The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Turnips into Your Diet

Turnips are creamy white-colored vegetables with a purple top. Although people often categorize this staple food as a root vegetable, like radishes and potatoes, it actually belongs to the cruciferous family, similar to broccoli and kale.

Like other cruciferous vegetables, turnips are low in calories and packed with nutrients, which makes them great additions to healthy diets. Both turnips and their leaves are delicious, providing a sweet, nutty, and earthy taste when cooked. This article explores the nutritional content of turnips and the health perks of adding them to your diet.

The Nutritional Composition of Turnips

Turnips have a rich nutrient profile, containing several essential vitamins and minerals.

According to the USDA, a cup of turnip root (130-gram serving) contains the following:

  • Calories: 36
  • Carbs: 8g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 1g
  • 30% of the vitamin C daily value
  • 5% of the folate daily value
  • 3% of the calcium daily value
  • 3% of the phosphorus daily value

The turnip leaves contain even more nutrients. 1 cup (55 grams) of turnip greens provides:

  • Calories: 18
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • 115% of the vitamin K daily value
  • 37% of the vitamin c daily value
  • 35% of the provitamin A daily value
  • 27% of the folate daily value
  • 8% of the calcium daily value

Turnips' leaves and roots are high in vitamin C, which has a variety of health benefits, including protection from free radical damage. Furthermore, the greens are high in folate, vitamin K, and provitamin A.

Health Benefits of Turnips

Because of their high nutritional content, turnips have a variety of potential health benefits, including:

Protection Against Cancer

Turnips are loaded with various nutrients and plant compounds, which health experts have associated with cancer protection. They contain vitamin C, which prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Turnips also contain glucosinolates, a group of bioactive plant compounds with antioxidant properties. These plant compounds counteract the cancer-causing effects of oxidative stress. Several studies have shown that a higher intake of glucosinolates can reduce the risk of lung, colon, and rectal cancers.

Furthermore, turnips are packed with anthocyanin, another type of antioxidant with anticancer properties. Anthocyanins are found in a variety of blue and purple fruits and vegetables, and eating them lowers the risk of a number of chronic and degenerative diseases.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Health experts have linked inflammation to several chronic diseases, including arthritis, cancer, and high blood pressure. Studies show that glucosinolates in turnips disintegrate into indoles and isothiocyanates, both of which are bioactive byproducts with anti-inflammatory properties.

One of the indoles in turnips is arvelexin. Researchers have found that arvelexin may be able to block pro-inflammatory compounds like nitric acid. Nitric acid is a free radical that is usually involved in inflammation.

Animal and test-tube studies show that arvelexin significantly reduces inflammation and injury in colon cancer cells by deactivating an inflammatory pathway.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar level regulation is critical for good health, especially among people with diabetes. Multiple animal studies have shown that eating turnips may have antidiabetic effects on your body.

One study in rats on a high sugar diet found that treatment with turnip extract lowered blood sugar levels and increased levels of insulin. The study also discovered that the extract also helped treat other metabolic disorders that are associated with diabetes, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Another study on the antidiabetic effects of turnip greens also provided the same results. Researchers agree that the beneficial effects of turnips and turnip leaves may be due to increased blood sugar clearance, decreased carbohydrate absorption, and lower glucose production in the liver.

Antibacterial Properties

Isothiocyanates obtained from the breakdown of turnips’ may inhibit microbial and bacterial growth. Studies indicate that isothiocyanates fight disease-causing bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

One test-tube study found that the isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables had antibacterial properties that were up to 87% effective against antibiotic resistant strains of S. aureus.

Furthermore, as cases of bacterial resistance increase, health experts have conducted research to evaluate the potential effect of combining isothiocyanates with standard antibiotics. The results showed that the combination of antibiotics and isothiocyanates may be more effective at preventing bacterial growth.

Risks and Warnings

You should avoid eating turnips if you are on some medications or have certain health problems.

  • Blood Clotting: If you have a condition that makes your blood clot too quickly, avoid eating turnip greens as they are high in vitamin K. Studies show that K causes blood to clot faster than normal.
  • Nitrate Medications: Anyone using nitrate medications should avoid using turnips and other foods that are high in nitrate. Excess nitrate consumption can cause vasodilation.
  • Before Fecal Occult Blood Tests: Turnips, broccoli, and other vegetables may give you false positives or negatives during fecal occult blood tests.

Bottom Line

Both the roots and beets of turnips are nutritious, making them great additions to a healthy diet. Turnips have a crisp, white inner flesh and a peppery flavor. You can eat them either cooked or raw. However, roasting them brings out their best flavor and qualities.