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Eat 'em up: White veggies?

Nutrition professionals – me included – tell Americans to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, white gets left off the standard rainbow, but there are many healthy white vegetables we should include in our diets.

This blog post will focus on 5 white vegetables you might grow in your garden and find at local farmer's markets (and of course at your local grocery store), although there are many others out there. Whether a white veggie is on this list or not, I encourage you to try something new.

Color in White Veggies?

In the food world, plant pigments give us all the amazing colors we see, like the luscious (anthocyanin) red of strawberries or the deep (chlorophyll) green of broccoli. While we may not consider white to be a color in food, anthoxanthin is the pigment that gives white foods their white color. (Sometimes anthoxanthin also gives a tan or yellow tinge.)

Healthy White Veggies

Our discussion of white veggies includes: potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, and onions. Like many veggies, these 5 are very low in fat, sodium, and protein, but are a source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Folate and potassium are the recurring vitamin and mineral in all these veggies. Diets rich in potassium benefit blood pressure and heart health. Folate plays roles in metabolism and proper cell division, such as red blood cells.

See the chart below for nutrient information, and check the National Nutrient Database from the USDA to find out all the nutrients in these (and other) foods.

Chart 1. Select Nutrient Information in 5 White Veggies

Veggie (1 cup)


Carbohydrates (g)

Fiber (g)

Notable Vitamins/Minerals

Potatoes (flesh and skin)




Potassium, folate





Potassium, folate vitamin C





Potassium, folate





Potassium, folate, vitamin K





Potassium, folate

Buy, Prepare, Eat!

When buying, look for veggies that are firm without mold, blemishes, discolorations, or wrinkling, which can indicate decay and older produce.

These veggies work well in many cooked, savory dishes, whether alone or together. Wash right before using to prevent quicker spoilage. Prepare as directed in recipes, which may instruct you to remove the skin or peels (except for cauliflower which has neither).

Remember, these 5 will be relatively inexpensive produce to buy but will add a lot of nutrition to your dishes, so stock up and eat up!

Resource: North Dakota State University, What Color is Your Food?, 2011
Reference: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26

Recipe Corner

This basic curry uses yummy Illinois summer crops that you can grab right out of your garden. Great on a rainy summer day to warm you up, pair this recipe alongside chicken or fish with a crusty roll to sop up the curry sauce.

Garden Curry (serves 4)

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, washed and diced
3 medium tomatoes, washed and diced (keeping seeds and skins)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Add oil, onions, potatoes, garlic, and bell pepper to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add just enough water to just cover ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cover. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until potatoes are slightly tender.

2. Stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, and spices.* Bring back to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes or until tomatoes break down, potatoes are tender, and mixture is thickened.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 130 calories, 2g fat, 20mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 4g protein

*If you do not have all these spices, substitute 2 tsp curry powder for the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper. Still add the chili powder.

Variation: Try any combo of veggies you want, but keep the base of onions and tomatoes. Peeled and diced turnips work great in place of potatoes. Chopped cauliflower or zucchini work well in place of bell peppers, but may cook more quickly, so keep an eye on those. My favorite substitute is baby eggplant. (Maybe you can find white eggplant.)

"Read More" Resources

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Check out more information on onions, potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, and parsnips through the University of Illinois Extension's "Watch Your Garden Grow" website. Besides information on nutrition and preparation, learn to grow your own!

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Check out more information on bell peppers through the University of Illinois Extension's "Watch Your Garden Grow" website. Besides information on nutrition and preparation, learn to grow your own!

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.

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