9 Interesting Benefits of Rutabaga

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The health benefits of rutabaga include its ability to improve digestive health, have anti-cancer potential, act as an antioxidant, boost the immune system, and improve metabolic function. Rutabaga also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, aids in cellular and enzymatic functions, builds strong bones, and can even help you lose weight.

What is Rutabaga?

Rutabaga (Brassica napus) is a cruciferous vegetable that is known around the world as “swede” but is called rutabaga primarily in North America. It is a root vegetable, which is a cross between cabbage and turnips. Rutabaga is known by many other names throughout the world, including yellow turnips or neeps. Its origins are still somewhat in question, but most people believe 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 and that it 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. 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 their 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.

2 fresh raw rutabagas with leaves on a wooden table

Winter is the best time of the year to eat rutabaga. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Rutabagas, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]89.43
Energy [kcal]37
Energy [kJ]157
Protein [g]1.08
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.16
Ash [g]0.71
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]8.62
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.3
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]4.46
Sucrose [g]0.53
Glucose (dextrose) [g]2.3
Fructose [g]1.61
Maltose [g]0.02
Starch [g]0.4
Calcium, Ca [mg]43
Iron, Fe [mg]0.44
Magnesium, Mg [mg]20
Phosphorus, P [mg]53
Potassium, K [mg]305
Sodium, Na [mg]12
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.24
Copper, Cu [mg]0.03
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.13
Selenium, Se [µg]0.7
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]25
Thiamin [mg]0.09
Riboflavin [mg]0.04
Niacin [mg]0.7
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.16
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.1
Folate, total [µg]21
Folate, food [µg]21
Folate, DFE [µg]21
Choline, total [mg]14.1
Carotene, beta [µg]1
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]1
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2
Lycopene [µg]14
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]19
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.3
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.3
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.02
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.03
18:1 [g]0.03
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.09
18:2 [g]0.04
18:3 [g]0.05
Sources include : USDA

Rutabagas Nutrition Facts

Rutabagas contain a diverse range of nutrients, including high levels of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as vitamin C, E, K, and members of the B-family. In terms of organic compounds, rutabagas provide glucosinolates and carotenoids.

Health Benefits of Rutabagas

Health benefits of rutabagas include the following:

Anti-cancer Properties

Perhaps the most important function of rutabaga involves its diverse composition of antioxidant compounds. Glucosinolates are somewhat rare, sulfur-containing compounds, which are known to reduce the growth of cancerous tumors in the body (María Elena Cartea, et al, July 2008).

Prevent Premature Aging

Rutabagas can effectively prevent premature aging, improve eyesight, and stimulate the healthy regeneration of cells throughout our organs and tissues.

Improve Digestion

Like all cruciferous vegetables, rutabagas are very high in fiber, providing more than 12% of the daily requirement in each serving. Dietary fiber functions in a variety of ways in the body, but primarily it improves digestion by bulking up the stool and preventing constipation and gastrointestinal distress. Digestion is an essential part of overall health and it also helps in weight loss. 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 make you feel full, thereby reducing the chances of overeating.

Boost Immune System

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.

Lower Blood Pressure

Potassium is a very valuable part of rutabaga’s nutritional offerings, as it can help 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, resulting in a lower chance of clotting. Potassium, along with the fiber content in rutabagas, helps reduce cholesterol levels and gives you a surefire way to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Rutabagas have a wealth of important minerals, including zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, 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.

Boost Metabolism

Rutabagas are a great option for many vegetarians, as they nearly provide a complete protein boost, something that most vegetarians struggle to acquire as they don’t consume meat. Protein 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 dangerous health concerns. The moderate levels of zinc found in rutabagas are highly praised for this reason.

Weight loss

Rutabaga is a good remedy for managing weight effectively. Add this healthy veggie to your diet and shed the excess weight.

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.

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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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