Roots and tubers are among the healthiest of foods. Growing in a subterranean environment, root vegetables absorb the nutrients and minerals present in the soil. Although each root vegetable is packed with its own set of health benefits, they share many common characteristics. Some examples of roots and tubers are yams, turnips, beets, kohlrabi, horseradish, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, yucca, onions, garlic, daikon, turmeric, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and ginger. Many starchy tuber crops, except potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava, are not yet fully explored for their nutritional and health benefits. In some Asian countries, many edible tubers are also used as traditional medicinal.1
Roots and tubers are loaded with a high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, C, and iron. They also contain slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber that satisfies the hunger and fills the stomach, thereby helping the body to regulate the digestive system and the blood sugar level. In addition, they are generally high in beta-carotene and contain essential minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Their high-octane nutrients and low calories make root vegetables the perfect food for those who want to lose weight and stay healthy.
Let’s look at some major health benefits of consuming roots and tubers regularly as a part of our diet.
1. Improve Physical And Mental Health
There are many health benefits of eating root vegetables. They are effective in improving your physical and mental health because of their high concentration of antioxidants, which help to eliminate harmful free radicals and toxins from the body. Free radicals and toxins cause various deadly diseases and adversely impact our mental health. Roots and tubers contain high levels of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium. These minerals are essential in the strengthening of the bones and in cognitive development. A healthy mind can stave off many disorders that originate from the mind and manifest as physical ailments.
2. Reduce Risk Of Cancer
Many root vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals. Experiments on falcarinol (a substance found in raw carrots that protect it from fungal diseases) in carrots have shown to reduce the risk of cancer developing in rats. Falcarinol reduced the risk of developing full-scale tumors by a third. Root and tuber phytochemicals have demonstrated anti-cancer effects in several types of carcinoma cell lines and animal models. Apart from phenolic compounds, saponins present in roots and tubers play a pivotal role as anti-cancer and anti-tumor agents. There are several groups of saponins demonstrating a strong anti-tumor effect on different types of cancers.2
3. Prevent Iron Deficiency
Iron is an essential mineral that the body requires to transport oxygen to all the parts of the body. Iron deficiency can cause organ failure and can lead to infections and illnesses. Turnips contain about one-third of your daily vitamin C needs. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps with the absorption of iron and also assists the body in making collagen for bones and cartilage. Jerusalem artichokes contain high amounts of iron that help prevent iron deficiency and support nerve health, red blood cell formation, anemia prevention and a healthy metabolism.
4. Folate Intake Can Repair DNA
Folate, or vitamin B9, is one of many essential vitamins. Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, is used for food fortification and supplements. Folate is vital to our body as it helps in the synthesis and repair of the DNA, besides encouraging cell and tissue growth. Many root vegetables contain ample quantities of folate and can provide you with almost 20 percent of your daily folate requirement. Potatoes contribute to 10% of the total folate intake in some European countries. In addition, ascorbic acid present in potatoes protects folates from oxidative breakdown.3
Vitamin B9 is essential if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, as it helps prevent neural tube defects. Folic acid is useful in treating memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related hearing loss, preventing the eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing signs of aging, weak bones (osteoporosis) and many other conditions. Folic acid lowers homocysteine levels by 20% to 30% in people with normal to slightly elevated homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease and stroke.
5. Better Immunity With Beta
Root vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, swede, and turnips contain ample amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help cleanse the blood and prevent high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Yellow varieties of sweet potatoes, yam, and cassava contain beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is essential for vision and bone development. Beta-carotene can also help prevent cataracts, which can impair the vision. Beta-carotene is effective in preventing cancer and beta-carotene deficiency can double your risk of developing cancer. It also helps in improving the immune system. Beetroots are packed with unique phytonutrients called betalains, which provide support for the body’s antioxidants and detoxification process. Adding beets and other root vegetables to your daily diet can help cleanse your system.
Note: The retention of beta-carotene decreases with the duration of boiling, steaming, and microwave cooking. A 50-minute boiling reduced one-third of beta-carotene content, while steaming further reduced beta-carotene content compared to boiling. Microwave cooking had the highest loss. Long cooking time leads to high reductions in beta-carotene content in sweet potatoes.4 Simple solution: eat them raw to prevent nutrition loss.
6. Increase Stamina, Reduce Weight
Drinking beet juice can increase your stamina and empower you to exercise longer and burn more calories. Results of experiments showed that drinking 500 ml of beetroot juice daily for six days enabled the participants to improve their performance by 16 percent more than when they drank a placebo drink. The nitrate found in beet juice leads to an improved use of oxygen and significantly reduces blood pressure. Another great health benefit of eating root vegetables is that they can help you to lose unwanted weight. The high amounts of nutrients and soluble fiber helps satisfy your cravings for junk foods. The fiber also helps in cleansing the digestive system and increases energy levels.