Fall in love with root vegetables

  • Friday, October 11, 2013

As we say farewell to summer and welcome the cooler weather of football season, pumpkin carvings, turkey roasting and time with family and friends we find a new array of produce. Enter root vegetables. Satisfying, comforting and nutrient power houses, if you haven’t yet delved into these gems, I encourage you to pick one up on your next trip to the store.

Vegetables are probably the toughest food group for most to include in their diet. It certainly isn’t for lack of variety because our food system today brings produce to us from around the world. I think one of the main reasons people have difficulties including this food group is lack of creativity and focus. The meat, starch and desserts are usually the main focus of our meals and where the most effort is placed in preparing. Give your veggies more attention and you may discover you really do love beets, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and acorn squash. Here are two of my favorites.

Beets

Nutritional benefits: Beets are so rich in color they stain your hands. This richness translates into health benefits for you. Fruits and vegetables rich in color typically equates to high antioxidant content. You want to include antioxidant rich foods in your diet to help protect those vulnerable cells inside our bodies, particularly those found in the brain and lining our arteries. Beets are excellent sources of folate and in a cup serving provide almost five grams of fiber and only 60 calories.

How to cook: Pretty simple actually, but be warned these guys are pretty messy. Wash, peel the skin, rub with a little olive oil, wrap in tin foil and bake in the oven at 375 F for 15-25 minutes depending on the size. To minimize nutrients lost with heat, cook just until tender. Roasting intensifies the flavors of the beet. Add to a salad or eat right out of the oven.

Suggested recipe: For a tasty salad toss two cups of arugula with a sprinkle of toasted pecans or walnuts, goat cheese and beets. Drizzle on a homemade red wine honey vinaigrette dressing. For the dressing mix together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ½ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, ¼ tsp salt and pepper.

Butternut squash

Nutritional benefits: Butternut squash is another tasty root vegetable that packs a punch with nutrient content and antioxidants. It is loaded with potassium good for the heart and bones, folate, vitamin C and B6 which is essential for proper functioning of the nervous and immune system. Furthermore, they provide natural fiber and are low in calorie with just 85 calories in an entire cup serving.

How to cook: Wash, poke and microwave for approximately one minute to soften the skin and allow for ease of cutting. Slice lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, trim off the skin and either dice or flip over flat side down onto a baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until tender.

Suggested recipe: After peeling the skin and taking out the seeds, dice the squash into cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Mix in one medium sized red apple, diced, ½ tsp cinnamon and a drizzle of olive oil. Place into a baking dish, cover with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until tender.


Lauren Zimmerman is a registered dietitian originally from Rock Hill, but has made the Old Village home over the past few years. She works in a cardiac rehabilitation center where day to day she teaches a heart healthy diet to her patients through weekly education classes and one-on-one counseling sessions. She lives and breathes healthy eating and enjoys making it practical for those she is helping. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, art, music, bike riding and seeing the ocean as frequently as possible.

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