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Find out below what tubers are, what are their types, characteristics and main nutritional properties. Discover what benefits they have for health and find the answer to several questions of your interest. Also check out our detailed list on the 28 most common edible root vegetables .

What are tubers?

The tuber is the part of the plant that grows below the surface of the soil, whose main function is to store nutrients, energy and water to ensure survival during periods of drought or winter months. Common root vegetables include potato , sweet potato , carrot , radish , and yam .

Types of tubers

There are two classifications of tubers: stem and root.

  • Stem tubers form near the soil surface. In this case it is the stem itself, or a part of it, which grows to form the tuber; then the roots develop from it. The underground stems of this type of tuber are also called  thickened rhizomes .
  • root tuber or root tuber is an enlarged root that functions as a storage organ for the plant. The tuber can occur at the end or in the middle of the root of the plant, as well as involve the entire root.

Tuber characteristics

  • With widely varying characteristics and flavors ranging from earthy to sweet, they are one of nature’s most nutritious, economical, and versatile foods .
  • Like roots, tubers can perform two main functions:
    • Absorb minerals and water from the soil to maintain the growth and nutrition of the plant.
    • Anchor the plant to the ground to provide it with a structural base.
  • When we cut a stem tuber into sections, one plant will grow from each section; this does not happen with root tubers.
  • Root tubers and stem tubers plants have different structures:
    • In root tubers, there is a single root that bores into the soil, for example a carrot or parsnip .
    • In stem tubers, a single plant can produce several tuberous roots. A carrot plant will produce one carrot, while a potato plant can produce several potatoes (a potato is one enlarged stalk).
  • Due to their carbohydrate (starch) content, they are an important food crop around the world and are considered an excellent source of energy.

List: Examples and names of edible tubers


Click on the image or its name to learn more details about each tuber; characteristics, benefits, nutritional properties, and more.

Tubers vs Bulbs

Although both are fleshy underground structures and have the function of storing nutrients to guarantee the development of the plant, tubers and bulbs are not the same. On the contrary, there are many differences that separate them, including appearance, growth, and reproduction.

One of the most significant is the way in which they develop , since tubers, by definition, can only develop from the stem or an enlarged root, while bulbs are formed by overlapping the leaves of the plant, in a layered structure.

To know in detail each of the bulb vegetables, click on the name or the image of the list that is shown below.

Importance, benefits and properties

Popularly known as “nature’s buried treasures”, tubers have been a very important food since ancient civilizations.

  • They contain numerous nutrients that promote good health.
  • They are free of fat and cholesterol
  • They are an excellent source of dietary fiber
  • Many of them are  rich in vitamin C , B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals such as potassium, iron, and magnesium.

These nutritional properties make the regular consumption of tubers a good tool to prevent hypertension, anemia, the damaging action of free radicals, constipation, blood glucose spikes, among other health problems.

In addition, they are considered one of the foods with the highest  beta-carotene content . This form of vitamin A plays a key role in heart health and the prevention of numerous diseases.

Did you know that a single cup of chopped sweet potato contains more than 375% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A?

Summary of most abundant nutrients in tubers:

  • B complex vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Copper
  • Match
  • Potassium
  • prebiotic fiber
  • Antioxidants

Note : being such diverse vegetables, the nutritional composition of tubers is very varied. For the nutritional profile of the most common edible root vegetables, see the list above .

Brief Explanation of some tubers:


Garlic is a versatile ingredient that has a long history of use in various cuisines and for its medicinal properties. One traditional remedy is to consume milk with garlic, which is believed to help with respiratory and digestive issues. Garlic with honey is another popular mixture, where the sweet taste of honey balances out the strong flavor of garlic and is said to have various health benefits. Lemon juice can also be added to garlic to enhance its flavor and provide additional Vitamin C.

Garlic has been used as a natural antibiotic, with studies suggesting that it has the ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. Chinese and Japanese garlic are known for their unique flavor profiles and are used in a variety of dishes in those cuisines. Garlic and onions belong to the same family and are often used together in cooking for added depth of flavor. Black garlic is a type of garlic that has been fermented, resulting in a sweet, syrupy flavor. Although garlic has many benefits, it can have contraindications for certain individuals, such as those with bleeding disorders or those taking certain medications.

Garlic has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system. Garlic fasting, where only garlic is consumed for a period of time, has been used as a detox method. It is important to note that consuming large amounts of garlic during pregnancy may cause some negative side effects and should be consumed in moderation.


