The season for Just Routine root vegetables

 

John Keats famously described autumn as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. For me it also marks the time of year root vegetables start to return to our real food menus. A mixed bunch, like any little group, root and tuber vegetables come in all shapes, sizes, colours and types. They hold a special place in our hearts because they are at the core of many delicious recipes, warm welcoming dishes providing comfort and sustenance. With the prospect of the autumn, to be followed by winter, it’s worth repeating how healthy these under-appreciated vegetables can be.

Inexpensive, easy to prepare, and with virtually endless possibilities for cooking, they add robust, tasty flavour and colour to foods such as soups, stews and casseroles. Preparation possibilities are almost limitless;

  • mash them
  • roast with a drizzle of olive oil
  • eat them plain, or grated in a salad
  • raw, roast, stir-fry, baked or sauté

The most common types are root and tuber crops, which include beetroot, carrot, parsnip, potato, radish, sweet potato, turnip, swede and celeriac. To this you can add bulbs (onions and garlic) then to more exotic rhizomes (turmeric and ginger) and finally corms (Taro and Chinese water chestnut).

Packed with antioxidants, which help remove toxins and could aid with cancer prevention and cardiovascular health, they are also rich in minerals, having been able to source them direct from the soil. High in fibre, vitamin C, A and B-vitamins and flush in complex carbohydrates, these break down into sugars in the body providing slow release energy throughout the day.

 

My Fab Four

 

Sweet potatoes

A favourite in Caribbean cuisine, they are particularly helpful if you are following a high-fibre diet, as the fibre may regulate blood sugar levels and keep cholesterol low. A great source for nutrients, such as beta-carotene, which enables the body to make vitamin A, helping to maintain healthy eyes as well as playing a vital role in bone formation, cell growth and division. A rich source of vitamin C, important in the production of collagen for your skin’s young, healthy glow.

Other nutrients: potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

To gain the most nutrition from sweet potatoes cook them with their skin on. The skin removes easily after cooking. Best to steam, boil, bake or mash them, but my personal favourite Just Routine recipe is curried sweet potato soup.

Garlic

Garlic is one of the most versatile foods and widely recognised as health enhancing.  Its sulphur compound, allicin, is what makes garlic a powerful health ally and could help the body to inhibit the ability for bacteria to grow and reproduce.  Allicin has been shown to lower blood pressure and could aid with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.  One clove of garlic will top up your body’s need for vitamins A, B and C, while it also an excellent source for the minerals selenium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. The health effects of garlic are released when you chop, crush or chew the clove. Allow to stand crushed or chopped for 10 minutes before adding to cooking or even better add garlic just before you finished cooking to preserve the allicin. Add garlic to soups, sauces for pasta and stews. Needless to say it’s used widely in Just Routine recipes.

Cautionary note: If you suffer from a bleeding disorder or take blood thinners consult with your doctor before including garlic in your routine nutrition.

Onions

The ubiquitous but essential backbone of so many cuisines around the world.  Their price has caused political crisis and even brought down governments, while they have an aroma that every street vender knows is irresistible. Whether it be on a hot sultry evening in Singapore, or on a cold winter’s day outside a football stadium, fried onions will trigger an impulse to eat.

A great food source of prebiotics, they help support an important building block of our immune system. Compounds such as quercetin and high levels of chromium add more benefits.

Quercetin is a more potent antioxidant than vitamin E, and is a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory, according to Dutch research. It may even help reduce symptoms like fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Chromium helps maintain a positive hormone balance that might aid symptoms such as PMS.  It can also reduce blood glucose levels, insulin levels and cholesterol.

Onions are also a rich source of flavonoids, which can aid in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Eating as little as 2-3 onions per week can have a positive impact on health, however 5-6 times is better.  Steamed, boiled or roasted, they retain most of their goodness and are a fantastic side dish to any meal.  Add onions to stews, chilli, curries, salsa and casseroles.

Parsnips

Parsnip is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, important for digestive health and the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders.  Because of parsnip’s high fibre content, they fill you up and can prevent the release of ghrelin (hunger hormone). Parsnips are sweet and succulent and although higher in sugar content than carrots or turnips, they are packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, with all these compounds processing anti-cancer, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory functions. Pureed parsnips are a great substitute for sugar in savoury recipes, previously being used as a sweetening agent before sugar cane was introduced to Europe. Maximise health benefits of parsnips by roasting or steaming them with a drizzle of olive oil.

 

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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