10 Interesting Benefits of Rutabagas

The health benefits of rutabaga include its ability to improve your digestive health, prevent certain forms of cancer, act as an antioxidant, boost your immune system, and improve your 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 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 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 believe that it is native to Scandinavia and Russia. It was introduced widely in England in the 19th century, but there was an 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. And 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.

Rutabagas Nutrition Facts

Rutabagas contain 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.

RutabagaHealth Benefits of Rutabagas

Health benefits of rutabagas include the following:

Prevent Cancer

Perhaps the most important function of rutabaga involves its diverse composition of antioxidant compounds. Glucosinolates are somewhat rare, sulfur-containing compounds, 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 ones, among other effects.

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 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 the stool and preventing constipation and gastrointestinal distress. Digestion 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.

Boost Immune System

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 to prevent colorectal cancer, as a number of research studies have attested.

Lower Blood Pressure

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. Potassium along with the fiber content in rutabagas helps to reduce cholesterol levels and gives you a surefire way to prevent atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

rutabagainfoPrevent Osteoporosis

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.

Boost Metabolism

Rutabagas represent a great option for many vegetarians, as they nearly provide a complete protein boost, something that most vegetarians struggle to acquire when 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 more dangerous health concerns. The moderate levels of zinc found in rutabagas are highly praised for this reason.

Prevent Diabetes

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 diabetics and those who want to cut back on the carbs. The vegetable can essentially help prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. While the carbohydrate content in rutabagas is 20% lower than an equal portion of potatoes, the additional nutritional value makes rutabagas a much wiser and more delicious choice!

Weight loss

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

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.

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I recently discovered the delightful Cornish pasty, which is traditionally made with rutabagas ("swedes" in most of the UK, but (confusingly, at first) also called "turnips" (!) by many in Cornwall. Whatever you want to call them, combined with beef, potatoes and onion, wrapped in a pastry shell, the pasty is a slice of culinary heaven. (Even though I like to cook -- and my family likes to eat -- a variety of dishes, Cornish pasties have earned a place on our weekly menu -- the only dish to do so.)

Warning: if at first you don't like a rutabaga you bring home from the store, you might want to try again -- and maybe again. The first (a purple-top variety) was hard -- almost like a rock -- and the flavor not endearing. I bought another, similar one at another store, and it was much the same. Having learned there are several varieties of rutabagas (most of which will be hard to find in a given store at a given time), I tried again and found another; this one was green-topped, less hard, and had a marvelous flavor. Curious about the possibilities, I sent for six different varieties of rutabaga seeds and have all six presently growing in my garden. Most are growing very nicely. (I am in norther Illinois - Zone 5.) I can scarcely wait to taste them at harvest!

I enjoy eating finely sliced rutabaga. Inexpensive where I live, chock full of nutriments, tasty.