5 Unusual Root Vegetables Worth Trying

by Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: October 2, 2020

COVID-19 has inspired many of us to try new and interesting foods. Root vegetables that are outside of your normal diet are a great way to explore new foods, as they can easily replace or complement other root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and onions. Parsnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, jicama, and daikon are nutrient dense root vegetables that are easy to incorporate into meals. Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb nutrients from the soil, making them an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C. Vitamin A supports eye health, while vitamin C supports a healthy immune system. Root vegetables also provide antioxidants and fiber, making them heart health heroes. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of five unusual root vegetables, and learn how to get creative with them in the kitchen.
  1. Parsnips
    Parsnips look like white carrots and can generally be used in the same way as carrots. They have a sweet taste and pack a huge nutritional punch. Parsnips are high in fiber, providing over 6 grams per 1 cup. The benefits of eating high fiber foods are well known - they help us maintain healthy cholesterol and blood glucose levels, as well as help promote healthy digestion and weight. Parsnips are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. Try mashing, baking, or roasting parsnips like these Roasted Parsnips with Thyme. Parsnips are an easy addition to soups and stews.
  2. Rutabaga
    Rutabagas are a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. Rutabagas are high in antioxidants, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E. Antioxidants defend your body against harmful molecules that can foster cancer and chronic disease. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that promotes healthy cells and is important for brain and skin health. Potassium is an essential mineral that promotes muscle health, nerve function, fluid balance, and blood pressure. Make sure to peel rutabagas before cooking. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Consider using them as a substitute for potatoes. Try them grated, mashed, roasted, or as fries.
  3. Kohlrabi
    Kohlrabi is related to cabbage and is similar in taste and texture. The leaves, stems, and bulbs are all edible. It’s very low calorie and high fiber, making it a nutrition superstar. This root vegetable boasts high amounts of vitamin C, which supports immune health and aids in iron absorption. The leaves can be used in salads and soups or can be sautéed. The bulb can be chopped or grated to add crunch to a dish.
  4. Jicama
    Jicama, also known as a “Mexican potato,” has an impressive nutrient profile. Like other root vegetables, it is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber. This combination of nutrients is beneficial for heart health, digestion, and weight control. Jicama can be eaten raw or cooked after the peel is removed. Try jicama sticks as an alternative to carrot sticks for dipping in hummus or use it in a slaw.
  5. Daikon
    Daikon is a variety of radish specific to winter, with a crunchy texture and a milder flavor than spring radishes. Daikon radishes are found in a variety of colors and shapes, including watermelon radishes. They have a green skin and pink flesh, giving it the look of a watermelon when cut. Daikon radishes are high in vitamin C, fiber, and folate. Folate is a B vitamin that is involved in producing red blood cells and is especially important during pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby. Daikon can be used in a multitude of ways in the kitchen. Eat it raw, cooked, or pickled. Try it roasted, in stir frys and curries, or as an addition to soups and stews.

Adding these unique root vegetables to our diet can be beneficial to our health and help us get out of a recipe rut. For more information about root vegetables or other nutrition topics, make a Telenutrition appointment with a Kroger Health Dietitian.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Lisa McCune, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Teaching people about the positive things that food can do for the mind, body and spirit, and helping them understand that all foods can fit into a healthy diet is Lisa’s nutrition philosophy. She believes food should be exciting and fun! Lisa encourages celebration of non-scale victories, which focus on what good nutrition can do for your life beyond weight. She loves food, but also loves to break a sweat whether it’s cycling, walking her dog or doing CrossFit.