Health Benefits of Winter Squash and Root Vegetables

It’s the season of eating colorful winter squashes and energetically grounding root vegetables. The colors I see outside are what I see in my kitchen, as well. Vibrant oranges, yellows and reds from winter squash, sweet potatoes, and beets. They are hearty, comforting, packed with nutrients, and the most perfect foods for these chilly fall days.


Loaded with Nutritious Antioxidants, Vitamins, and Fiber

Both winter squashes and root vegetables are storage vegetables. Our local farmers are still busy harvesting winter squashes and root vegetables for us to enjoy this autumn season. And as the days pass and we approach winter, we rely on our farmers to the south and to the west to provide these winter staples. They are typically sweet and starchy which makes them a very delicious ingredient in all types of recipes for cozy comfort foods we enjoy in the cooler months.

Winter squashes and root vegetables are very nutritious because they contain a host of phytochemicals that the plant uses to help protect them from their challenging growing environments and to ward off pests and diseases. These phytochemicals are powerful antioxidants that, when consumed, help us to fight off free radicals which plays a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

Both winter squashes and root vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins A + C. Vitamin A supports immunity, vision, inflammation, and tissue healing. Vitamin C helps to fight the common cold, supports collagen production, boosts immunity, and reduces inflammation.

They are also rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber; however, they are an especially rich source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber includes pectins, mucilages and gums. When you eat a source of soluble fiber, these compounds swell with water and form a mass in the digestive tract that has the consistency of jelly. As this mass moves through the intestines, it slows the rate at which food is digested and nutrients like cholesterol and glucose are absorbed. Because of this, a diet high in soluble fiber may prevent diabetes and help regulate your blood cholesterol levels. 


Recipe Inspiration – What to Cook Using Winter Squash and Root Vegetables!

Healthy for us, delicious, and extremely versatile in the kitchen. Both winter squashes and root vegetables can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. They can be roasted, baked, grilled, steamed or mashed, and incorporated into breakfast breads and muffins. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes that incorporate winter squash and root vegetables. Enjoy!

Delicata Squash

Baked Delicata Squash

I’ve mentioned this before, but delicata is my favorite winter squash. It’s easy to prep, quick to cook, and it usually comes in a size that is perfect for one person. Besides making “fries” out of delicata, our favorite way to eat them is baked.  

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Simply cut open the squash lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Brush the surface of the cut squash with ghee (or avocado oil) and season with salt and pepper. Set the squash in a baking dish, cut side up, and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with maple syrup or honey, butter, plain yogurt, or crème fraîche.

Purple Top Turnips

Roasted Purple Top Turnips

This is a recipe from Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It is a simple dish that is perfect in cold weather. Once the dish is cooked, I like topping it with Organic Valley Blue Cheese Crumbles. It gives the dish a kick in flavor!

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pounds purple top turnips, peeled and quartered
  • Avocado oil or ghee for coating
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary or 6 sprigs of thyme

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a shallow roasting pan or baking dish. Boil the turnips in salted water for 3 minutes and drain. Towel dry to remove excess moisture. Toss with enough oil to coat them lightly, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the dish with the herbs and bake, uncovered, until tender when pierced with a knife and browned, 25- 30 minutes. (Serves 4 to 6)

Root Vegetable Soup

Root Vegetable Soup

I used to make a version of this soup when I lived in Seattle and my husband worked on an organic farm. We had tons of root vegetables all fall and winter long. I would toss what we had into a pot of broth, add some herbs and spices, and voila!—we had dinner. It pairs perfectly with braised or roasted meat and a loaf of artisan bread. This recipe is from The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee (or butter) Avocado oil or ghee for coating
  • 1 medium yellow onion (chopped fine) 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • 1 medium celery root/celeriac (diced)
  • 3 medium carrots (diced)
  • 2 medium parsnips (diced)
  • 1 small turnip (diced)
  • 5 cups bone broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions: Melt the ghee in the bottom of a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat, and tip in the onion. Sprinkle the onion with salt and thyme, stir, and then cover the pot. Allow the onions and thyme to sweat in the hot fat for about 5 minutes, or until they soften and release their fragrance. 

Dump the celeriac, carrots, parsnips, and turnips into the pot, and then pour in the bone broth. Increase the heat to medium-high. When the contents of the pot reach a boil, turn down the heat to medium, cover the pot, and then simmer the soup for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

Turn off the heat, and then stir in the heavy cream. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth, and then serve hot. 

(Serves 6)


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About Organic Beth

Beth Blessing (Organic Beth) has a Masters in Nutrition and is the co-founder of Green Bean Delivery. She is a mother of three who loves supporting family farms and searching for unique, artisanal products. Her goal is to help others eat better and live a more natural, holistic life through healthy recipes and practical tips.