Onions come in various colors, including purple onion. To grow onions, it is recommended to plant onion sets or seeds in well-drained soil in a sunny spot and water regularly. The Chalota variety is a popular sweet onion with a mild flavor. Onions have properties that make them useful for hair growth and improving scalp health when used as a hair mask or rinse. Mixing chopped onions with honey creates a mixture with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Placing sliced onions on the bottom of your feet before sleeping is said to have numerous health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and fighting infections.


Potato is a staple food for many people around the world and is known for its versatility in cooking and its rich flavor. Whether it makes you thin or fat depends on how you prepare and consume it. Yellow potatoes, also known as Yungay papa, are a type of potato that is known for its slightly sweeter taste and bright yellow flesh. Potatoes are rich in several nutrients and minerals, including potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, that can provide various health benefits. Despite their reputation as a high-carb food, potatoes can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.


Turmeric is a popular spice commonly used in cooking, especially in Indian cuisine. It is also used for medicinal purposes and is believed to have numerous health benefits. One way to consume turmeric is through turmeric tea, which is made by boiling turmeric root in water and adding honey or other ingredients to taste. To maximize the benefits of turmeric, it is often recommended to take it with black pepper, as black pepper contains a compound called piperine which helps the body absorb turmeric more effectively. While turmeric is considered safe for most people, there are some contraindications and potential side effects to be aware of turmeric, such as interactions with certain medications and digestive issues. Additionally, there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of turmeric for weight loss.


Peruvian maca is a root vegetable native to the Andes Mountains in South America. It is known for its various health benefits and has been used for centuries as a traditional medicinal plant. However, it is important to note that there are certain contraindications for Peruvian maca and it is not recommended for individuals with certain health conditions. Andean maca is typically taken in the form of powder or capsules and can be found in various colors including red and black.

Some people believe that taking Peruvian maca can either make you gain weight or lose weight, but there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. To ensure you are getting original, pure, and organic maca powder, it is best to purchase it from a reputable health food store or online retailer.

Peruvian maca flour is also available for purchase, along with pure and organic red and black maca. If you are looking for pure Peruvian maca capsules, they can also be found at health food stores or online retailers specializing in natural health products.

You may also like: Where to buy original, pure and organic Peruvian maca?


Ginger is a versatile ingredient with many health benefits. It can be taken in many forms, including ginger tea, ginger capsules, or even raw. It’s also a popular ingredient in cooking, like in gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses. When taken before bed, ginger can help improve sleep quality. It’s also known to help with coughs, inflammation, and even fat burning, when consumed in the form of ginger cream or when combined with lemon and cinnamon.

Pregnant women should be cautious of taking ginger as it can have contraindications. It’s also great for hair when used in a hair rinse or mask. Ginger can also be used for fasting, either as a tea or in capsule form.

You can buy fresh ginger at your local grocery store, or find ginger capsules and ginger tea at health food stores. Ground ginger can also be found in most grocery stores. Gingerbread house kits can typically be found around the holiday season in grocery stores or online.

You may also like:

How to grow the ginger plant?
Where to buy ginger candies? Sugar Free, Hard, Chewy

Quick answers to frequently asked questions

All tubers have very varied medicinal properties and uses. Consult the previous list to know the medicinal benefits of each tuber individually.

Root tubers, tuberoza root or radical tubers are enlarged roots that serve a storage function for the plant. They differ from stem tubers  because in the latter it is the stem itself that widens to store the necessary nutrients and energy.

No. Although many root vegetables are among the most starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava, there are also non-starchy root vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and beets.

Many weight loss gurus discourage including root vegetables in a weight loss plan. This is because traditionally they have been considered as high-calorie foods that promote weight gain, however in recent times nutritionists have begun to promote the consumption of root vegetables as a real and healthy source of calories . In fact, its energy contribution favors those who perform intense exercise routines during a weight loss plan. In addition to carbohydrates, they provide many essential nutrients for good health.

In any case, it is important to note that most root vegetables are rich in starch and therefore  should be eaten in moderation, depending on each person’s energy requirements . They are a better option for those who engage in considerable physical activity. Its daily consumption  is not recommended for sedentary or obese people .

In general, plants have 3 main parts: roots, stems, and leaves.

Roots are almost always underground and have several functions, for example: 1) anchoring the plant, 2) absorbing water and minerals, 3) pumping these nutrients to the rest of the plant, 4) storing food and water, 5) starting, coordinate and communicate innumerable vital processes. As you can see, the roots are the “heart” and the “brain” of the plant.

