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Getting Back to your Roots

Today's post was written by: Whitney Ajie, MS, is an Extension Educator for the Illinois Nutrition Education Programs serving Sangamon, Logan and Menard Counties. She specializes in nutrition and physical activity education for low-income audiences, shopping and eating healthy on a budget, increasing food access, and obesity prevention.


Fall is the perfect time to explore root vegetables! Root vegetables, just as their name suggests, grow underground and grow best in cooler temperatures (which is why they are abundant in the fall!). They are hardy plants whose roots are edible. Root vegetables mainly contain carbohydrates, which our bodies use for energy, and contain very little protein or fat. Depending on the type, they can also have good amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, C and K and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. They are all good sources of fiber. Examples of root vegetables are carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, turnips, and rutabagas.

Some root vegetables that you may have never heard of are salsify, burdock, maca, cassava, and jimaca. Did you know that cassava is used to make tapioca? Therefore, if you've had tapioca, then you've tried the cassava root! Many of these unfamiliar root vegetables are popular outside of the United States.

Although sometimes people think they are the same thing, root vegetables are slightly different than tubers. Tubers are specialized root structures used by the plants to store water and nutrients, but they are not the same kind of root as a carrot or beet. Tubers are unique because they can create a new plant if the parent plant dies. Examples of tubers are potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams. However, whether it's a root or a tuber, they are all great to eat!

Root vegetables will be cheaper in the fall. Because they grow underground, make sure to wash them thoroughly with cold water before use. You can store them (unwashed) in the refrigerator for several weeks or can be stored for several months in a cold room of the house. Visit the National Center of Home Food Preservation to learn more on the subject of "Storing Vegetables at Home."

Roasted Vegetables (Serving: ½ cup; Makes 6 servings)

Source: I on Diabetes, University of Illinois Extension


  • 2 medium baking potatoes, unpeeled, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  1. Place prepared vegetables in single layer in a 9x9-inch baking dish or casserole. Spray vegetables lightly with oil spray. Sprinkle with herbs and spices to your own taste.
  2. 2. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes at 375°F. Uncover, check tenderness of vegetables and bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

Nutrition Information per serving: 80 calories, 0 grams total fat, (0 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, 18 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams protein