Turnips are vegetables with a creamy white color and a purple top. People often group this popular European staple food with root vegetables, such as potato and beetroot. However, the turnip is actually a cousin of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and kale.

Like other cruciferous vegetables, turnips provide plenty of nutrients and are low in calories.

Both the turnip and its leafy greens are tasty and nutritious. This article will mainly focus on the dietary benefits of the root, however.

In this article, learn more about the health benefits of turnips, their nutritional content, and some tips on how to include them in the diet.

Many researchers and health professionals believe that the nutrients in turnips offer a wide range of health benefits, such as:

Relieving intestinal problems

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The fiber in turnips may help relieve intestinal problems.

One cup of raw turnips weighing 130 grams (g) provides 2.34 g of fiber. Fiber helps reduce pressure and inflammation in the colon.

Specifically, high fiber diets are associated with a lower risk of intestinal problems, including diverticulitis.

Turnips and other high fiber foods can help reduce the prevalence of diverticulitis flares by absorbing water in the colon and making bowel movements easier. However, doctors do not always recommend a high fiber diet for people with diverticulitis. Talk to a doctor before eating high fiber foods.

In 2014, a large prospective study found that different types of fiber had different effects on a person's risk of diverticulitis. Overall, however, fiber reduced the risk.

That said, one 2012 study found that a high fiber intake did not change a person's risk of diverticulitis if it is asymptomatic.

Further research will help clarify the benefits of fiber for preventing diverticulitis. People should speak to a doctor before significantly increasing their fiber intake.

Lowering blood pressure

According to a 2013 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates — such as turnips and collard greens — may provide multiple benefits for the health of the blood vessels.

These include reducing blood pressure and inhibiting the sticking together of platelets in the blood.

However, the long term risks of a high nitrate diet and its effect on cardiovascular health remain unclear.

In general, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has positive effects on blood pressure. They play a significant role in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's DASH diet, which medical experts have designed to bring down blood pressure.

Turnips also provide potassium, which may help lower blood pressure by releasing sodium from the body and helping arteries dilate.

Here, learn more about high blood pressure.

Reducing cancer risk

A high intake of cruciferous vegetables — including turnips, cauliflower, and cabbage — has associations with a lower risk of cancer.

These vegetables contain several compounds that may have protective effects against certain cancers. One of these is 3,3′-diindolylmethane, according to a 2016 review.

Foods containing a compound called sulforaphane could also potentially play an integral part in cancer treatment. Cruciferous vegetables contain high levels of sulforaphane.

A 2015 study found that sulforaphane may interfere with the function of histone deacetylase, an enzyme that plays a role in the progression of cancer cells.

Aiding weight loss and digestion

Turnips and other cruciferous vegetables that are high in fiber help make people feel fuller for longer, and they are low in calories. Eating high fiber meals also helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

The fiber content in turnips may also prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract. Regular, adequate bowel movements are crucial for getting rid of toxins through the bile and stool.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture's FoodData Central database, one cup of raw turnip cubes contains around:

  • 36.4 calories
  • 1.17 g of protein
  • 0.13 g of fat
  • 8.36 g of carbohydrate, including 4.66 g of sugar
  • 2.34 g of fiber
  • 39 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 0.39 mg of iron
  • 14.3 mg of magnesium
  • 35.1 mg of phosphorus
  • 0.13 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K
  • 87.1 mg of sodium
  • 0.351 mg of zinc
  • 27.3 mg of vitamin C
  • 19.5 mcg of folate

When buying turnips, choose those that are small and heavy for their size.

Harvesting turnips while they are young and small will leave them with a sweet, mild flavor. As they continue to grow or age, the flavor becomes spicier, and the texture will become rough and woody.

Look for turnips with green tops that are brightly colored and fresh. People can use the greens for cooking or in salads.

Always store turnips in a cool, dim area, and wash, trim, and peel them before use.

Quick tips and recipe ideas

Turnips have a crisp, white inner flesh and a zesty, peppery flavor.

People can eat them raw or cooked. However, roasting turnips tends to bring out their best flavors and qualities.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate turnips into meals:

  • Boil and mash turnips for a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes.
  • Chop or shred raw turnips and use as a salad topper.
  • Add turnips to soup or stew at the same time as adding potatoes.
  • Include cubed turnip in a slow cooked roast.
  • Add shredded turnip to a favorite coleslaw recipe.

Registered dietitians have developed the following delicious turnip recipes:

  • roasted turnips with garden thyme
  • turnip chips
  • quick pickled turnips

Turnips can be a healthful addition to any balanced diet. Eating a varied diet is more healthful than concentrating on specific foods.

Q:

Are turnip greens more healthful than turnips?

A:

It is hard to determine which is more healthful, as turnip greens have a different nutrient composition to the roots.

Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, copper, and manganese. Both the greens and the roots are great sources of fiber.

It is best to mix up both roots and the greens when cooking.

Miho Hatanaka, RDN, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.