The turnip has been a popular staple in the European diet since prehistoric times. It is often grouped in with root vegetables like potatoes and beets, but is actually part of the cruciferous family.
The leafy greens of the turnip are also edible and provide a bevy of health benefits. This article will focus on consumption of the bulbous root, which is most often a creamy white color with a purple top where it has been exposed to the sun.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the turnip and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more turnips into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming turnips.
Possible health benefits of turnips
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like turnips decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
1) Treating diverticulosis
Eating one medium turnip would provide 54% of daily vitamin C needs.
High fiber diets have been shown to decrease the prevalence in flare-ups of diverticulitis by absorbing water in the colon and making bowel movements easier to pass.
Eating a healthful, fruit and vegetable and fiber-filled diet can reduce pressure and inflammation in the colon. One cup of cooked turnips provides 4 grams of fiber.
Although the cause of diverticular disease is unknown, it has been repeatedly associated with a low fiber diet.4
2) Lowering blood pressure
According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates like turnips and collard greens have been shown to have multiple vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.
In general, a diet rich in all fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure as well. Turnips also have potassium, which is thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.6
3) Fighting cancer
Since the 1980s, consuming high amounts of cruciferous vegetables like turnips, cauliflower and cabbage have been associated with a lower risk of cancer. More recently, researchers have been able to pinpoint that the sulforaphane compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite is also what gives them their cancer-fighting power.
Promising results in studies testing sulforaphane's ability to delay or impede cancer have been seen with multiple types of cancers including melanoma, esophageal, prostate and pancreatic. Sulforaphane-containing foods could potentially be an integral part of cancer treatment in the future.1
4) Weight loss, digestion and detox
Turnips and other cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber help to keep you feeling full longer and are also low in calories. Eating high fiber meals keep blood sugar stable.
The fiber content in turnips also prevents constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract. Regular, adequate bowel movements are crucial for the daily excretion toxins through the bile and stool.
Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation, consequently decreasing the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
5) Maintaining vision
Adequate vitamin C intake has been shown to help keep eyes healthy by providing increased protection against UV light damage.6 Citrus fruits are often thought of first when it comes to increasing vitamin C intake, but many cruciferous vegetables are also surprisingly high in this important nutrient. Eating just two medium turnips would meet your vitamin C needs for the entire day.
A higher intake of all fruits and vegetables (3 or more servings per day) has also been shown to decrease the risk of and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
On the next page we look at the nutritional profile of turnips, how to incorporate more turnips into your diet and the possible health risks of consuming turnips.