10 Surprising Benefits of Kohlrabi

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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Kohlrabi is a hardy, annual vegetable that is primarily consumed in European countries, although in recent years it has also become a vegetable staple in northern India. The health benefits of kohlrabi include its ability to improve the digestive processes, assist in weight loss goals, help boost the immune system, increase circulation, strengthen bones, improve ocular health, and assists in protecting muscle and nerve function.

What is Kohlrabi?

Kohlrabi is actually a cultivar of cabbage and was specifically bred as a hardier version of cruciferous vegetables, which often can’t grow in harsh conditions. The small bulbous vegetable is encased in two harder shells of leaves, which typically do not soften when cooked. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked and has been a staple of German cuisine for hundreds of years. You can use the kohlrabi root as well as the leaves in your diet, as they both have significant amounts of nutrients.

Kohlrabi tastes somewhat like a broccoli stem, although somewhat more palatable, and is often softer, even taking on the consistency of an apple at times. While the roots/stems are often used in salads in a similar way as carrots or broccoli, the leaves are typically interchanged for kale or spinach. Some countries even use it as food for their livestock, as it is packed with beneficial nutrients and grows relatively easily in certain climates.

Close-up of fresh green kohlrabi

Kohlrabi Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Kohlrabi Nutrition Facts

Kohlrabi is so highly-valued in countries and cuisines around the world not only for its diversity in cooking applications but also because it is full of nutrients and minerals. According to USDA National Nutrient Base, kohlrabi consists of calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium, as well as vitamins C, B-complex, A, and K. Along with that, it is also high in dietary fiber and antioxidant compounds such as phytochemicals and various carotenes.

Health Benefits of Kohlrabi

Health benefits of kohlrabi include the following:

Improves Digestion

Just like most cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi is a good source of dietary fiber that can seriously improve digestive health. Fiber helps to move your bowels along, reducing constipation, cramping and bloating, and generally improving the quality of your gastrointestinal system, while also maximizing your nutrient uptake efficiency.

Weight Loss

In a report published in the Journal Integrative Medicine, researchers called kohlrabi the perfect vegetable for a weight loss diet. Why? It is low in calories, high in fiber, and is packed with beneficial nutrients. Fiber makes us feel full, so even if the volume of food consumed isn’t that great, we are more likely to snack between meals or overeat.

Boosts Energy Level

Kohlrabi is rich in potassium, and although this characteristic of potassium isn’t discussed too often, it is one of the key players in muscle and nerve behavior in the body. It helps us move, breathe, react, and function every single day. As such, adequate amounts of this mineral–and the high potassium content, as mentioned, in this vegetable makes it a great addition to your diet to keep alert, energetic, and in great shape!

Regulates Blood Pressure

Dr. Jiang He of Harvard University revealed in a study that in addition to its impact on energy levels, potassium also functions as a vasodilator, reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system by easing the tension of blood vessels and arteries. This can increase circulation throughout the body, oxygenating key areas, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular events like strokes or heart attacks. Potassium is also a key part of fluid regulation in the body, as it works with sodium to regulate fluid movement between cells.

Prevents Anemia

Apart from potassium, Kohlrabi also consists of iron. The significant levels of iron found in kohlrabi go hand-in-hand with the potassium content; iron helps to increase the red blood cells (RBC) in the body, which are essential to prevent anemia (iron deficiency). This deficiency is characterized by weakness, fatigue, headaches, stomach disorders, disorientation, and general immune system failure. The calcium found in kohlrabi also improves the uptake of iron by the body, so kohlrabi is an all-around booster for both the immune and cardiovascular systems.

Improves Bone Strength

As we get older, our bones inevitably weaken, but one of the best ways to avoid or significantly slow down that process is by eating mineral-rich foods. Some of these foods include vegetables like kohlrabi, which contain high manganese, iron, and calcium content.

Eye Care

A 2013 report published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging indicates that Kohlrabi is a rich source of carotenes, including beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant compound in the body, particularly in the ocular area. Vitamin A can help to prevent macular degeneration and slow down or eliminate the appearance of cataracts. This is done by neutralizing the free radicals in the eye and preventing oxidative stress.

Anti-cancer Properties

According to a study in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, eating kohlrabi may help reduce the risk of developing cancer as it contains potent phytochemicals including isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol.

Word of Caution: Aside from a very rare case of a food allergy, it is not the source of any known allergens and can be eaten without worry by the vast majority of people – especially for those looking for a healthier form of cabbage!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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