15 Healthy Root Vegetables and Their Key Nutrients

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Root vegetables are edible plants that grow underground.

Some famous examples of roots include carrots, radishes, and turnips.

Although root vegetables are not as nutrient-dense as leafy greens, they can still offer some compelling benefits.

This article provides a list of healthy root vegetables alongside their picture, key nutrients, and nutritional benefits.

Which are the best options?

1) Beets

Whole Beets and Slices of Beetroot.

 

Beets are a distinctive reddish-purple color, and they are one of the healthiest roots.

For one thing, beets contain significant concentrations of nitrate, which can help to reduce blood pressure and improve performance.

To see more information on this, here is a guide to the benefits of beets.

Per 100 grams, beets contain the following key nutrients (1);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories43 kcal
Carbohydrate9.6 g
Fiber2.8 g
Sugar6.8 g
Fat0.2 g
Protein1.6 g
Key Nutrients
Folate27% RDA
Manganese16% RDA
Potassium9% RDA
Vitamin C8% RDA
Magnesium6% RDA

As shown in the table, beets are relatively low in calories, and they contain a small to moderate amount of carbohydrate.

Beets are also a good source of folate.

Key Point: Beets are one of the most significant dietary sources of nitrate. Nitrate converts to nitric oxide and has a beneficial effect on blood pressure.

2) Carrots

Two Whole Carrots and Carrot Slices.

Carrots are an orange root vegetable and they are exceptionally high in vitamin A carotenoids.

These carotenoids include the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Notably, human clinical trials show these compounds may help to protect against age-related ocular diseases (2).

Here are the key nutrients that carrots offer per 100 grams (3);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories41 kcal
Carbohydrate9.6 g
Fiber2.8 g
Sugar4.7 g
Fat0.2 g
Protein0.9 g
Key Nutrients
Carotenoids334% RDA
Vitamin K19% RDA
Vitamin C10% RDA
Manganese7% RDA
Vitamin B67% RDA

While the idea of carrots giving us perfect night vision is a little exaggerated, the significant carotenoid content is a good reason to eat them.

Key Point: Carrots are a reasonably nutritious root vegetable which are a substantial source of carotenoids.

3) Daikon Radish

A Whole Daikon Radish and Slices On a Wooden Board.

Daikon radish is a favorite type of root vegetable in East Asia, and it is a staple food in Japanese cuisine.

Despite this, the origins of daikon radish lie in the Mediterranean region, and it is available in the West too (4).

The table below shows a summary of the primary nutrients in daikon radish (5);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories18 kcal
Carbohydrate4.1 g
Fiber1.6 g
Sugar2.5 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein0.6 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C37% RDA
Folate7% RDA
Copper6% RDA
Potassium6% RDA
Magnesium4% RDA

As you can see, daikon radish is low in calories, carbohydrate, and most other nutrients.

However, it provides a reasonably good amount of vitamin C.

If you wish to eat this root in the traditional East Asian style, it requires fermentation, and there is a good recipe for that here.

Key Point: Daikon radish is a traditional Asian staple, and it is a decent source of vitamin C.

4) Garlic

A Whole Garlic Bulb and a Single Clove.

Garlic is a delicious bulb vegetable that belongs to the allium family, which also includes onions and chives.

This small and flavorful vegetable helps to make almost anything taste better too.

Garlic also plays a large part in world cuisine, from garlic bread to kimchi and even garlic snails.

Per 100 grams, here is garlic’s key nutritional information (6);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories149 kcal
Carbohydrate33.1 g
Fiber2.1 g
Sugar1.0 g
Fat0.5 g
Protein6.4 g
Key Nutrients
Manganese84% RDA
Vitamin B662% RDA
Vitamin C52% RDA
Selenium20% RDA
Calcium18% RDA

Garlic is a bulb, which is an underground nutrient storage food for above ground plants.

Garlic also appears to have numerous health benefits.

For example, a recent meta-analysis and systematic review of randomized controlled trials found that garlic can significantly lower blood pressure (7).

Key Point: Garlic is a delicious and healthy vegetable that adds a lot of flavor to dishes.

5) Red Onion

A Whole Red Onion and Slices.

While not as popular as their yellow cousin, red onions are a tasty underground bulb.

Red onions work well when sauteed as a side for a meat dish, and they are a common ingredient in raw salads too.

Here is a look at their primary nutrients (8);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories40 kcal
Carbohydrate9 g
Fiber2.0 g
Sugar4.0 g
Fat0 g
Protein1 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C12% DV
Calcium2% RDA
Iron1% RDA

As shown in the nutrient profile, red onions are not a significant source of vitamins and minerals aside from a moderate amount of vitamin C.

