Healthy Beginnings

Consuming root vegetables helps battle inflammation, other ailments

Ginger, right, and turmeric are rich in anti-inflammatories that protect against rheumatic diseases. Photo: Cassandra Walker

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect against a number of seriously and costly chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

Unfortunately, only one in 10 adults meet adequate fruit and vegetable intake guidelines in the U.S.

Facing outdated research, misinformation on food packaging, challenges with health food accessibility, and rising costs, it is no wonder people are confused about their diet and struggling to follow a plan that really works.

So, what should we eat?

The perfect diet varies person to person, as genetic makeups vary; luckily there are several nutrition, health and wellness experts in the Reno-Tahoe area equipped to run tests and find the best diet plan for your body’s composition.

Nutrition Connection in Reno works to give realistic, usable nutrition guidelines for people to maintain or improve their health; one of their biggest goals as dietitians is being able to stay on top of all of the information that’s out there to help their clients navigate the food industry.

At the helm of Nutrition Connection is its owner, Karen Fisher, a registered dietitian, diabetes educator and health coach.

Karen Fisher is a registered dietitian, diabetes educator, health coach and the owner of Nutrition Connection in Reno. Courtesy photo

“So much is misinformation or half-truths for marketing purposes and people get so confused about what they’re reading,” Fisher told Healthy Beginnings earlier this year. “We cut through all of that and find an individualized plan that will work for them.”

Another Northern Nevada wellness expert, Jodi Pettersen, runs a private practice as a nutritionist to help people live healthier lives and gain confidence. As a licensed, registered dietitian of 26 years, Pettersen is an expert in all areas of nutrition, certified in weight management and obesity.

Much of the ailments from which her clients suffer include morbid obesity, obesity, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and inflammation.

“By losing weight and eating better, (patients) usually can resolve many of their medical issues, especially diabetes (and) high blood pressure,” she said in an interview with Healthy Beginnings earlier this year. “… Setting goals and making small changes like quitting soda or lessening sugar and carbs can definitely help.”

Everyone is capable of making small steps toward better health; even better news, everyone can enhance their daily nutritional intake, starting now.

Disease begins with inflammation

“All of our health conditions and ailments start at an inflammatory level, and vegetables have those anti-inflammatory elements that are all going to help in that regard,” Fisher explained.

Potatoes are highly nutritious, whole carbohydrate foods rich in vitamins A and C. Photo: Cassandra Walker

Harvard Health defines inflammation as the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm and categorizes inflammation in two categories, acute and chronic, which are outlined below:

  • Acute inflammation occurs as a healing response to minor injuries or infections, where white blood cells surround and protect the area, causing redness and swelling; and is essential to the body’s natural healing cycle.
  • Chronic inflammation has a slow onset and occurs deep inside the body over months or years, affecting internal organs and tissues, rather than the surface layer of the skin and has potential to cause chronic disease.

Root vegetables are particularly known for being rich in anti-inflammatories; so, in order to “boil down” some of the produce world, our nutrition experts have weighed-in on the wonderful world of taproots and tubers to add to your weekly meal plan.

Sweet potatoes (yams) are rich in vitamins A and C and have plenty of fiber. Photo: Cassandra Walker

Quick guide to the roots

Taproots: 

  • Carrots are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene, which is good for vision, bone growth and tooth development.
  • Ginger has been used over the last 2,500 years in China, Japan and India to treat headaches, nausea, colds and rheumatism. Ginger is also great for motion sickness and pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting.
  • Turmeric is beneficial to the brain and is used to fight Alzheimer’s and depression. It also may lower cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular issues.
  • Beets increase exercise endurance and decrease blood pressure due to the nitrates naturally found in the root. They are also rich in vitamin B, iron and folate, which are necessary for new cell growth during pregnancy.

Tubers:

  • Potatoes have a bad reputation but are actually highly nutritious when prepared properly. French fries deplete any nutritional value the potato once held, so experts suggest roasting slow and low to retain as much nutrient and mineral properties as possible.
  • Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and have plenty of fiber if you eat the skin. They also offer 20 percent of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin C.
  • If we eat a carbohydrate, it should come from a whole food, so don’t fear the potato, just prepare it with a little olive oil in the oven, rather than frying it. Boiling potatoes loses nutrition from the vegetable to the hot water; unless you’re able to use the water that contains all of the nutrients in your meal, it’s best not to boil.

Cassandra Walker is a Truckee-based writer and contributor to Healthy Beginnings magazine.