5 root vegetables that are sure favourites
Find out how best to prepare, cook, serve and enjoy root vegetables: sweet potato, beetroot, carrot, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.
Sweet potato is a delicious root vegetable that comes in a variety of different colours including bright orange, white, yellow and purple. Orange varieties are one of the best sources of beta-carotene. This important nutrient is converted into vitamin A in the body and is used to maintain healthy eyes and good vision. Beta-carotene also gives sweet potatoes their vibrant orange colour along with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Purple sweet potatoes are rich in flavonoids called anthocyanins. These health-promoting phytonutrients are responsible for giving sweet potatoes their bright purple colour and high antioxidant levels. Including anthocyanin-rich foods in the diet will offer protection against cardiovascular disease and will help improve immune function.
Sweet potatoes also provide plenty of vitamin B6 needed for serotonin production and for a strong metabolism. Sweet potatoes also contain good levels of vitamin C for radiant skin and enhanced immune function, as well as potassium, which helps reduce high blood pressure and fluid retention.
Sweet potatoes contain a particular type of dietary fibre called resistant starch. This type of fibre is not digested in the small intestine, but instead it’s fermented in the large intestine by your gut bacteria. The by-product of this fermentation process is the production of short-chain fatty acids called postbiotics that provide fuel for your beneficial gut microbiota and help ensure the integrity of your gut lining.
Resistant starch is considered a prebiotic food as it helps our beneficial gut microbiota to grow and flourish in the digestive tract. For optimal gut health you should include a variety of fibre-rich foods like sweet potato in the diet.
Sweet potato skins are an especially good source of insoluble and soluble fibre. This extra fibre from the skin will make you feel full for longer and help keep blood-sugar levels balanced. Eating more fibre will also help lower cholesterol levels and will support digestive health by preventing constipation. If you are going to eat the skins, buy organic or make sure you scrub the skins well before cooking.
Sweet potatoes can be used in sweet and savoury dishes. Roasting them can enhance their sweet flavour. Try oven-baked sweet potato wedges sprinkled with herbs and spices like cinnamon, or rosemary with some sea salt. Add baked sweet potato to salads, frittatas, quiches, sandwiches, burgers and wraps. They’re delicious tossed through pesto pasta. Mashed sweet potato makes a tasty side dish or topping for shepherd’s pie. Sweet potato brownies make a decadent gluten-free treat.
Beetroots with their vibrant purple flesh are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals and protective antioxidants that help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.
Beets are rich in betalains, a type of plant pigment that is responsible for giving beetroot its many health benefits along with their bright red and purple colour. Betalains have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that betalains help prevent oxidative damage and can protect the body from certain types of cancers.
Beetroot is rich in blood-building iron and vitamin C. Healthy iron levels are essential for optimal energy levels, for the production of white immune cells, and red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body. Vitamin C is beneficial for skin health as it’s needed for collagen production. Collagen gives skin its tone and elasticity and reduces the risk of wrinkles and premature skin ageing. Beets also provide a good dose of folate (vitamin B9). This vitamin is particularly important for women during pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects including spina bifida.
Beets are considered a heart-healthy vegetable. Beets are high in nitrates, which have been found to significantly reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels and arteries. Studies have found that consuming beetroot juice can significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in 24 hours, along with lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol. Drinking beetroot juice can also enhance exercise performance.
Beets are an excellent source of dietary fibre. It’s important to include adequate fibre in your daily diet to help promote bowel regularity and better digestive function. Keeping the skins on your beets will provide extra goodness.
Beetroot can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, even baked goods. Roasted beets are delicious tossed through salads, added to quiches and frittatas or as a tasty pizza topping. Try making beetroot relish or pickled beets to add to sandwiches and burgers, or blend beetroot through hummus with some mint. Beetroot chocolate cake is a sneaky way to add more veggies into your family’s diet.
Make sure you don’t throw out the nutritious green tops. Beetroot greens are a great source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are vital for improving eye health and for reducing the risk of degenerative eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Carrots are abundant in health-promoting antioxidants and vital nutrients needed for good health and disease prevention. Carrots come in many different colours such as orange, yellow, red and purple. Orange carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A. One large carrot is enough to provide you with your recommended daily dose of vitamin A.
We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes and for a strong functioning immune system. Carrots also provide plenty of lutein, a potent antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration.
Red and purple carrots on the other hand are rich in anthocyanins. These antioxidant-rich phytonutrients give carrots their red–purple colouring along with disease protective effects.
Carrots also contain good levels of potassium, needed to help lower high blood pressure. You will also get a good dose of dietary fibre to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced and to promote good digestive health and bowel regularity. Carrots also provide vitamin K and C, as well as calcium and iron.
Carrots make a nutritious snack with hummus, or when grated a great addition to sandwiches or wraps. Try roasting carrots and tossing them through salads. Whole roasted baby carrots drizzled in tahini dressing is a delicious side dish. Add carrots to curries, dals, stir-fries, soups and kidney bean mix. Finely dice carrots through bolognaise sauce for fussy eaters. Carrot cake makes a perfect healthy afternoon treat.
