
Nutrition facts: In a cup of raw celeriac, you get 66 calories, 2.8 grams of fiber, 67 milligrams of calcium, 12.5 milligrams of vitamin C and 468 milligrams of potassium.
Try: Celeriac’s smooth texture (after peeling the rough skin) lends itself to purees that can be used to add flavor and nutrients to soups and stews. Roast it with pears to make a sweet side dish for broiled fish or turkey breast.