The benefits of turnips lie in their nutritional profile and disease-preventing properties. They are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables globally and have a deep purple color and a pungent taste.
Turnips have traditionally been used to treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs), headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, and edema. In addition, they are popularly used in folk medicine to treat hepatitis, jaundice, and sore throat (1).
Also known as Brassica rapa, this root vegetable has antitumor effects, thanks to the presence of isothiocyanates and glucosinolates. It is also rich in antioxidants like phenols and flavonoids that may protect against harmful microbes, liver disease, and diabetes (2), (3).
In this article, we discuss these benefits of turnips in detail. Keep scrolling to read more.
In This Article
What Are The Health Benefits of Turnips?
1. May Relieve Intestinal Problems
Regular consumption of turnips may aid proper digestion as they are rich in fiber. Traditionally, the vegetable has been used to cure various gastrointestinal ailments. Research suggests that consuming higher quantities of dietary fiber may reduce the risk of diverticular disease as it helps with bowel movement (5). On the other hand, a few studies suggest that a high fiber intake may not be helpful against asymptomatic diverticulosis (6).
However, more recent studies have reported that a high dietary fiber intake may reduce the risk of diverticular disease. Individuals consuming 30 g of fiber per day may reduce their risk of the disease by 41% (7).
A high fiber diet is established to be beneficial to improve the gut bacteria population (8). These probiotic bacteria help in providing nutrition to the body and also help reduce inflammation (8). The gut bacteria may also help with bowel movements. More research in this area will provide a better understanding of this benefit.
Turnip have also been shown to fight Helicobacter pylori, which is the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers (9). Including turnips in your diet would help in improving gut health. They may also provide relief from stomach issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation.
2. May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Turnips have antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that may help in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (10), (11). The veggies have a high content of healthy fats that may help in regulating cholesterol levels.
Animal studies have reported that turnips may enhance glucose and lipid metabolism (12). This effect could also promote cardiovascular health.
3. May Reduce Cancer Risk
The glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in turnips have anticancer properties (13).
Studies in human lung cancer cells have reported anticancer activity of turnips (17).
4. May Protect The Liver And Kidney
Turnips have also exhibited hepatoprotective activity in mice (18).
In another study, turnip root ethanolic extract was found to offer protection against hepatic injury in rats(19).
Turnip water extract was also found to protect against hepatic fibrogenesis (formation of a large amount of scar tissue in the liver) (20).
Overall, these studies indicate that turnip has an important role in protecting the liver. A similar role of turnip was observed in kidneys. The vegetable had a protective effect against renal injury in rats (21). This renoprotective effect was also observed against rats in another study (22).
5. May Have Antidiabetic Properties
However, more studies are needed to further understand the antidiabetic properties of turnips.
6. May Promote Weight Loss
Turnips may help with weight management. Turnip extract could inhibit the deposition of lipids in fat cells by stimulating receptors that are involved in lipid metabolism (23).
In animal studies, turnip extract significantly reduced body weight, blood glucose, lipid peroxidation, nitric oxide, and total triglycerides and cholesterol levels. These effects were observed in rats with fructose‐induced metabolic syndrome (24).
Turnip is low in calories and also has a low glycemic index. Raw turnip has a glycemic index of 30 (while the cooked variant has a GI of 85) (25). The high dietary fiber content of turnips also increases satiety and helps keep hunger pangs at bay. These effects may help promote weight loss.
7. May Promote Healthy Skin And Hair
Turnip is a rich source of vitamins A and C, and iron. All of them are essential for healthy skin and hair. Vitamin A is important for skin physiology (26). It may help in the production of sebum and the prevention of acne (27), (28), (29). However, more research is needed in this regard.
Iron helps in the melanin production in hair (31). Iron deficiency is reported to cause hair loss and premature hair graying (31). Eating raw turnip greens and other iron-rich foods may help reduce hair loss.
8. May Help Reduce Anemia
Iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of anemia (32). Iron is a major component of hemoglobin present in red blood cells (32). It is essential for carrying oxygen to all parts of the body (32). Turnips are rich in iron, and including them in your diet may help in combating the fatigue from anemia. Turnips are also rich in vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption.
