Have you ever knowingly eaten a turnip? Could you recognize one in a culinary lineup? Don’t be ashamed if you answered no. Turnips are often overlooked as the Super Veggies they are.
Turnips (Brassica rapa) are round, bulbous vegetables that grow under the ground with the domed top sticking up from which green leafy stalks (turnip greens) grow to provide photosynthetic energy for the plant.
These root vegetables are members of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family Cruciferae and are related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and kale. Cruciferous vegetables typically thrive in cool weather. They are so-named for their flowers which have four petals that resemble a cross or “crucifer.”
Turnips are cultivated around the world in temperate conditions. The apple-sized vegetable is white on the bottom but the tops turn purple from exposure to sunlight. The flesh inside is white and quite firm, making it hard to cut without a sharp knife.
Here’s what 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw turnips provide as nutrition:
- Calories: 28
- Total fat: 0 g
- Protein: 0.75 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium (salt): 67 mg (3% Recommended Daily Intake or RDI based on a 2,000 calorie diet)
- Carbohydrates: 6 g – 2g from dietary fiber plus 4g from sugar
- Protein: 1 g
- Iron: 16% RDI
- Calcium: 34 mg (5% RDI)
- Magnesium: 9 mg
- Vitamin C: 12 mg (2% RDI)
- Vitamin K: 185 mg
- Phosphorus: 27 mg
- Iron: 0.19 mg
Turnips are a great source of manganese, potassium, vitamin B-6, folate, and copper. These hard white roots that soften from cooking provide some major health benefits, including these five:
- Boosts Immune Function. One cooked cup of turnips provides a high dose of water-soluble vitamin C (30 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake). Vitamin C strengthens the body’s immune system and fights diseases naturally. Turnips and their greens contain dietary nitrates
- which are natural chemical compounds loaded with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants we need for immunity.
- Promotes Regularity. It seems like every time we talk about “smooth movements” the subject goes right to dietary fiber – and turnips are chock-a-block full of it. Each cooked cup delivers 3.1 grams of fiber which swell inside the digestive tract, opening the eliminatory channel while providing bulk to encourage normal and regular elimination.
- Fights Cancer. Glucosinolates (pungent defensive plant chemicals) and indole-3-carbinol (a phytochemical defensive plant compound “found at relatively high levels in cruciferous vegetables”) prevent cancer. Turnips contain the chemical compound sulforaphane which has been associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer. Just know that these substances have also been linked to thyroid disorders. Moderation is key and always seek professional help if you experience medical symptoms.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Turnips have been linked with reducing inflammation of the colon and diverticulosis. A 2012 study published in the journal “BJU International” found that glucosinolates found in turnips gave some protection against benign prostatic hypertrophy, an inflammatory condition that can lead to prostate cancer.
- Weight Loss Aid. The fiber content from turnips and other foods or supplements is typically low in calories with the added bonus of feeling full after eating high-fiber meals. Digestive health is vital for human wellness so including turnips may help prevent constipation, a weakened immune system, and inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
To prepare a fresh turnip for eating, wash it thoroughly in water, slice off the top leaves for salad or cooking and remove the bottom bit where the root tendril grows out. Use a sharp knife on a cutting board to make cubes or slices of the turnip root.
Now, the possibilities are almost endless. Pop some fresh turnip in your mouth and enjoy – or cook up a nutritious and delicious dish. Here are some ideas:
- Boil and mash turnips for a fun alternative to mashed potatoes
- Chop or shred raw turnips for a salad topper
- Add turnips to soup or stew at the same stage you would add potatoes
- Include cubed turnip into your next slow-cooked roast
- Add shredded turnip to your favorite coleslaw recipe
Speaking of recipes, there are plenty online and in cookbooks everywhere. Start enjoying all these health benefits and turn to turnips today!