Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner but dreading that overstuffed, sleepy feeling that usually hits around pie-eating time? Consider replacing some of those rich or “heavy” sides with healthy Thanksgiving dishes that are easy to digest and packed with good nutrients. A good place to start is by tapping the power of root vegetables. If foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets aren’t already part of your Thanksgiving spread, you’re missing out!
What’s So Great about Root Vegetables?
Beyond adding an array of festive fall colors to the dinner table, there are many fantastic benefits of root vegetables. Sweet potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and radishes are all root veggies that store energy in the form of carbohydrates. Not only are they packed with energy, but they also contain beneficial minerals and nutrients. Some of these foods (e.g., sweet potatoes) also provide protein. Plus, root vegetables are easily digested in the upper portion of the intestine, which means they help promote intestinal health. Raw carrots are particularly beneficial, because they contain chemicals that oppose “bad” bacteria in the intestine,1 as well as fiber that has a tendency to absorb harmful toxins.
For more info on foods that help create an ideal balance of bacteria in the intestine, read my previous post: 5 Dietary Tips to Improve Gut Bacteria.
What’s the Best Way to Eat Root Vegetables?
To fully tap the power of root veggies, make sure they are well-cooked until soft (with the exception of carrots, which are a great option whether cooked or raw). Why? Because cooking converts the starches in root vegetables into a more easily digestible form. This enhances our ability to obtain nutrients from the vegetables. It also decreases the likelihood that large volumes of undigested material will remain in our lower digestive tract—a process that can lead to the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria, which negatively impacts health.2
Thanksgiving Recipe: Warm Roasted Root Veggie Salad
- 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3-4 cups fresh or canned beets, quartered
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
- Approx. 1 tablespoon sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 5-ounce package feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 375℉. Place veggies in a large bowl and toss with oil until coated. Mix in sea salt and pepper. Spread mixture on a baking sheet. Place in the oven (middle rack) and bake for about 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Serve warm, topped with goat cheese or feta, for a simple and healthy Thanksgiving side dish. Serves 8-12 people.
Now that you’ve got the veggies covered, what about the breads and grains? Check out our previous posts to learn about two traditional options that are both delicious and nutritious: fermented sourdough bread and gluten-free masa flour.
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- Babic I, Nguyen-the C, Amiot MJ, Aubert S. Antimicrobial activity of shredded carrot extracts on food-borne bacteria and yeast. J Appl Bacteriol 76, No. 2 (Feb 1994): 135-141. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8144415
- Bures J, Cyrany J, Kohoutova D, et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World J Gastroenterol 16, No. 24 (Jun 2010): 2978-2990. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890937/