9. May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Turnips contain glucosinolates that have been reported to help in bone formation in rats (33).
10. May Help Improve Memory
Turnip greens contain choline. Choline is essential for many vital functions (35). It is a structural component of cell membranes that helps with memory (36). It is also a component of neurotransmitters and helps reduce inflammation (36).
11. May Help During Pregnancy
Turnip greens are a good source of both folic acid and iron. These are essential for women during pregnancy (37), (38). Regular consumption of this root vegetable, along with other leafy green vegetables, can help pregnant women with their daily nutritional requirements.
12. May Have Antimicrobial Properties
Turnips contain a specific compound called β-Phenylethyl isothiocyanate. This compound has exhibited antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens like Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus (13). Further studies are needed to validate this claim.
These are the health benefits of turnips. In the following section, we will explore the nutritional facts of the vegetable.
- 90 % of raw turnip (100 g) contains water. It has only 28 kcal. It also has protein (2.5 g), fat (0.8 g), carbohydrate (24.7 g), and fiber (1.8 g).
- Calcium (30 mg), iron (0.3 mg), magnesium (11 mg), phosphorus (27 mg), and potassium (191 mg)
- Sodium (67 mg), zinc (0.27 mg), copper (0.085 mg), selenium (0.7 µg)
- Vitamin C (21 mg), thiamin (0.04 mg), riboflavin (0.03 mg), niacin (0.4 mg), vitamin B6 (0.09 mg), folate (15 µg), choline (11.1 mg)
- 20 glucosinolates and 16 isothiocyanates have been reported from turnip (progoitrin, gluconasturtiin, gluconapin, 4- hydroxyglucobrassicin, glucobrassicanapin, gluconapoleiferin, glucobrassicin, and neoglucobrassicin) (2)
*values sourced from SELFnutritionData, in association with USDA, turnips, raw
How To Eat Turnips?
Turnips can be eaten cooked or raw. They can be baked into chips for a healthy snack. Roasted or grilled baby turnips can also be added to a side dish. They are popular in salads and coleslaw. Adding them to mashed potatoes can improve their nutritional value. Simple mashed turnips are also a popular side dish. Turnip juice is consumed as a healthy alternative to beverages. It can be added to smoothies or yogurt for flavor.
Turnips are usually safe for most people. But they may cause certain adverse effects in some. We will briefly explore them in the following section.
Turnips belong to the cruciferous family. As per anecdotal evidence, eating them in excess may cause bloating, gas, and stomach pain.
Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in turnips may have a goitrogenic activity (2). They may interact with the thyroid hormone. Individuals with thyroid issues may need to consult their doctor before consuming turnips.
Turnips may also cause complications in people with kidney stones. However, there is no research to back this up. Though turnips may benefit kidney health, those with kidney issues must consult their doctor before consuming turnips.
Turnip benefits are numerous and can be attributed to their beneficial nutrients. If included regularly as part of the diet, turnips can relieve intestinal problems, promote weight loss, and boost hair and skin health. In addition, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in turnips reduce the risk of cancer. Turnips can also promote cardiovascular, liver, and kidney health. These also exhibit anti-diabetic properties, improve memory, and help manage anemia and osteoporosis. Turnips can be included in your diet, either raw or cooked. However, excess intake may trigger gas, stomach pain, and bloating. Hence, moderate consumption is advised.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are turnips better for you than potatoes?
According to the calorific value, turnips are better than potatoes as they have fewer calories. But in terms of nutrition value, both have their own advantages.
Are turnips good for those with diabetes?
Yes. Turnips are antidiabetic and can help lower blood sugar levels.
Are turnips good for lowering cholesterol?
Yes. Turnips regulate lipid or fat metabolism. Preliminary studies on rats have reported that they can reduce cholesterol levels.
Do turnips cause gas?
Turnips are cruciferous vegetables and contain compounds that may cause flatulence and bloating.
Are turnips considered starchy vegetables?
Turnips contain very less starch. Hence, they are not considered starchy vegetables.
Are turnips good for kidney stones?
Turnips have a renoprotective effect. However, some believe they may cause kidney stones. The information is mixed. Consult your doctor.
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