However, onions also provide a large concentration of flavonols including quercetin, which is one of the most proven polyphenols. (9, 10).

Key Point: Red onions are a tasty bulb vegetable and they are rich in flavonol polyphenols.

6) Yellow Onion

A Whole Yellow Onion and Onion Halves.

 

Yellow onions (or just ‘onions’) are similar to the red version, but we mainly eat them in their cooked state.

Nutritionally, onions offer the following nutrients per 100 grams (11);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories40 kcal
Carbohydrate9.3 g
Fiber1.7 g
Sugar4.2 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein1.1 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C12% RDA
Vitamin B66% RDA
Manganese6% RDA
Folate5% RDA
Potassium4% RDA

In the same manner as red onion, yellow onions are not particularly high in micronutrients.

However, they are also a significant source of quercetin.

On that note, a recent randomized controlled trial suggests that quercetin-rich onions may potentially help to protect against cognitive decline in older adults (12).

Key Point: Onions are another tasty bulb vegetable that work well in numerous dishes.

7) Jicama

Whole and Sliced Jicama Root Vegetable.

Sometimes known as the ‘Mexican yam bean’ or ‘Mexican turnip,’ jicama is an edible root that enjoys the most popularity in Mexico.

However, anyone living in the United States should be able to find this root vegetable without issue.

Per 100-gram serving, jicama provides the following nutrients (13);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories38 kcal
Carbohydrate8.8 g
Fiber4.9 g
Sugar1.8 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein0.7 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C34% RDA
Potassium4% RDA
Magnesium3% RDA
Iron3% RDA
Folate3% RDA

Aside from vitamin C, jicama is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals.

Notably, jicama is very adaptable and people eat it in a variety of ways.

Similar to potatoes, jicama can be roasted, fried, boiled, mashed, or made into chips.

Key Point: Jicama is a versatile Mexican root vegetable, and it contains a good source of vitamin C.

8) Parsnip

A Whole Parsnip and Parsnip Slices.

Parsnips may not be the most nutritious of root vegetables, but they are arguably the tastiest.

Sometimes mistaken for white carrots, parsnips are entirely different.

This off-white, long root vegetable has a firm texture and a sweet and mellow flavor.

Below you can see the major nutrients that parsnips contain (14);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories71 kcal
Carbohydrate17 g
Fiber3.6 g
Sugar4.8 g
Fat0.3 g
Protein1.3 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C22% RDA
Manganese15% RDA
Folate14% RDA
Potassium10% RDA
Magnesium7% RDA

Parsnips are also quite adaptable, and we can cook them in so many ways.

I would say the tastiest way to eat them is roasting them alongside a joint of meat.

Key Point: Parsnips are one of the best-tasting root vegetables.

9) Turnip

Whole and Half Turnips On a White Background.

 

Turnips are small and round root vegetables with a creamy color.

A variety of slightly different varieties of the species grow throughout the world, and the typical primary nutrient profile looks like this (15);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories28 kcal
Carbohydrate6.4 g
Fiber1.8 g
Sugar3.8 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein0.9 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C35% RDA
Manganese7% RDA
Potassium5% RDA
Vitamin B64% RDA
Folate4% RDA

The major nutrient in turnips is vitamin C, and they are fairly low in other micronutrients.

Interestingly, the taste of turnips can vary significantly between bitter and very mildly sweet, and this depends on the cooking method.

In total, a boiling time of close to 30 minutes removes most of the bitter taste.

Key Point: Turnips are an edible root vegetable that can be slightly bitter without a long enough cooking time.

10) Burdock Root

Whole and Half Burdock Root Vegetables.

Burdock root is a lesser-known type of root, and it grows throughout North Asia and Europe.

In addition to its use as a vegetable, it is also possible to buy burdock root tea.

Burdock root provides the following primary nutrients per 100 grams (16);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories72 kcal
Carbohydrate17.3 g
Fiber3.3 g
Sugar2.9 g
Fat0.2 g
Protein1.5 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin B612% RDA
Manganese12% RDA
Magnesium10% RDA
Potassium9% RDA
Folate6% RDA

Burdock root tastes slightly sweet, and it has a firm, crunchy texture.

Additionally, this root contains a substantial amount of hydroxycinnamic acid, a type of polyphenol also found in cinnamon and coffee (17).

Key Point: Burdock root is fairly uncommon compared to other root vegetables, but it tastes great and provides polyphenols that may benefit our health.

11) Radish

A Whole Radish Still Attached To Green Radish Leaves.

In contrast to the East-Asian daikon radish, the common radish comes in colorful shades of red, pink and purple.

Radishes have a spicy and peppery taste, and this comes from the chemical compounds they contain such as glucosinolate and isothiocyanate (18).

