Roots that grow in the ground will never have the cachet of, say, a thick slab of sizzling steak, but you should make space for them on your plate.

Root veggies are dense with fiber and packed full of antioxidants, vitamin C, B vitamins, and iron,” says Jennifer Fitzgibbon, R.D., registered oncology dietitian at Stony Brook Cancer Center. “The fiber keeps you fuller longer, helping prevent the overeating that’ll shatter your dreams of getting shredded. It also maintains your blood sugar levels, helping you avoid energy crashes and reducing your risk of developing diabetes.”

Antioxidants like the carotenoids in sweet potatoes and carrots help our bodies produce vitamin A, essential for cell growth and organ function. Beets have a special phytonutrient called betalains, which, along with antioxidant effects, have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. And turnips and rutabagas have high levels of glucosinolates, sulfur- and nitrogen-based compounds that are thought to help fight off cancer.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are good sources of complex carbs, but save them for before or after an intense workout, as their quickly digested starch can upset blood sugar levels when not eaten around demanding exercise. Sweet potatoes are a bit better for you than regular white potatoes, since they have a lower glycemic index, “meaning they burn slowly, providing a long-term source of energy that helps you power up after a workout and recover your stores of muscle glycogen afterward,” Fitzgibbon says.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to dig around in those root veggie bins at the grocery store to revitalize your weary muscles.

Soil Strong

Root veggies get their high concentrations of potassium, calcium, iron, and iodine from their time surrounded by soil.