Leaves are turning red, orange and purple and so are seasonal vegetables.  Colorful root vegetables and spices are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and contain many phytochemicals (beneficial naturally occurring chemicals from plants) which can boost your health, increase your immunity and cleanse your system.

Here are two vegetables and a spice, which deserve particular healthy recognition:

Beets.  The most recognizable beets are wonderfully purple, some are yellow (generally sweeter), and some are multicolored red and white.  All varieties are fat free, low in sodium and very high in fiber (which makes you feel full faster and longer and also aids in digestion and digestive cleansing). 

They all contain Iron, Vitamins C, B, and A, and Beta Carotene (which helps with vision) and contain numerous phytochemicals which, in various research studies, have shown to reduce cancer risk, inflammation and aid in detoxification.  Beets have a particular sweet, earthy flavor and are very versatile to prepare.  Roast them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, boil or steam them, make a borscht soup, or grate them raw into a salad.  If you are using purple ones, wear gloves or be prepared to have your fingers stained for a few hours!  

Don’t be afraid to eat the greens.  Beet greens are very high in calcium, fiber, Vitamins A, B, C, E, and Iron and can be delicious tossed into a green salad or sautéed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  The stems can be a little tough so if you want to soften them further, let them simmer in some (low sodium) organic vegetable or chicken broth for a few minutes before serving. 

Sweet Potatoes. With beautiful bright orange (or sometimes purple!) flesh, sweet potatoes are a great alternative to white potatoes, packing in more nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  Sweet potatoes are very high in Beta Carotene, Vitamins A, B and C, and fiber.  They also have a lower glycemic load (lowers your blood sugar less) than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be added to any soup, roasted, baked, and can also be used in dessert or bread recipes (or dog treats!) to reduce added sugar. Try making some sweet potato pancakes by cooking and pureeing them and adding them to any pancake or waffle recipe…they are delicious!

Ginger.  Ginger is a root stem who’s fragrant flesh can be yellow, red or white.  Used to add intense fiery, sweet flavor in recipes, ginger has also been included in alternative medicine for centuries to treat stomach ailments. Ginger, along with it’s sister root turmeric (which yields a fantastic orange color and is a spice most commonly used in Indian food), have been shown to decrease inflammation, pain from arthritis, and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.  Ginger and turmeric also contain many antioxidants, which may help fight certain cancers and boost immunity. Ginger can be added to salad dressings, soups (most famously in carrot ginger soup), pesto sauces (see the cilantro pesto quinoa salad recipe here in the recipe file), cookies and cakes.  You can also make your own or buy some ginger tea and enjoy after meals to help with digestion.  

 Let me know what root veggies do you like to eat? 

This post was written by Annie Rusoff, Dietetic Student at Lehman College, CUNY