Health Benefits of Rutabaga
Some of the health benefits of rutabaga includes its ability to improve your digestive health, boost your immune system, improve your metabolic function, lowers blood pressure, prevents certain forms of cancer, lowers cholesterol levels, aids in cellular and enzymatic functions, builds strong bones, and can even help you lose weight.
Rutabagas are cruciferous vegetables that are known around the world as “swedes”, but are called rutabagas in much of the western hemisphere, primarily in North America. It is a root vegetable, which is actually a cross between cabbage and turnips. The scientific name of rutabaga is Brassica napus, but it is known by many other names throughout the world, including yellow turnips or neeps. Its actual origins are still somewhat in question, but most people that it is native to Scandinavia and Russia. It was introduced widely in England in the 19th century, but there was evidence of rutabagas being harvested in North America in the early 19th century as well, suggesting possible Scandinavian origins that grew in Canada and then spread throughout the continent.
As a food source, the root, as well as the leafy vegetables are utilized, depending on the culture. The leaves are used much like other leafy vegetables, such as spinach or chard, while the root meat can be prepared in similar ways to potatoes, either mashed or roasted, while some other cultures use it as a filler in various casseroles and mincemeat.
Its unique flavor makes it very useful to boost the taste of a variety of dishes throughout the world, and many cultures have incorporated it into staple foods or national delicacies. It is considered a healthy alternative to potatoes, as it doesn’t have as many “empty” carbohydrates and provides a wide range of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds that are beneficial for human health. Let’s take a closer look at the unique composition of this delicious and under-appreciated vegetable.
Nutritional Value of Rutabagas
Rutabagas include a diverse range of nutrients including high levels of manganese, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as vitamins like vitamin C, E, K, and members of the B-family. In terms of organic compounds, rutabagas provide glucosinolates and carotenoids.
Health Benefits of Rutabagas
Antioxidant Activity: Perhaps the most important function of rutabagas involves its diverse composition of antioxidant compounds. Glucosinolates, which are somewhat rare, sulfur-containing compounds that have been shown to reduce the growth of cancerous tumors in the body. Furthermore, the high levels of carotenoids and vitamin C act as antioxidants, which combat the effects of free radicals, thereby preventing the mutation of healthy cells into cancerous cells, among other effects. Rutabagas can effectively prevent premature aging, improve eyesight, and stimulate the healthy regeneration of cells throughout our organs and tissues.
Digestive Health: Like all cruciferous vegetables, rutabagas are very high in fiber, providing more than 12% of your daily requirement in each serving. Dietary fiber functions in a variety of ways in the body, but primarily it improves digestion by bulking up stool and preventing constipation and gastrointestinal distress. Staying regular is an essential part of your overall health and also helps in weight loss efforts. As a low-calorie, nutrient-rich food source, rutabagas are praised as components of a weight-loss diet, and the high level of fiber also helps to make you feel full, thereby reducing the chances of overeating.
Immune System Health: As mentioned, vitamin C is the major vitamin present in rutabagas, and a single serving contains more than half of the required daily allotment of vitamin C in our diet. Vitamin C is essential for many bodily processes, including the stimulation of the immune system to produce white blood cells. Beyond that, vitamin C is a necessary element in the production of collagen, which contributes to the development and healing of skin tissue and muscles, as well as blood vessels. High levels of vitamin C can also help directly prevent colorectal cancer, as a number of research studies have attested.
Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health: Potassium is a very valuable part of rutabaga’s nutritional offerings, as potassium can help to lower blood pressure by reducing the stress and contraction of blood vessels. This allows for easier passage of blood, increased oxygenation to vital organs and systems, and a lower chance of clotting. Combine potassium with the fiber content in rutabagas, which helps to reduce cholesterol levels, and you have a surefire way to prevent atherosclerosis, effectively lowering your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Strong Bones: Rutabagas are a wealth of important minerals, including zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous, all of which play key roles in the creation and maintenance of bone tissue. Osteoporosis affects millions of people around the world, and keeping your bones healthy and strong as you get older will help to avoid this common age-related disorder.
Metabolic Function: Rutabagas represent a great option for many vegetarians, as it nearly provides a complete protein, something that most vegetarians struggle to acquire when they don’t consume meat. Proteins and amino acids are the building blocks of new cells and are necessary to promote proper development, growth, healing, reproduction, muscle contraction, and dozens of other important bodily processes.
Enzymatic Function: Zinc is a key component of many enzymatic functions throughout the body, without which our bodily processes become inefficient, resulting in more dangerous health concerns. The moderate levels of zinc found in rutabagas are highly praised for this reason.
Diabetes and Weight Loss: Although rutabagas fill the role of potatoes in many cultures, they don’t have as many carbohydrates, which break down into simple sugars, potentially wreaking havoc on glucose and insulin levels in the body. Therefore, rutabagas are often turned to as an alternative to potatoes for diabetic patients and those who want to cut back on the carbs. The vegetable can essentially help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. While there are only about 20% less carbohydrates in equal portions of rutabagas than in potatoes, the additional nutritional value makes rutabagas a much wiser and more delicious choice!
A Final Word of Caution: There are currently no known health risks for rutabaga, aside from the risk of having an allergy, which is quite rare. However, if you are allergic to turnips, cabbage, spinach, or other cruciferous vegetables, consult a doctor to see if it is safe to add rutabaga to your diet.