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Preventive Maintenance: ‘Tis the season for fall veggies

It looks like summer is gone. Now it's time to shift gears and take advantage of all the fall root vegetables which are great to eat over the winter....

Karen Bowen

Karen Bowen

It looks like summer is gone. Now it’s time to shift gears and take advantage of all the fall root vegetables which are great to eat over the winter.

Root vegetables are good for a number of reasons. First, there are lots of them: potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets and turnips. Second, they are full of nutrients. Third, they can be cooked many different ways. Fourth, they are fairly easy to store. And finally, they don’t cost as much as other types of vegetables during the winter months.

When picking root vegetables, choose ones that are smooth, firm, and not too large. As well, be sure to store them in a dry, dark spot. Many people prefer organic varieties because they aren’t full of the nitrates and chemical fertilizers that many conventional varieties may be. But whether organic or not, you still should always scrub them to get rid of any dirt or chemicals that may still be stuck on their roots.

Let’s take a look at the qualities of these most common root vegetables.

Potatoes: Potatoes come in many different varieties and colours, including: white, red, yellow and purple. However, no matter what colour, the nutrients are relatively the same.

Potatoes are high in potassium and carbohydrates in the form of starch.

If you eat the skin, you are also getting a lot of iron, vitamin C and fiber. One 150 gram potato contains 286 calories, 14 per cent of your daily requirements of fiber, 46 per cent of B6, 18 per cent of folic acid, 16 per cent of potassium, 12 per cent of niacin, 10 per cent of magnesium and thiamin, five per cent of zinc, three per cent of iodine as well as 3.75 grams of protein, and 13.8 grams of carbohydrates.

Potatoes have all these nutrients with NO fat (unless you top them off with butter, gravy or sour cream.)

If you’re watching your weight and would like to reduce the amount of starch, soak your peeled potatoes overnight.

Then, drain the starchy water off, and cook them in fresh water. (However some of the vitamins will be lost into the water you are draining off.)

Potatoes are very versatile; they can be baked, broiled, fried, mashed, or added to a soup or stew.

Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are similar to yams in taste and texture.

They also vary in colour from white to orange, depending on where they come from. Sweet potatoes are full of Vitamin A, and the darker the orange colour, the more Vitamin A they contain. Just 1/4 of a cup of baked sweet potato has 155 calories, along with 32 per cent of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, 62 per cent of Vitamin C, 15 per cent of potassium, 20 per cent of dietary fiber, six per cent of iron, four per cent of calcium, and three per cent of folate.

They can be cooked by boiling, baking and candying. (Remember that candying sweet potatoes makes them taste great, but also adds a lot of empty calories.)

Beets: Beets should be firm and deep red or purple in colour. They have lots of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium. One cup of beets has 49 calories.

As well, beets have 13 per cent of your daily requirement of sodium, four per cent carbohydrates, 16 per cent iron, and 11 per cent Vitamin C.

Beets are usually eaten cooked grated, cubed, boiled or steamed. Beet juice is quite a sweet drink as well. You can find it in most health food stores.

Turnips: Turnips are best when they’re round, firm, with a smooth skin that is white, or may have some red or purple colouring.

A 3.5 ounce serving (100 grams) of turnips has 30 calories, six grams of carbohydrates, one gram each of protein and dietary fiber, 60 per cent of the daily values for vitamin C, two per cent for iron and three per cent for calcium.

Turnips are also a fair source of potassium and folic acid.

Turnips can be served like potatoes: boiled, baked, and mashed, as well as in soups and stews.

Parsnips: Parsnips are long, firm, smooth and white.

Actually, they look like white carrots and contain fiber, folate, potassium, Vitamin E and Vitamin C. A serving of parsnips (100 grams, 3.5 ounces) contains 76 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates, .5 grams of fat, one gram of protein, two grams of dietary fiber, 26 per cent of the daily value for Vitamin C, five per cent each for calcium and iron. These vegetables taste sweet and nutty and can be steamed, boiled or stir fried.

Carrots: Carrots are long, slim, firm vegetables.

They are full of beta-carotene, a potent type of Vitamin A. As well they have fiber, Vitamin C and carbohydrates. Carrots are great eaten raw, and can also be boiled, steamed, stir-fried, and canned.

As well, they can be grated into salads casseroles, carrot cake and muffins.

Handy bite-sized carrots can be found ready-to-eat in most grocery stores.

Remember that vegetables are necessary for building healthy tissue and flushing toxins.

For good health this winter return to your roots. Root vegetables, that is!

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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