Regarding their nutrition profile, radishes provide minimal calories, macronutrients or micronutrients.

Here are the key nutrients per 100 grams (19);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories16 kcal
Carbohydrate3.5 g
Fiber1.6 g
Sugar1.9 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein0.7 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C25% RDA
Potassium7% RDA
Folate6% RDA
Vitamin B64% RDA
Manganese3% RDA

Containing a moderate amount of vitamin C, radishes area very low-energy root vegetable and they make a spicy and flavorful addition to salads.

Key Point: Radish is a spicy-tasting root that provide some vitamin C.

12) Sweet Potato

A Whole Sweet Potato, Half, and Slices.

Sweet potatoes are an underground tuber, they have a mildly sweet taste, and they are one of the most versatile vegetables.

Whether it is boiling, frying, mashing, roasting or steaming, there are many ways to prepare sweet potatoes.

Here are the key nutrients per 100 grams (20);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories86 kcal
Carbohydrate20.1 g
Fiber3.0 g
Sugar4.2 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein1.6 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin A284% RDA
Manganese13% RDA
Vitamin B610% RDA
Potassium10% RDA
Copper8% RDA

Similar to carrots, sweet potatoes are a significant source of carotenoids.

Since these compounds are fat-soluble vitamin A precursors, it is a good idea to eat them with a bit of butter to increase nutrient absorption (21).

Key Point: Sweet potatoes are a sweet and starchy tuber with a large carotenoid content.

13) Shallot

Three Unpeeled Whole Shallots.

Like their allium family members onions and garlic, shallots are an underground edible bulb.

However, they are much more flavorful, and chefs around the world prize them for their rich and mildly sweet taste.

Per 100 grams, shallots provide (22);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories72 kcal
Carbohydrate16.8 g
Fat0.1 g
Protein2.5 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin A24% RDA
Vitamin B617% RDA
Manganese15% RDA
Vitamin C13% RDA
Potassium10% RDA

Just as shallots are richer in flavor, they are also more nutritious.

Compared to regular onions, shallots provide a greater range of vitamins and minerals.

Key Point: Shallots are a tasty, mildly sweet bulb vegetable that adds a lot of flavor to food.

14) Rutabaga

A Whole Rutabaga (Swede) With Some Large Slices.

Rutabaga is a turnip-like root vegetable, and it also goes by the common name of swede.

Similar to turnips, rutabaga can have a slightly bitter taste, but less so.

Rutabaga also offers slightly more nutritionally. Here is the profile per 100 grams (23);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories36 kcal
Carbohydrate8.1 g
Fiber2.5 g
Sugar5.6 g
Fat0.2 g
Protein1.2 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C42% RDA
Potassium10% RDA
Manganese9% RDA
Vitamin B16% RDA
Magnesium6% RDA

Rutabaga is a rich source of vitamin C, and it provides a small additional range of vitamins and minerals.

There are several ways to cook a rutabaga, but here are two of the tastiest;

  • Chop the rutabaga into cubes, and evenly coat them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then roast in the oven until they’re ready.
  • Boil the rutabaga until it goes soft, and then mash and mix with some butter and salt.
Key Point: Rutabaga is a moderately nutritious root vegetable, and it can be tasty depending on the cooking method.

15) Cassava Root

Raw and Fresh Chopped Cassava Root Pieces.

Cassava is a root vegetable that grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The root is otherwise known as Brazilian arrowroot and—more famously—it is the ingredient used to make tapioca.

Nutritionally, it is relatively high in calories and carbohydrate in comparison to other root vegetables.

Per 100 grams, cassava root provides (24);

Calories and MacrosAmount (kcal/grams)
Calories160 kcal
Carbohydrate38.1 g
Fiber1.8 g
Sugar1.7 g
Fat0.3 g
Protein1.4 g
Key Nutrients
Vitamin C34% RDA
Manganese19% RDA
Potassium8% RDA
Folate7% RDA
Vitamin B16% RDA

Many plant foods contain chemical “poisons” to protect the plant from attack, but cassava goes one step further.

In its raw state, cassava contains enzymes that break down into cyanide (25).

Unfortunately, there have been numerous fatalities from people eating this root vegetable raw. Many of these deaths have come from people unknowingly eating raw cassava meal (26, 27).

Cassava always needs cooking thoroughly.

Key Point: Cassava is a root vegetable that is edible in its cooked state, but should never be eaten raw.

Final Thoughts

Root vegetables may not be as nutritious as leafy greens, but they can still provide a fairly good nutrient profile.

However, some options are high in starchy carbohydrate, so it is essential to watch the serving size.

Lastly, most root vegetables taste great and add a variety of flavor to our meals.

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