By Linda Lane, RD, LD
The turnip plant consists of not one but two separate, edible parts. The round, white and purple root can be boiled, fried, roasted, or even eaten raw. Smaller turnips are better for eating raw, whereas the larger roots are best in soups, stews, and for mashing. Turnip greens, which grow from the root, are a part of the mustard family and must be boiled to be palatable, as they are bitter when raw.
One cup of raw turnip root contains 1.2 grams of protein, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, and just 36 calories. One cup of cooked turnip greens contains 29 calories, 1.6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Both the root and the greens are high in potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Additionally, turnip greens are a good source of vitamins A, E, and K, folate, calcium, and several carotenoids—the beneficial pigments that give many plants their bright colors—including beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Individuals who take blood thinners should avoid eating turnip greens because the high level of vitamin K in the vegetable helps the blood to clot. Additionally, individuals with chronic kidney disease and those on a renal diet should avoid both turnip roots and greens due to the high amounts of potassium, which the kidneys may not be able to process. For all others, both turnip roots and greens can be eaten as part of a healthy diet.
Turnips are considered to be a part of a high-fiber diet, which has been shown to decrease diverticulitis—or inflammation of the digestive tract—by absorbing water in the colon and easing bowel movements. Because turnips are a good source of vitamins C and E, they can have a positive effect on the immune system and may help to decrease chronic health concerns, such as cancer and heart disease.
The high levels of antioxidants in the greens may have a positive effect on the immune system and may also help to fight against chronic health concerns such as cancer and heart disease. In addition, there are studies being done suggesting that turnip greens may protect against macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes vision loss.
Whether you are eating turnip greens or roots, both parts of the vegetable are low in calories and high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, making them an excellent choice as part of a healthy diet. There are many ways to consume both the root and greens of this healthy vegetable.
Here are just a few suggestions for how you can add turnips to your diet.
Boil turnips and mash them with roasted garlic and butter for a vitamin-rich alternative to mashed potatoes.
Add diced turnips to your favorite soup or stew for added fiber.
Grate raw turnips to add some crunch to your favorite salad.
Sauté turnip greens in a little olive oil with onion, chopped bacon, and red pepper flakes for a delicious side dish.
Create a turnip hummus to enjoy with sliced veggies