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In Praise of Root Vegetables

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in November, 2014

As the last vestiges of summer and backyard gardens fade away those fresh, leafy, or fleshy vegetables seem to fade away with them. Of course, Americans today can still have an abundance of these vitamin and mineral rich victuals due to modern transportation from warmer climates, but in olden days the preservation of roots in root cellars or pickling or drying were used to get through the winter. Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, radishes, turnips, rutabaga, burdock and lotus all provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Moreover, the ratio of these antioxidants to less healthful elements found in the food is generally greater than in most other fare.

The heavier cooking of fall and winter lends itself to make use of delicious stews, soups, and baked dishes made with root vegetables. While enjoying these, you can also rejoice in the knowledge that they are helping to alkalize your entire body, but especially the lower digestive tract.

Traditionally, the intestines have been compared to the roots of plants, where nourishment is taken up into the blood stream and distributed throughout the body. The villi of the small intestine are comparable to the tiny hairs found on roots. Whole grains are known as a source of fiber which helps to scrub the walls of the large intestine, but the outer portions of root vegetables can provide the same benefits while providing a higher ratio of antioxidants as well.

Carrots, of course, provide beta-carotene which is thought to provide protection against such wide ranging ailments as cancer and cataracts. Burdock, often growing wild in temperate climates, is known to help restore vitality for weakened conditions. One of the most useful of all root vegetables is a long white radish known as daikon, thought to be useful in helping to remove excess fats from the body. Fresh, it can be cooked into stews or soups. It can be served dried, marinated, or grated as a complement to offset the effects of other fatty foods. Lotus root is traditionally known as a beneficial vegetable for the lungs. Ginger is a marvelous vegetable that can be used to add a warming component to soups and stews.

Root vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but they are normally most abundant in the peeling and outer portions of the vegetable, so resist peeling those carrots or parsnips. You can just remove any imperfections without peeling the whole root. In this way, you will get the maximum benefit from one of the most healthful foods you can eat.

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