The tubers also grow underground, but essentially they have only one function: to store nutrients and water for the winter, so that the plant can start growing again in the spring. They can be formed from underground stems, as is the case with “potatoes” and “yams”, or they can be a specialized form of root (tuberoza root), such as “sweet potatoes” and “beets”.

Andean tubers, sometimes called Peruvian tubers or Colombian tubers refer to the nine tuber crops native to the Andean region (Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile). They grow at high altitudes, in extremely difficult conditions of drought, freezing temperatures, and extreme UV exposure.

The 9 Peruvian or Colombian (Andean) tubers are:

  1. Oca (Oxalis tuberosa) . The oca produces the second most cultivated tuber after the potato. It is high in protein, with a good balance of amino acids, it is also a good source of fiber and high in antioxidants.
  2. Olluco (Ullucus tuberosus) . Olluco is the most recognized and commercially viable of the Peruvian tubers, popular for its flavor. It is easy to grow, frost hardy, and moderately drought resistant, although the plant prefers soils rich in organic matter.
  3. Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) . Mashua is one of the highest yielding Andean tubers (yields can reach 70 tons per hectare) and one of the easiest to grow. It thrives on marginal soils, develops quickly, and competes successfully with weeds.
  4. Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) . Yacon is a distant relative of the sunflower. With white or yellowish transparent pulp, the root has little variability. The roots are eaten raw and are sweet, low in calories, with a juicy flesh similar to that of an apple or watermelon. Today, yacon is especially sought after for its healthy properties.
  5. Ahipa or American yam (Pachyrhizus spp) . The root of the ahipa is large and has a shape similar to a radish, with a thick top that tapers towards the tip.
  6. Maca ( Lepidium meyenii ) . Maca is a kind of unique, wonderful crop. The only crucifers known to have been domesticated in the Americas are found only in Peru, growing at altitudes of over 4,000 meters where no other crop offers reliable yields.
  7. Arracacha ( Arracacia xanthorrhiza ) . Arracacha is from the same family as celery and carrot. The three main varieties, with their distinctive yellow, white, and purple roots, are often grown intercropped with corn, beans, and coffee.
  8. Achira (Canna edulis) . Achira belongs to the same family that produces the lush and showy reed lilies, found in flower shops and gardens around the world. Also known as Queensland arrow, it was a staple food for ancient Peruvians.
  9. Mauka (Mirabilis expansa) . Scientists thought that this colorful root had all but disappeared. Although the species was described as early as 1794, it remained obscure until 1965, when it was rediscovered in a remote rural community in Bolivia.
  10. Chinese yam: Chinese yam, also known as cinnamon yam or nagaimo, is a type of yam native to China. It has a delicate and slightly sweet taste, with a slimy texture when grated raw. It is often used in traditional Chinese and Japanese cuisine, and is believed to have various health benefits such as boosting energy, supporting digestive health, and improving blood circulation.
  11. Bitter yucca: Bitter yucca (Yucca aloifolia) is a species of flowering plant in the Agave family, native to the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. It is known for its fibrous leaves and sharp spikes, as well as its ability to produce a soapy substance from the roots. The plant is often used for ornamental purposes in gardens and landscaping due to its unique appearance and low maintenance requirements.


Legumes, such as beans, are the fruit or pod of plants in the botanical family leguminosae . Instead, tubers, like potatoes, are an enlarged part of the stem or root of a plant, which depending on the variety, can belong to different botanical families.

Plants can reproduce through sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction. In sexual reproduction, plants use organs such as flowers, seeds, and pollen to reproduce. On the contrary, other organs are involved in asexual reproduction, such as bulbs, tubers and rhizomes.

Stem tubers, like potatoes, contain “eyes” or buds on their surface, each of these buds can form a new plant, genetically identical to its parent. This form of vegetative propagation (in which the tuber can be considered a reproductive organ of the plant) is what is known as tuber reproduction .

Some plants that reproduce by tubers are:

  • potatoes or potatoes
  • tulips
  • Yam
  • Sweet potato, sweet potato
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

Tuberous roots are extremely varied, they are not grouped in the same family, but rather belong to different families of plants. For example, the potato belongs to the Solanaceae family , while the sweet potato belongs to the Convolvulaceae family .

The sweet potato or sweet potato  is the sweetest of the tubers; Its name in English (“Purple sweet potato“) means “sweet potato” in Spanish. In addition to being very versatile and tasty, it is also very nutritious.