Produce of the Day: Parsnips

All this month I’m making it fun to eat better with my 30-Day Challenge “Half Plate Produce” in the spirit of National Nutrition Month’s theme “Enjoy the taste of eating right!”

Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

Image Source: edenbrothers.com

Image Source: edenbrothers.com

From late fall to early spring, parsnips are at their peak.  You can snatch them up in many grocery stores and farmers markets.  These root vegetables are related to carrots, celery root, parsley, and fennel.  They look a lot like a white carrot, and they have a sweeter flavor than carrots.

In the middle ages, parsnips were thought to be aphrodisiacs and to cure sore feet and toothaches.  I’m not making any guarantees that parsnips are going to make you any better in bed, but they are good for your heart, gums/teeth, and muscles.

Here’s how:

Folate

Folate is a water soluble B Vitamin that is naturally found in fruits, vegetables (especially dark green leafy ones), liver, and beans.  Grain-based products, like breads and cereals, are required to be fortified with 25% of recommended daily folate.

Folate is important in energy metabolism and DNA synthesis.  Deficiencies in folate can lead to birth defects, so this nutrient is especially important for women of child-bearing age.

Antioxidants

Parsnips are rich in falcarinol, which is a type of phytonutrient with antioxidant properties .  Falcarinol is linked to decreased incidence of cancer cell formation and decreased inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is associated with many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.

Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte that helps balance water and minerals in the body, maintain normal blood pressure, contract and build muscle, transmit nerve signals, and regulate the body’s pH.  Most American’s do not get enough potassium in their diets, so it’s important to try to include potassium-rich foods, like parsnips, often.  A diet high in potassium is associated with reduce risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Parsnips are also rich in soluble fiber and vitamin C.

How parsnips can help make half plate produce:

Roast Them

I love roasted parsnips – the high heat from the oven caramelizes the sugar in the parsnips to bring out their naturally sweet, nutty flavor.  Plus, roasting is quick and easy and it requires no fancy kitchen skills, so anyone can do it.

You can roast parsnips by themselves or add other root veggies, like carrots, turnips, and rutabaga.  I like to slice mine into matchsticks, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in a 425 °oven until they’re just starting to brown (20 -25 minutes).  After I take them out of the oven I drizzle them with pomegranate molasses (about 1 Tablespoon) – the sweet/tart taste brings the parsnips to a new level.  Serve the roasted vegetables as a side with your favorite protein.  Leftovers make great additions to any salad!

Add them to soup

You can use parsnips pretty much anywhere you’d use carrots.  Making chicken noodle soup?  Try dicing parsnips up instead of/ in addition to carrots.

Parsnips puree nicely, so they’re wonderful in creamy soups as well.  This recipe from Martha Stewart uses just a touch of cream and tops the soup with crunchy toasted almonds.  A small bowl would be an elegant first course, or serve as the entrée with whole wheat bread, green salad, and fresh fruit – that’s way more than half a plate (or bowl) of produce!

Image Source: marthastewart.com

Image Source: marthastewart.com

Mash them Like Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of the ultimate comfort foods – they’re decadently rich, creamy, and buttery.  One of the reasons mashed potatoes need so much butter and cream is that they don’t have much flavor on their own.  Parsnips, however, have loads of flavor and make a great mashed side dish that doesn’t require so much fat.  This recipe modifies a Julia Child method for making delicious mashed .  If uses only a touch of butter (definitely less than what Julia used!) and the cooking liquid from the veggies to add loads of flavor.

Your Turn to Share

I’ve shared my tips and now I want to hear yours!  What are some of your fave ways to add parsnips into your diet? Did I miss any of your favorite tricks? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite pics and recipes that help make it fun for YOU to eat better. (Use #30DayChallenge and #NNM in your messages.)

(Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for this blog post.)

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