A popular staple in the European diet since prehistoric times, the turnip is often grouped in with root vegetables like potatoes and beets, but is actually a cousin of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and kale.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, turnips are rich in nutrients and low in calories.
Both the turnip itself and its leafy greens are tasty and nutritious to eat, but this article will focus on the dietary benefits of the root.
It will look at the nutritional content, the possible health benefits and risks of consuming turnips, and some tips on how to eat more turnips.
The nutrients in turnips are believed to offer a wide range of health benefits.
1) Intestinal problems
Both the turnips bulb and the leaves are nutritious.
Turnips and other high-fiber foods can help reduce the prevalence of flare-ups of diverticulitis by absorbing water in the colon and making bowel movements easier to pass.
Although the cause of diverticular disease is unknown, it has repeatedly been associated with a low fiber diet.
2) Lowering blood pressure
According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates, such as turnips and collard greens, can have multiple vascular benefits.
These include reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.
However, the long-term risks of a high-nitrate diet and its effect on cardiovascular health remains unclear.
In general, a diet rich in all fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure. Turnips also have potassium, which is thought to help decrease blood pressure by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.
3) Fighting cancer
Since the 1980s, consuming high amounts of cruciferous vegetables, such as turnips, cauliflower and cabbage, has been associated with a lower risk of cancer.
More recently, studies have suggested that the sulforaphane compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite might also be what makes them active against some types of cancer.
Foods containing sulforaphane could potentially be an integral part of cancer treatment in the future.
4) Weight loss and digestion
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 helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
The fiber content in turnips also may prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract. Regular, adequate bowel movements are crucial for the excretion of toxins through bile and stool.
Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. This may decrease the risk of inflammation-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked turnip cubes, weighing about 156 grams (g), contains:
- 34 calories
- 1.11 g of protein
- 0.12 g of fat
- 7.89 g of carbohydrate (including 4.66 g of sugar)
- 3.1 g of fiber
- 51 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.28 mg of iron
- 14 mg of magnesium
- 41 mg of phosphorus
- 276 mg of vitamin K
- 25 mg of sodium
- 0.19 mg of zinc
- 18.1 mg of vitamin C
- 14 micrograms (mcg) of folate
Turnip is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, potassium, vitamin B-6, folate, and copper.
When buying turnips, choose those that are small and heavy for their size.
Turnips that are harvested while young and small will have a sweet, mild flavor. As they continue to grow or age, the flavor gets spicier, and the texture will become rough and woody.
Look for green tops that are brightly colored and fresh. You can use the greens for cooking or in a salad.
Store turnips in a cool, dim area, similar to potatoes, and wash, trim, and peel them before use.
Quick tips for using turnips
Turnips have a crisp white inner flesh and a zesty, peppery flavor.
They can be eaten raw or cooked, but roasting turnips tends to bring out their best flavor and qualities.
Here are some easy ways to use turnips.
- 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
Try some of these healthy and delicious turnip recipes developed by registered dietitians:
A high-nitrate diet may interact with certain medications, such as organic nitrate (nitroglycerine) or nitrite drugs used for angina, sildenafil citrate, tadalafil, and vardenafil.
Turnips can be a healthful addition to a balanced diet. Eating a diet with variety is better than concentrating on individual foods as the key to good health.