Turnips, like their close cousins rutabaga and kohlrabi, are tasty root vegetables that add heartiness and fabulous nutrition to your meals. Turnips have a mild flavor and potato-like texture when cooked, making them ideal for side dishes, soups, stews, and casseroles.
However, turnips can also be eaten raw in salads or coleslaw, eaten in sprouted form, or you can even add them into your fermented vegetable recipe. While the root is most popular in the US, turnip greens can be eaten too (and they're full of nutrition as well).
Did You Know?
- Turnips are members of the cruciferous family of vegetables and are nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich
- Turnips, for instance, contain a type of phytonutrient known as indoles, which may help fight cancer
- Glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds found in turnip sprouts, appear to have anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and antibacterial benefits
- Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese
- Turnips can be eaten raw in salads or coleslaw, eaten in sprouted form, or you can even add them into your fermented vegetable recipe
Turnips Are a Cruciferous Vegetable
The cruciferous family of vegetables includes such nutrition superstars like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts… and turnips. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation, the fact that they're cruciferous vegetables means they're nutrient-dense and rich in antioxidants:1
"In terms of conventional nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats), we cannot find another vegetable group that is as high in vitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber as the cruciferous vegetables. As a group, the cruciferous vegetables are simply superstars in these conventional nutrient areas.
…The astonishing concentration of vitamin A carotenoids in cruciferous vegetables and their unusually high content of vitamin C and manganese are clearly key components in their growing reputation as an antioxidant vegetable group
…Significant increases in the blood levels of these key antioxidant nutrients have been seen very quickly in subjects who consume generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables in research studies.
…The antioxidant richness of cruciferous vegetables has also been explicitly mentioned in several recent studies as one of the strong contributors to the risk-lowering impact of cruciferous vegetables on numerous forms of cancer."
Turnips, for instance, contain a type of phytonutrient known as indoles, which may help fight cancer. One type in particular, brassinin, has been shown to kill human colon cancer cells.2 Turnips are also rich in fiber. Just 100 calories' worth of turnips can give you 25-40 percent of your daily fiber requirement. The George Mateljan Foundation continued:3
"That fact shows what an incredible bargain cruciferous vegetable are when it comes to fiber. We suspect that it's one of the reasons these vegetables have become increasingly prominent in research studies on diet and digestive support.
We may not typically think about cruciferous vegetables when considering digestive disorders or risk of digestive tract cancers, but we should."
Try Turnip Sprouts for Optimum Nutrition
Eating your vegetables in sprouted form is an easy way to get far more nutrients. I strongly recommend growing your own sprouts. It's easy and can radically improve your overall nutrition. Just consider this: sprouts can contain up to 30 times the nutrients of organic vegetables!
They also allow your body to extract more of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fats from the rest of your diet. Add to that the boon of requiring very little space, and the ability to grow them indoors, year-round. I'm working on a comprehensive guide to sprout-growing, but in the meantime, you can find instructions on rawfoods-livingfoods.com.4
I started out growing sprouts in Ball jars about 15 years ago, but I've found that growing them in potting soil is a far better option. With Ball jars, you need to rinse them several times a day to prevent mold growth and it is a hassle to have them draining in the sink, taking up space.
Trays also take up less space. When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week. I strongly recommend using organic seeds, and a pound of seeds will probably make over 10 pounds of sprouts.
You can use sprouts raw in salad, either in addition to or in lieu of salad greens, or add them to vegetable juice or smoothies. When it comes to which sprouts to grow, taste preference may ultimately guide your selection, but turnip sprouts are well worth trying. Glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds found in turnip sprouts, appear to have anti-cancer, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and antibacterial benefits.
One study even found that turnip sprouts have the second-highest level of glucosinolates out of nine cruciferous vegetables tested (second only to white mustard sprouts).5 If you're growing them at home, research shows day 8 of germination was considered the optimum for consumption in terms of glucosinolate concentration.
What Types of Nutrients Are Found in Turnip Greens?
While turnip root is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, it is a starchy vegetable and therefore should only be eaten in moderation. The greens, on the other hand, can be eaten in generous quantities (although admittedly they are quite bitter).
Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese, but it's their vitamin K content that really stands out. One cup of turnip greens will give you nearly 600% of your recommended daily value of the nutrient.
Vitamin K is a powerful regulator of your inflammatory response, and along with the anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3s found in turnip greens (in the form of alpha linolenic acid, or ALA), make this vegetable an inflammation-fighting powerhouse.
Turnip greens also contain B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, and antioxidant phytonutrients like quercetin, kaempferol, and hydroxycinnamic acid, which help lower your risk of oxidative stress. Turnip greens also belong to the "leafy green" category of vegetables, which often comes out on top for their health-boosting potential.
Last year, for instance, researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's Molecular Immunology division have discovered that a gene, called T-bet, which is essential for producing critical immune cells in your gut, responds to the food you eat—specifically leafy green vegetables.6
Two Turnip Recipes You'll Love
The following recipes are easy to prepare yet rich in nutrition, and since turnips grow best in cold weather, these dishes are ideal for fall or winter meals.
Serving Size: 6 to 8
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim and peel the turnips. Leave baby turnips whole; cut larger turnips into large-ish bite-size pieces. Put turnips into a baking pan. Drizzle with coconut oil. Use your hands or two large spoons to toss the turnips to coat them thoroughly with the oil. Sprinkle with salt.
- Roast turnips until tender. Start checking on them after about 30 minutes. Depending on the size and age of the turnips, it may take them up to an hour or more to get completely tender.
Mashed Root Vegetables with Horseradish8
Adapted from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl
- 1 pound turnips, preferably organic, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 ½ pounds potatoes (organic)
- ¼ cup raw heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons raw, organic grass-fed butter
- 2-3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh horseradish
Serving Size: 4
- Cook turnips in a 4-quart pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into ½-inch pieces.
- Add potatoes to pot and boil until all vegetables are tender, 10-12 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, heat cream, butter, and horseradish (to taste) in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is hot. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Drain vegetables, return to pot, and heat over high heat, shaking pot, until any excess liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and our cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into vegetables; press hard on solids for more horseradish flavor if desired. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and mash vegetables with a potato masher until smooth, with some small pieces remaining. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
Sources and References