Due to health concerns and dietary preferences, the gluten-free and grain-free trends have taken off like wildfire the last decade, even with those that don’t have a diagnosed gluten allergy or problem digesting grains. Some people find they have better digestion when eliminating gluten and grains, while others thrive off them both.
Whole grains are generally recommended to those that can consume them because they contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that assist in overall health. Quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and teff are of course, healthful and delicious gluten-free foods most often used to replace grains, but technically, they’re actually seeds and not grains at all. So why not just use some of Mother Nature’s best vegetables once in a while to replace grains in your meals for a new, yet still healthy twist? Much like the same way some some veggies have the ability to stand-in for meat, beets and sweet potatoes are two root vegetables that are the perfect stand-in for grains.
Why Root Veggies Rock for Gluten and Grain-Free Eaters:
Root vegetables are a stellar option when it comes to replacing grains in your meals. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets have a very calming, grounding effect on the body, much in the same way grains do. They provide balance, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, keep you satisfied, and are a great source of beneficial carbohydrates to give you energy. The best part? They don’t cause digestive difficulties that some people find grains and gluten may cause. Beets and sweet potatoes specifically, have exceptional nutrient values that resemble that of whole grains.
Beets are one of the best sources of dietary folate (Vitamin B9), which converts to folic acid. It’s normally found in processed fortified grain products and is present in some whole grains themselves. Folate is essential for healthy brain development, muscle coordination, and for the utilization of proteins in the body. It’s also important for women who are pregnant or looking to get pregnant since it helps prevent neural and spinal disorders in unborn children. Folate merges with Vitamin B12 to provide optimal nervous system function and healthy blood cell formation. Once cup of beets provide 34 percent of your daily folate requirements, while leafy greens contain even more. By comparison, quinoa has only has 19 percent of your daily requirements in one cup, and other grains don’t even contain that much. Lentils, broccoli, all leafy greens, and beans are other great high-folate options to consume as well.
Beet greens are also an excellent source of riboflavin (Vitamin B2), another essential B vitamin found in whole grains.Vitamin B2 helps convert food to energy, maintain healthy hair, nails and skin, and also assists with brain function. Beet greens provide 32 percent of your daily recommended amounts in just one cup, falling behind spinach and soybeans as the top two grain-free sources.
Beets are also packed with fiber! Most people turn to whole grains for fiber, and while that’s perfectly fine, they’re not always the best source. One cup of beets contains 4 grams of fiber, which is roughly around the same amount as oats, millet, barley, and quinoa. Beets’ fiber is also very easy to digest due to the high amounts of water found in beets, which assist with moving fiber through the body. Fiber is important for long term health since it helps lower and prevent high cholesterol, diabetes, regularity, and contributes to a healthy weight.
4. Liver Detoxification and Heart Health
Beets are also well-known for their ability to detoxify the liver. Their deep, colorful hues comes from natural pigments found in beets known as betalains, which help the liver break down toxins like carcinogens and pesticides in the foods we eat or from toxins in the environment. Beets also help cleanse the blood and provide an alkaline ash to prevent acidity, which is important for preventing arterial decline and inflammation. Their high amount of copper also helps transport iron through the blood, which increases your overall heart health.
5. Easy to Use
You can use beets and beet greens in several different ways. If you’re a raw foodie, run the beets through a spiralizer to create beet noodles or grate them onto salads. Beet greens can be used in any smoothie (they’re very mild in taste) or used in a salad or entree made with greens. Beets are also delicious when roasted in the oven with other root vegetables. Just peel them, cut them into cubes or wedges, sprinkle with your choice of a salt-free seasoning and roast for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. They develop a hearty, satisfying texture with a rich, caramelized sweet flavor. Roasted beets put those slimy canned beets to shame, guaranteed! Check out these 10 Simple Ways to Cook With Beets and these 10 Simple Beet Recipes for even more ideas.
1. Vitamin B6-
Vitamin B6 is one of the most important B vitamins for the human diet. It assists with energy production, nervous system function, and in proper brain function. Whole grains like oats, rye, and barley are good sources of Vitamin B6, however sweet potatoes are an even better source. Sweet potatoes provide 34 percent of your daily Vitamin B6 requirements in just one cup, which is higher than oats or other grains. Vitamin B6 is also found abundantly in: bananas, soybeans, lentils, spinach, avocados, and pumpkin.
Manganese is an important mineral for your health that’s often overlooked, and sweet potatoes and beets are both great sources. Manganese aids in bone production, provides healthy hair and skin, and assists in blood sugar control. Though most grains are a better source, one medium sweet potato still provides 49 percent of your daily values. Other grain and gluten-free options include: spinach, soybeans, cacao, chickpeas and cloves (which actually have 126 percent in just two teaspoons!)
Another important B vitamin for your energy, blood sugar, metabolism, hair, and skin health is biotin. Sweet potatoes provide roughly 33 percent of your daily requirements and have more than any grain. Peanuts and almonds are two other great sources of grain and gluten-free plant-based biotin. Fun fact: sweet potatoes are higher in biotin than eggs, which are often thought of as the best source. Put away the yolks and enjoy a sweet, rich sweet potato instead!
Magnesium is such an important for your health, whether you’re 100 percent plant-based or not. Whole grains and gluten-free seeds like quinoa and millet are both high in magnesium, however sweet potatoes make an impressive option as well. Magnesium ensures healthy nervous system function, prevents migraines and fatigue, combats depression, and even aids in regularity. Spinach, chard, white potatoes, and sunflower seeds are other fantastic options. One cup of sweet potatoes provide 33 milligrams of magnesium, which is around 15 percent of your daily requirements. While they’re not the highest option, they’re an impressive source when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
5. Delicious to Enjoy-
Sweet potatoes are an excellent satisfying choice for any meal and can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be enjoyed at breakfast either baked whole with some cinnamon sprinkled on top, or can be sliced into strips to make a sweet potato breakfast hash. Another option is to bake one in the oven (whole) while you’re getting ready in the morning and when it’s done, scoop out the flesh, and puree it with some almond milk, cinnamon, and ginger to make a warming, grain-free cereal. Sweet potatoes are also great pan-roasted in the oven, used as a grain-free replacement in casserole, added to your favorite smoothie (once cooled, of course.) Or, you can spiralize sweet potatoes in noodles, mash them into salads, use them in desserts, top them with salsa, or just bake them plain and call it a day.
Beets and sweet potatoes are also awesome sources of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, potassium, water, and are fat and sodium-free. As you can see, they contribute to overall health in a pretty amazing way that will support you if you’re eating a gluten and grain-free diet. So try them out and see what they can do for you!
Image Source: Michelle Tribe/Flickr