Orange, purple, white and green, with an elongated or rounded shape, large or small in size, edible roots truly represent a very varied world, as well as being tasty and above all healthy. At the greengrocer, therefore, we do not go past the baskets full of these vegetables, be they carrots, turnips, parsnips, beetroot or radish. Let's see why it is important to bring roots to the table more often.
Edible roots, what they are and properties
The edible roots that we can easily find at the greengrocer or supermarket are carrots, celeriac, parsley root, beetroot, radishes, turnips, parsnips and horseradish. The roots are characterized by a high content of fibre, water, vitamins, including vitamin C, B vitamins and folate, and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, while they are low in calories. Not only that, the roots are particularly healthy as they provide polyphenols and flavonoids with a powerful antioxidant action (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022). In general, the roots are useful for keeping blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure under control, they perform an anti-tumor and prebiotic function, i.e. useful for nourishing the good and anti-inflammatory bacteria that populate the intestinal microbiota (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2022). Below we will delve deeper into the properties of the most popular edible roots.
Edible roots, carrots
Carrots deserve a special mention as they contain high quantities of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, lutein and lycopene (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022 - Que et al, Hortic Res, 2019). Not only that, carrots also provide polyphenols. In general, carrot antioxidants are highly available as carrot contains a very small amount of antinutrients, which are substances that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022). Carrots are prebiotic, improve intestinal transit and help counteract cellular degeneration (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022). Finally, it is now easy to find purple carrots on the market. These carrots also provide anthocyanins, which have shown an interesting anti-inflammatory action both at the intestinal level and for the entire organism (Zhang et al, Mol Nutr Food Res, 2017).
Edible roots, celeriac
Celeriac is a source of carbohydrates, sodium and potassium (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022). Not only that, celeriac provides antioxidants, including kaempferol, apigenin, luteolin, caffeic and ferulic acid. Celeriac has shown hypotensive and hypoglycemic action (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).
Edible roots, the root of parsley
Yes, parsley also has its edible root, similar to a white carrot. The parsley root is characterized by a high content of potassium, calcium and folate. In particular, the intake of 100 grams of parsley root covers 40% of the daily folate requirement. Parsley root is also appreciated for its high antioxidant power (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).
Edible roots, beetroot
Beetroot provides carbohydrates, fibre, iron and potassium. Beetroot, especially in the outer layers, contains betalains, with an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, and phenolic compounds. Worthy of note is the fact that the antioxidant action is greater in organic beetroot compared to that from traditional agriculture. Finally, beetroot provides nitrites and nitrates, useful for keeping blood pressure under control (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022). Not only that, beetroot, even in the form of juice, protects the airways and the heart, as well as improving physical performance and blood flow to the brain (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).
Edible roots, radishes
Radishes are characterized by a lower energy intake than all other roots. This is due to their richness in water while they are low in carbohydrates. Radishes are highly antioxidant and help keep blood sugar under control (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).
Edible roots, turnips
Turnips can come in different colours, from white to green to purple. In the latter case the credit goes to the anthocyanins present, which are powerful antioxidants. Turnips in general bring benefits to the cardiorespiratory system and are anti-tumor (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).
Edible roots, how to enjoy them in the kitchen
Roots lend themselves to various preparations. They can be eaten raw, after having been well washed and brushed, in the case of celeriac the external peel must be removed. Carrots, radishes, turnips, celeriac and parsley root can be grated and added to salads.
Alternatively, they can be cooked to make delicious side dishes or even soups. Beetroot can be centrifuged to obtain juice, but it is also excellent cooked. If you are looking for some tasty recipes, different from the usual, in the Healthy Eating section you can find the preparation of anti-inflammatory pasta with broccoli and celeriac, a real beauty!
Edible roots, some warnings and contraindications
As we have seen, the roots are healthy and can find their place within a healthy and balanced diet. However, some considerations need to be made. The roots tend to accumulate contaminants, such as heavy metals and pesticides, the quantity of which, however, does not cause concern as it is too low to be harmful. In any case, it would be better to opt for roots of organic origin and in any case to buy only in trusted shops.
Then, even in this case moderation is important. Let's take the example of beetroot. Beetroot is a healthy root that, thanks to its nitrite and nitrate content, improves blood pressure. However, consuming excessive quantities of beetroot can lead to a harmful effect as nitrites and nitrates can convert into nitrosamines with a toxic effect. This effect, however, is attributable to high quantities of beetroot consumed for long periods of time (Knez et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health., 2022).