Turnips: 12 Impressive Health Benefits, Nutritional Value, And How To Eat

by Annie Jangam

Turnip (Brassica rapa) is among the world’s oldest cultivated vegetables. This deep purple conical root vegetable has a pungent taste. It is popular for the nourishment it provides.

It is traditionally used for treating various ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, edemas, headaches, and sexually transmitted infections. Folk medicine had also used turnips to treat jaundice, hepatitis, and sore throats (1).

Turnip is rich in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates that have antitumor properties. The vegetable also has other bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids and phenols, which are antioxidants. They are claimed to have antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and antidiabetic properties (2), (3).

Another major component in turnip, called arvelexin, is suggested to be anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive (lowers blood pressure), and hypolipidemic (lowers blood cholesterol) in nature (1), (4).

The many nutritional benefits of turnips are discussed below. Let us look at them in detail.

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 the 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 had also 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 turnip 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).

Research states that turnip may have protective effects against cancers of the ovary, colon, bladder, lung, prostate, and breast (14), (15), (16).

Studies in human lung cancer cells have reported anticancer activity of turnips (17).

4. May Protect The Liver And Kidney

Turnips had also exhibited hepatoprotective activity in mice (18).

In another rat study, turnip root ethanolic extract was found to offer protection against hepatic injury (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

Studies have established that turnip extracts have antidiabetic effects (12). It is reported that the vegetable can help regulate glucose levels by increasing the insulin/glucagon ratio (12).

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 could significantly reduce 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.

Vitamin C promotes collagen production. Collagen provides structure to skin (30). It may also keep the skin looking young and supple.

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).

The vegetable also has vitamin K. This vitamin helps in reducing the risk of fractures, promoting calcium absorption, and increasing bone density (34).

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 had 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.

Nutrition Facts*

  • 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.

Side Effects Of Turnips

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.

Conclusion

Turnips are nutrient dense vegetables with low calories. They have traditionally been used for treating many ailments. They help in managing sugar and fat levels in the body. They also may promote heart health and reduce cancer risk.

However, they may cause certain side effects in people with thyroid imbalances. Keep these effects in mind.

You can otherwise include this versatile and antioxidant-rich vegetable in your diet and reap its health benefits.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ 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.

38 sources

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Annie Jangam

Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."
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