Earlier this spring, I turned my diet upside down. With the guidance of my healthcare professionals, I started a modified version of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) to reduce inflammation in my body. This alternative approach is focused on healing the gut through a very specific diet to calm some of the issues associated with autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, and lupus.
While following the AIP, I learned how to cook root vegetables that were completely new to my palate. Since white potatoes aren’t allowed during the elimination phase of the AIP, I often turned to sweet potatoes. But, after a while, they got a little boring. So I started eating taro, yucca, and white sweet potatoes. Are you feeling confused? I was too, but then these versatile root veggies became part of my weekly grocery list. For the most part, they can be used in recipes where you’d usually use white potatoes.
Three New Vegetables to Try
Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, author of The Healing Kitchen, says autoimmune disease affects an estimated 50 million Americans, and, although you can be genetically predisposed to autoimmunity, two-thirds of your risk stems from your dietary choices and environment. So, to help soothe these conditions, it’s possible to work with diet, exercise, and mental health to live a healthier life. After hearing this, I was all-in!
This root is popular in Hawaii, since it’s the base for poi, a regional staple. The tuber looks like a small, hairy potato. When sliced, a light colored flesh with tiny purple flecks is revealed. Taro is popular because it’s hypoallergenic, inexpensive, and very filling. It has three times more fiber than a white potato, which aids in digestion, and ample amounts of iron, magnesium, and potassium.
I like to boil or roast the veggie with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil in a hot oven, much like roasting sliced potatoes. Cooked taro root is starchy, with a similar texture and flavor to white potatoes. But you don’t want to eat taro raw. The uncooked starch contains needle-like calcium oxalate crystals, which may lead to oral irritation or even kidney stones.
This Central American root veggie is larger than a sweet potato with a thick, waxy skin. Native Americans have eaten it for years to potentially help with arthritis pain and benefit immune system functioning, thanks to the tuber’s high vitamin C content, antioxidants, folate, and potassium.
I decided I like yucca so much, I created an AIP-compliant (dairy-free) creamy soup with it that mirrors a favorite leek and potato recipe I used to make often. The tubers can also be baked like a giant potato, but be sure to gently remove the tough, rope-like fibers running down the middle of the root after baking.
White Sweet Potatoes
These root vegetables are also known as Cuban sweet potatoes or boniato. The outer skin is red or light tan, while the inside is white. White sweet potatoes are packed with potassium, fiber, and assorted vitamins. I find that these are less sweet than the more common orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, making them perfect for more savory dishes. I like to mash them or cut them into wedges and roast them with a little extra virgin olive oil.
This unexpected health journey has actually been beneficial in so many ways. I’m now more confident in the kitchen, love to experiment with new-to-me produce, and have added unexpected variety to meals. Whether you need to follow a special diet or not, consider picking up an uncommon fruit or vegetable at the grocery store or farmers market on your next visit. You might just discover a new favorite food!
What healthy fruits and vegetables have you been preparing this week? Show us a photo @TomsofMaine.
Image source: Angela Tague
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Why It’s Good
Variety at meal time sets you up for success. Trying new root vegetables keeps everyone in the family intrigued with what's on their plates, crowds out the junk foods, and broadens picky eater's horizons. Go ahead, try something new this weekend!