If you’re searching for a healthy holiday side dish, consider tossing together some honey roasted carrots and parsnips. With honey roasted carrots and parsnips, you get an appealing trimming that’s packed with nutrients.
Carrots by themselves are plenty sweet, but parsnips make the dish even sweeter — and more nutritious.
Although they have a ghostly appearance, parsnips are heavy on health benefits.
They are rich in vitamins C, K, and folate. Vitamin C promotes a well-functioning immune system, skin health, and connective tissue growth. It provides antioxidant protection against free radicals that damage cells and genetic material. Many studies have shown that it is anti-carcinogenic, protecting against certain cancers.
(For more information on the health benefits of vitamin C, read my post on vitamin C and college students.)
Parsnips also provide a wealth of minerals, contributing decent amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous as well as small amounts of iron and zinc. Eating parsnips helps you meet the Daily Recommended Intakes (DRIs) of potassium, selenium, copper, and manganese.
Potassium is a mineral that can help with blood pressure control. Many people do not manage to consume the DRI of 4700 mg. Combining parsnips with carrots, another vegetable with ample potassium (as in the featured recipe below), will help you reach this generous DRI.
In addition, parsnips contain more manganese than carrots, a mineral that helps create superoxide dismutase (SOD), an important antioxidant enzyme that helps protect your body from damaging free radicals.
Here’s a table on parsnips showing the nutritional highlights of this powerhouse vegetable. (I’m not sure why parsnips aren’t a superfood!)
|Nutritional aspects of cooked parsnips:||100 g serving (3/4 cup) 🌿|
|Vitamin A||10 mcg RAE (retinoic acid equivalents)|
|Vitamin B6||0.106 mg|
|Folate||56 mcg DFE (dietary folate equivalent)|
|Vit C||12.6 mg|
|Vitamin K||3.3 mcg|
*Note: Calorie Estimates for parsnips vary widely because starch and sugar content can differ depending on the age of the root.
The color of a bright orange carrot is a tell, a clue to its nutrition. The orange pigment comes from beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that has health benefits against cancer and other conditions. Due to their high vitamin A content, carrots are great for eye health (see my post on vegetables that are good for the eyes) and they may protect against skin, lung, and mouth cancers.
Since they come from the same botanical family, it makes sense that carrots are rich in many of the same nutrients as parsnips, i.e., vitamins C and K and potassium and manganese.
Here’s a table that hits the highlights of carrot nutrition.
|Nutritional aspects of cooked carrots||100 g serving 🌿|
|Carbohydrates||9. 6 g|
|Vitamin C||5.9 mg|
|Vitamin A||16706 IU|
|Vitamin B6||0.153 mg|
|Vitamin K||13.7 mcg|
Parsnips v. carrots?
Despite the mineral and vitamin edge that parsnips have over carrots, both roots offer top-notch health benefits. If you’re not a fan of the parsnip flavor, focus on carrots. Many people enjoy the parsnip for its sweetness, but it can have a woody taste if overly mature. (Older carrots lose some of their sweet flavor, too.)
Both roots possess phytonutrients known as poly-acetylene antioxidants, including falcarinol, a natural pesticide with anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anticarcinogenic properties. Parsnips and carrots are anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and anticarcinogenic and offer protection from colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). For enhancing health, you can’t go wrong with either root.
Difficulties with parsnips and carrots
Some people are sensitive to the proteins found in these roots and may experience itching and swelling of the lips, mouth, and throat or even hives and skin lesions. Severe reactions, known as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), can cause difficulty breathing. Avoid carrots and parsnips if you have a birch pollen allergy triggered by foods like walnuts, figs, and parsley.
Another problem with these roots is digestion. If high fiber foods pose problems for your GI tract, you should be careful with carrots and especially, parsnips. While the high fiber content found in parsnips may be a virtue to many bellies because it can help signal fullness, others may experience bloating and gas.
(Fiber’s benefits go beyond helping to fill a stomach. Read more about fiber here.)
How to select carrots and parsnips
Look for firm medium-sized parsnips evenly colored skin and plenty of flesh. Avoid ones that have long, thin roots.
The best carrots will appear fresh, plump, and firm with a bright color. A greenish tint near the top signals exposure to sunlight and loss of flavor. If they still have leafy tops, make sure they are bright green and perky.
Cut the tops off carrots before storing, so they don’t lose moisture. Parsnips keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator; carrots will stay fresh for about two weeks.
Also, avoid soft, flabby vegetables and any that appear knobby, scarred, or split.
The peak month for parsnips is January, while good carrots are available year-round although their peak season is in the fall.
Cooking with your roots
Parsnips are valued for their higher starch content and can add body to stews and soups. Sometimes, they are removed from the dish after cooking because they tend to become soft. Fresh parsnips can be grated as an addition to slaws. In cooked dishes, they can sub for sweet or white potatoes and cauliflower.
Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables to cook or eat fresh. (My palms are actually a little orange because I eat so many carrots and vegetables that contain beta-carotene.)
Like parsnips, raw carrots are a flavorful addition to slaws, and they are crunchy snacks when sliced into sticks — hence, the popularity of baby carrots. Carrot sticks are more toothsome if you soak them in some water before eating. (Don’t let the carrot soaking water go to waste. It makes a refreshing beverage or a nutritious sub for water or broth in soups and braises. Also, save the peelings for stock-making, or let your dogs enjoy them!)
The taste of carrots is also terrific in cakes, muffins, purees, custards, soufflés, soups, and more! The lexicon of carrot cooking is practically infinite! And, don’t forget that the greens can be made into pesto and added to salads although they are slightly bitter.
(If you are a fan of raw, grated carrots, try my carrot cake salad!)
In the honey roasted carrots and parsnips recipe below, feel free to substitute purple, red, yellow, or white carrots if you’re not partial to the flavor of parsnips or can’t locate decent ones.
Part of the charm of this side dish is the contrast in colors between the white parsnips and orange carrots. You can achieve that just as easily with multi-colored carrots.
My version of the dish features a Moroccan-Spanish spicing, but you could also make it more traditional by replacing the dry spices with fresh or dried thyme. You will still need to season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Honey-roasted carrots and parsnips
- large bowl
- chef's knife
- cutting board
- measuring spoons
- 1 pound carrots
- 1 pound parsnips
- 3 Tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- pinch cayenne pepper
- Wash the carrots and parsnips, using a vegetable brush to scrub.
- Heat the oven to 375 F. Choose the roast setting if your oven has one. If not, select the bake setting.
- Peel the carrots and parsnips and trim the ends. Cut crosswise into 4 pieces if they are long and large. If small and thin, cut crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces. Halve the lengths vertically forming similar size pieces.
- Place the carrot and parsnip pieces in a bowl and add the seasonings. Using a spatula, stir the vegetables to coat evenly with the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and spices. (For more flavor, vegetables can be refrigerated and marinated at this point until you are ready to cook.)
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil.
- Pour seasoned vegetable mixture onto the baking sheet and spread them out so they are evenly distributed.
- Roast for 15 minutes and then, remove from oven and give them a stir.
- Return the pan to the oven and roast for an additional 15 minutes. They should be slightly soft, but not mushy. If they haven't reached the desired degree of softness, return them to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the foil sheet from the pan, corraling the vegetables and their cooking liquid inside the foil.
- To serve, pour the vegetables with seasonings into a dish. If you are practicing social distancing and Covid-safe dining, pour the vegetables into 4 separate small serving bowls.
Copyright © 2020 Jani H. Leuschel