Garlic is a root vegetable that has been used as a food and medicine dating back to ancient cultures in Egypt, Greece and China, where it was used to provide strength and endurance and to fight off infections.
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties which make it beneficial for fighting a variety of infections. Garlic acts like a natural antibiotic with the added benefit of supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
Garlic contains an active compound called allicin, which gives garlic its super immune-boosting powers. Eating garlic will help enhance the disease-fighting action of white blood cells. Garlic has been found to reduce the risk of getting colds or flu, reduces the severity of symptoms and can speed up recovery.
Garlic also has cardioprotective effects. Consuming garlic regularly can help prevent heart disease by reducing inflammation, lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure and by reducing plaque build-up in arteries.
Garlic is also a good source of selenium and zinc, both important nutrients needed for thyroid health.
The way you prepare and cook garlic will affect its health benefits. When you cut or crush garlic an enzyme called alliinase is converted into allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s incredible health benefits and characteristic pungent smell. To get the most out of your garlic, crush it first and leave it for five to 10 minutes before cooking. Heat destroys some of garlic’s allicin content, so try adding garlic near the end of cooking if you want to retain more of its immune-boosting and heart-healthy properties. Eating garlic raw when you can is ideal. Garlic is so versatile: it can be used in many dishes including pasta sauces, lentil dals, dips, dressings, curries, stir-fries, soups and homemade garlic bread and bruschetta.
Jerusalem artichoke, also known as sunchoke, is a starchy edible root that looks very similar to ginger. It has a nutty sweet taste and texture not dissimilar to potato. Jerusalem artichokes should not be confused with globe artichokes, which are edible flowering buds.
Jerusalem artichokes are rich in fibre and are considered a prebiotic food, meaning they feed the beneficial microbiota in the gut to help them thrive and survive.
Jerusalem artichokes are a great source of iron, which the body needs for a strong functioning immune system. They also provide potassium to help regulate blood pressure, and vitamin B1 and magnesium for energy production and healthy nerve function.
Jerusalem artichokes can be used in cooking like potatoes or parsnips — roasted, steamed, mashed or sautéed. They’re delicious in soups or paired with roasted meats, fish or chicken. Serve Jerusalem artichokes thinly sliced and tossed through salads. Or try them pickled or as oven-baked chips. The skins of Jerusalem artichokes are edible, so keep them on when you can for extra fibre. Make sure you trim any tough ends though before cooking.
Lentil Curry with Roast Sweet Potato & Lemon Kale
1 medium sweet potato,
peeled & diced
Cold-pressed olive oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ cups red lentils, washed well
4 cups water
400g tin tomatoes
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp chilli flakes
Pinch sea salt & pepper
Juice 1 lemon
½ bunch of kale, ribs removed
& thinly chopped
Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place sweet potato on the baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake for 45 mins, until cooked through and golden.
In a large saucepan with some olive oil, cook onion and garlic for 4 mins.
Add lentils, water, tomatoes, turmeric, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, chilli, salt and pepper.
Cook covered for 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
Add the juice of ½ lemon and
While the lentils are cooking place kale in a medium bowl and add remainder of lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Massage the kale for 2 mins.
Divide lentil curry into 4 bowls, top with sweet potato wedges and kale.
Gluten-Free Pineapple Carrot Cake
Makes 10–12 slices
2 cups almond meal
1¾ cups oat flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp baking powder
3 organic eggs
⅓ cup raw honey
¾ cup coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups finely grated carrots (3 large carrots)
¾ cup chopped pineapple pieces
¾ cup chopped walnuts
500g cream cheese
6 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
Dried pineapple rings
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease and line 2 round cake tins with circle of baking paper.
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Place wet ingredients and 1 cup of grated carrot in food processor and blend until well combined.
Pour wet into dry ingredients and gently mix, add remainder of grated carrot, pineapple pieces and walnut pieces.
Pour mixture into the two cake tins evenly.
Bake for 30 mins until a skewer comes
Leave cakes to cool completely before adding cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, beat cream cheese, honey and vanilla in a bowl until well combined.
Divide mixture in half and spread half over one cake. Place the other cake on top and then spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake and down the sides. Put the cake in the fridge for around 15 mins so the frosting becomes firm, then take it out and smooth over the frosting with a knife.
Decorate with dried pineapple rings, edible flowers and walnuts and serve. Keeps well in the fridge for 3–4 days.
Warm Roast Vegetable Salad with Tahini Dressing
1 medium sweet potato, cut into slices
2 large carrots, cut into fingers
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 large beetroot, cut into slices
5 turnips, halved
1 large zucchini, chopped
3 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
Juice ½ lemon
Pinch sea salt
1 tsp honey or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 200°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Toss vegetables in olive oil; do beetroot separately.
Place sweet potato and beetroot on one tray and then onion, turnips and carrots on the other tray. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Place trays in the oven for around 40 mins until vegetables are cooked through and golden brown. You can take the onion tray out after around 25–30 mins.
Blend dressing ingredients together. Add a little water, 1 tbsp at a time, if you desire a thinner dressing.
Serve vegetables on a serving dish drizzled in dressing. This recipe is also delicious served with green leaves like baby spinach or rocket.