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Fruits, Roots and Vegies
the healthy choice - so have your fill


You know what they are: carrots, swedes, turnips, parsnips, beets, et al. They all seem to contain a wealth of those vitamins and minerals essential for our wellbeing. Take turnips, for instance - vitamins A, B1,B2, B3, B5, B6, C, E, K, and folate; plus minerals like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and copper. And if these weren't enough, they also have phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and are loaded with fibre. With those impressive credentials, who wouldn't want a turnip as a life-long companion?

Root vegetables are a natural source of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and other nutrients; and they are all gluten-free. They tend to be lower in calories than many grains and have a lower GI, so they won't spike your blood sugar as quickly; and they are less inclined to cause digestive or inflammatory problems.

Although nutritional content varies between types, most root vegies when cooked have about 50-100 calories per ½-cup serving; and three or more grams of fibre. We hear a lot about fibre with respect to regularity versus constipation, and hopefully this is a benefit for most. The bonus seems to be that the carbs they contain are slower-burning; and also being high in fibre, they linger in the digestive tract, keeping you feeling full for longer.

Root vegetables benefit the immune system by lowering inflammation that can encourage chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. They protect skin and eye health, and (woo-hoo!) apparently reduce free radical damage. The fibre in starchy vegies slows down the release of glucose (sugar), and that's important for insulin balance and lowering the risk of insulin resistance.

With the exception of potatoes, I won't list the different types of root vegetables individually because they are all very similar with respect to health content. What I will say is that cooking methods may reduce the nutritional values. Boiling can do this, whereas microwaving in a small amount of water is claimed to be a better way; and stir-frying so that they stay crunchy is a good second choice. You can, of course, eat them raw; but if you prefer this option, please take note of the message in Healthy Living HL35 - Preparing Fruit and Vegetables: to avoid poisoning yourself!

They've been the staple diet of many; certainly folks in the UK after Nutty Walt (Sir Walter Raleigh) brought some spuds back from the Americas and presented them to Queen Elizabeth I. Maybe, in hindsight, he might have regretted introducing tobacco as well; but he couldn't have foreseen the tragedy that stuck because his edible discovery became, in a future time, suddenly unavailable. This was a potato shortage which drove prices up to the point when many pensioners who couldn't afford them died because they were deprived of the vitamin C they contained. Maybe that brought it home with a bang - potatoes are more than just a filling side vegie.

Apart from the vitamin C - but don't forget it - the iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes help build and maintain bone structure and strength. Along with potassium these have been found to naturally lower blood pressure. So, considering the fibre, vitamin B6 and lack of cholesterol, the humble spud is good for the heart. Choline is also present (one large potato contains 57 mg), and this nutrient apparently assists with muscle movement, mood, learning, and memory.

Many weight-loss programs suggest reducing carbohydrate intake, and for this reason dieters often dump the potato, which is probably not a good idea. The vitamin B6 actually breaks down carbohydrates; and with respect to satisfaction, they are a better, longer-lasting hunger-buster than rabbit food. A person who isn't starving half the time is less likely to binge and load on the calories. So, plain potatoes are good for you - just as they are though: nuked, boiled or baked without any additions like butter and cream. Sorry, but those are the facts.


Broccoli contains Vitamin K, necessary to promote the functioning of proteins affecting blood clotting. So, anyone on Warfarin, or similar, should avoid this vegetable. For the rest of us, it is a good source of vitamin C, as well as folic acid, which is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body. There's also potassium, a mineral and electrolyte essential for the function of nerves and heart contraction. The fibre content of broccoli is undeniable; and there's plenty of it, especially in the stalks which we've found great in stir-fries and stews.

Is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6, C and K. It has much more - manganese, dietary fibre, potassium, folate and copper. Additionally, cabbage has a swag of Choline, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin. Shredded in coleslaw, stir-fried, cooked on its own, or pan-fried with mashed potatoes as bubble and squeak, cabbage is a must in the kitchen.

And, don't forget: taking leaves from the outside instead of slicing makes it last longer. Well-wrapped in a plastic bag and put in the vegie drawer of the fridge, a head of cabbage will keep for up to a month.

Cauliflower is a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables; is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich. It may even boost heart and brain health. Aside from vitamin C, K and beta-carotene, cauliflower also contains sulforaphane, a sulphur compound claimed to slow tumorous growths by killing cancer stem cells. It is said to improve blood pressure and kidney function into the bargain. And check out the other contents - vitamin B6 (good for brain development) and then there's protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fibre, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese and choline.

A vegie that can have all that, and be a versatile, low-carb substitute for potatoes, why wouldn't you want it on your plate?

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