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Bright, White Vegetables Have Benefits

Bright, White Vegetables Have Benefits

Dietitian Dialogues

June 23, 2013

by Serena Ball, MS, RD

Boldly colored fruits and vegetables have long received all the attention, in terms of good nutrition, but now scientists are acknowledging that bright, white produce contain important nutrients, too. In the past, dietitians (including we Teaspoon of Spice dietitians) and even the 2010 Dietary Guidelines have specifically recommended eating at least one serving of dark green vegetables and one orange veggie daily. However, pale produce such as potatoes, parsnips, onions, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, mushrooms and others have not received the same recommendation. A recent paper out of Purdue University published inAdvances in Nutrition highlights the nutritional benefits of white vegetables, particularly the plain white potato. Turns out, pale veggies can help make up nutrient shortfalls in our diets.

Dietary Fiber

Americans do not typically get the recommended 25-38 grams of dietary fiber daily; instead they get only about 15 grams a day. Dietary fiber can be important in helping to lower the risks for heart disease and obesity. Fiber also helps keeps your digestive system regular. Most vegetables contain insoluble fiber yet potatoes provide mainly soluble fiber – an important distinction since researchers point out the importance of getting both types of fiber in the diet.

A potato with skin contains 3.8 grams of dietary fiber, parsnips contain 5.6 grams per cup. Parsnips look a lot like carrots and when roasted, taste sweet, similar to carrots. Try this kid-friendly recipe: Roasted Rosemary Parsnips


It’s surprising to learn that only 3% of the U.S. population meets adequate intake levels of potassium1. Eating more potassium-rich foods could help people reduce their blood pressure, which could in turn reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Research is emerging on other benefits that potassium delivers, like protecting bones and reducing the risk of developing kidney stones. 

Teens and tweens (11-16 years old) consume almost 20% of the potassium in their diet in the form of white potatoes2; of course many of these potatoes are French fries. However, researchers note that people, who eat white potatoes, on average, consume significantly more potassium than those who don’t eat potatoes regularly.

While potatoes are excellent sources of potassium, cauliflower provides a decent amount of potassium, too. Raw, roasted, steamed, mashed or even in a cauliflower-crusted pizza, cauliflower is very versatile veggie. In this super easy slow-cooker recipe, cauliflower cooks up into a creamy, cheesy risotto: Slow Cooker Cauliflower Pea Risotto.  


Magnesium is a nutrient with many uses in the body: helping with muscle contractions, nerve transmission, blood pressure, metabolism and even disease prevention. Recently, magnesium has gained attention for its role in helping to prevent migraine headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

White veggies provide a good amount of magnesium as seen with rutabagas and mushrooms. This weeknight dinner dish is a good way to introduce mushroom skeptics to the delicious combo of mushrooms with pasta: Gnocci with Spring Greens & Cremini Mushrooms.


Almost all white vegetables contain protein. Potatoes contain a unique make-up of essential amino acids (types of protein) that give it a superior biological value compared to other plant proteins including soybeans and legumes. 

Potatoes are also one of the easiest vegetables to cook – and eat. From baked to boiled and mashed to roasted, the potato is familiar and easy to add to a meal. This easy, cheesy recipe combines a less-popular veggie with the common potato to help families eat more veggies in just one dish: Potato Summer Squash Gratin.

So, as you strive to eat your rainbow of fruits and vegetables, be sure to include your whites!


1Adv Nutr May 2013 Adv Nutr vol. 4: 318S-326S, 2013 Accessed June 17, 2013.

2Adv Nutr May 2013 Adv Nutr vol. 4: 318S-326S, 2013 Accessed June 17, 2013.


Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and culinary nutrition expert who lives outside St. Louis. She blogs at Teaspoon of Spice with her business partner, Deanna Segrave-Daly, under the tagline of “two dietitians who love food as much as you do."