Sweet Sensational Vegetables

Shantha Kalia

With people eating healthier these days, vegetables get elevated to be the star of the meals at times.  Meatless Mondays are popular with people trying to eat vegetarian meals one day a week.  We have all heard how good vegetables are for your health because they contain valuable nutrients that are essential for maintaining good health.  We also know that not everyone likes vegetables, especially children.  Mothers try to disguise the vegetable so the child eats it.  The most common trick is to sneak cooked and mashed veggies into their favorite foods.

Nearly everyone craves sweets and rather than indulging in processed sugary treats, what if we used naturally sweet foods like fruits and vegetables to satisfy the sweet cravings?  People sometimes eat a piece of fruit to satisfy the sweet craving because it is healthier than processed sugar treats.  We rarely hear that vegetables satisfy sweet cravings.  However, that conception would change if we ate some sweet vegetables that will energize us.

Vegetables such as onions, parsnips, yams, potatoes, and carrots get sweeter when they are cooked or roasted, as the sugars break free from the cells.  The pungent compounds in onion cells break down during cooking, the sugars caramelize, and the flavors intensify.

Root vegetables become abundantly sweeter during fall and winter due to a phenomenon called “cold-sweetening.”  When plants produce sugars during photosynthesis, they are stored as starches.  During winter, some starches are broken down to release sugars, mostly in the form of fructose and glucose.  This is stored in the cells to guard the vegetable against frost damage.  When sugars are dissolved in a vegetable, it is less likely to freeze.  While the vegetable saves itself from freezing, it gives us a sweeter bounty!

Nutritionists suggest that since most sweet vegetables are root vegetables, they are energetically grounding and leave less room for unhealthy foods.

Examples of sweet vegetables include corn, carrots, peas, beets, onions, winter squashes such as kabocha squash and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and yams.  Kabocha squash is sweeter than butternut squash.

Some vegetables are semi-sweet or subtly sweet.  Examples include rutabaga, turnips, and parsnips.

Certain other vegetables do not taste sweet but their effect on the body is similar in that they regulate blood sugar levels, lessen sweet cravings, and help in the breakdown of animal foods in the body.  These vegetables include radishes, green cabbage, and burdock.

A simple and easy method of cooking is to use as many vegetables from the above lists.  Dice the harder veggies like carrots and beets into smaller pieces, and cut large chunks from the softer veggies like onions, cabbage, etc.  Add spices, broth, tofu, beans, grains, or lean protein to make a hearty stew or soup.  Alternatively, drain the vegetables when cooked thoroughly and use the remaining liquid as vegetable stock.

Other methods of cooking sweet vegetables include roasting, steaming, and stir-frying.  You can make a raw salad by grating them and adding other ingredients to improve the flavor.

Sources for this article include:

  • host.madison.com/news/local/ask/curiosities/curiosities-why-do-some-vegetables-get-sweeter-in-the-winter/article_23468988-6d2b-11e0-8977-001cc4c03286.html
  • www.ourdailykneads.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=158:sweet-vegetables-&catid=53:newsletter&Itemid=111
  • healthycrush.com/sweet-vegetables-for-sugar-cravings/
  • www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/sweet-vegetables-snack.php
  • healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/sites/default/files/GSH%20Sweet%20Sensational%20Vegetables%20copy.pdf
About the Author: Shantha Kalia is a health care professional at a New York City hospital. She completed her masters in Public Health, and has worked in various capacities in health care for over 15 years. She is a freelancer and contributes articles to various websites on various medical and health-related topics. Her interests include health and wellness, diet and nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To read more articles by Shantha, please visit HolisticCarePros.com.
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