Root vegetables are not just delicious; they are part of a healthy diet. Defined as an edible plant that grows underground, potatoes, carrots and onions are a few common examples that most are familiar with.
However, there are many other types—each with a distinct set of nutrients and health benefits. Here are the 13 healthiest root vegetables to add to your diet.
Onions are popular root vegetables, serving as a staple ingredient in many cuisines. They're high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. Research shows that eating onions may be associated with a wide array of health benefits.
For instance, one study found that eating 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw onions per day significantly reduced blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. What's more, other research observed that onions may possess powerful anticancer properties, with observational studies linking a higher intake of this root vegetable to a lower risk of common types of cancer.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are vibrant and delicious root vegetables that are highly nutritious and jam-packed with health benefits. They're rich in fiber, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin A and a good source of several antioxidants—including beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid and anthocyanins.
A review of three studies showed that eating 4 grams of white sweet potato extract each day for 12 weeks improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Due to their vitamin A content, some studies suggest that this root vegetable may also improve immune function, protect against vision loss and support skin health.
Turnips are a delicious root vegetable and have been cultivated for centuries. They have an impressive nutrient profile, being a great source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese and potassium.
Adding vitamin C to your diet can help boost your immunity, with one study noting that getting enough of this vitamin could help reduce symptoms and shorten the severity of respiratory infections, such as the common cold.
Ginger is a flowering plant from China that is closely related to other root vegetables like turmeric. It's loaded with antioxidants, including a specific compound called gingerol, which has been associated with a long list of health benefits. One study in 1,278 pregnant women found that ginger was effective at reducing nausea and morning sickness.
It may also decrease pain and inflammation, with other research showing that ginger extract could help relieve menstrual pain and reduce symptoms in people with osteoarthritis..
Beets are one of the most nutritious root vegetables available, packing a good amount of fiber, folate and manganese into each serving. They're also high in nitrates, which are beneficial plant compounds that can help dilate your blood vessels, potentially lowering blood pressure and improving heart health.
Garlic is a root vegetable that belongs to the Allium genus and is closely related to onions, leeks, chives and shallots. Each serving of garlic boasts a good amount of several important nutrients, including manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Plus, it's well-known for its medicinal properties, which are mostly attributed to the compound allicin, which is released when cloves of garlic are crushed, chewed or chopped.
Radishes may be small, but they manage to pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. They're low in carbs and calories yet contain a good amount of fiber and vitamin C. Radishes also have antifungal properties and have been effective against several types of fungus in test-tube and animal studies.
Known for its licorice-like flavor, fennel is a flowering plant species closely related to carrots. In addition to supplying very few calories per serving, fennel packs fiber, vitamin C, potassium and manganese.
It also contains the compound anethole, which gives fennel its distinct flavor, aroma and a wide array of health benefits.
As one of the most well-known root vegetables, carrots also top the charts as one of the most nutritious. They're brimming with vitamins A and K, as well as the important antioxidant beta-carotene. Eating carrots has been linked to improved antioxidant status and lower cholesterol levels in both humans and animals.
Other research shows that a higher intake of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, may be associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, prostate and stomach cancer.
Also known as celery root, celeriac is a highly versatile and delicious root vegetable that's easy to cook and enjoy. It contains a hearty dose of vitamin C and phosphorus and is also an excellent source of vitamin K, squeezing in 80% of the daily recommended value in a single one-cup (156-gram) serving. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient, necessary for proper blood clotting (57).
Turmeric is a type of root vegetable that belongs to the same plant family as ginger and cardamom. The rhizomes, or root, of the plant are often ground into a spice, which is used to add a splash of color, flavor and health benefits to many dishes.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown to prevent blood clot formation, lower cholesterol levels and reduce markers of inflammation in both test-tube and animal studies.
Potatoes are incredibly versatile and widely available, with up to 2,000 different varieties currently cultivated in 160 countries around the world. They're also very nutritious, packing a good chunk of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese.
Rutabagas are root vegetables that belong to the mustard family and are commonly cultivated for their edible leaves and roots. Each serving of rutabagas supplies plenty of vitamin C, potassium and manganese along with disease-fighting antioxidants.
Rutabagas are also a good source of fiber, which can help support your digestive health and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They also provide glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that are commonly found in cruciferous vegetables that may help protect against cancer cell development and growth and prevent oxidative stress.
The Bottom Line
Plenty of nutritious and delicious root vegetables exist—each with a unique set of health benefits. From reducing oxidative stress to preventing chronic disease, adding a serving or two of root vegetables to your daily diet can be incredibly beneficial.
Ecowatch.com adivises that, for best results, combine these tasty root vegetables with a variety of other nutrient-rich ingredients to help optimize your diet and your health.