Turnips are a lesser-known vegetable in the market despite a number of health benefits associated with them, including their ability to improve bone health, protect your heart, prevent cancer, reduce inflammation, and optimize digestion. They also regulate metabolism, increase circulation, and boost the immune system.
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What is Turnip?
A turnip is a white-skinned root vegetable that is popular for both, human consumption and livestock feed. Scientifically known as Brassica rapa, turnips are commonly grown in temperate areas across the globe and are cultivated for their nutritional value and taste of the root.
Turnip greens are consumed in some parts of the world as a cruciferous vegetable and there is a slight difference between the nutrient profile of the leaves and roots. These leaves, are often bitter and must be boiled down to be palatable, much like mustard greens. Turnips have also been known as an important part of the human diet for over two thousand years. Countries from Brazil, England, and Japan to Iran, the United States, and Norway all have their own culinary takes on turnips and have made them a mainstay in their cultural meals for centuries.
Nutrition Facts of Turnips
Turnips are not only excellent at soaking up the flavor and adding a hearty element to your meals and stews, but these root vegetables also possess high levels of important nutrients and minerals that the body requires to function properly. Turnips are rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Amongst vitamins, they contain vitamin C, folate, and niacin. These vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories and are typically inexpensive, making them a logical choice for inclusion in any healthy diet.
Health Benefits of Turnips
Benefits of turnips help in boosting heart health, immune system, and preventing cancer. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits in detail.
Improve Heart Health
Turnips have a number of essential nutrients that our body needs for proper functioning, including high levels of potassium and fiber. Potassium functions as a vasodilator, helping to reduce the strain on our blood vessels and arteries by lowering the blood pressure. This can prevent the development of atherosclerosis, as well as heart attacks and strokes. Dietary fiber, on the other hand, is excellent for scraping excess cholesterol from the heart and eliminating it from the body.
Most people are aware that dietary fiber is very important in the digestive process. It can help to treat symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, cramping, and bloating, as well as gastric issues that can occasionally arise. So the fiber present in turnips can help to bulk up the stool and move it through the gut while promoting more efficient uptake of nutrients so we get the most from our food.
Improve Blood Circulation
The significant level of iron found in turnips makes them an asset if you suffer from low blood cell count or anemia. Iron is required in the formation of RBC that are needed by the body to oxygenate, repair, and run the body’s organ systems. Therefore, more iron means better circulation to every extremity of the body.
Boost Immune System
Vitamin C and ascorbic acid, present in large quantities in turnips are important boosters for our immune system. Vitamin C can stimulate the production of white blood cells and antibodies, in addition to acting as an antioxidant and reducing chronic health concerns like cancer and heart diseases.
Improve Bone Strength
Calcium, in turnips, can help aid in the growth and repair of bone matter throughout our body. It is essential in boosting the bone mineral density, especially as we grow older and begin to suffer from arthritis and osteoporosis. If you want to add some strength and durability to your bones, add these calcium-rich foods to your diet!
Aside from vitamin C, turnips provide considerable levels of vitamin E, manganese, and beta-carotene, all of which function as antioxidants in the body. These antioxidants seek out and neutralize free radicals before they can induce further cell mutation or drive the spread of cancer. Antioxidants found in turnips help to prevent chronic health conditions over the long term and should always be considered an important part of your diet.
The turnip greens are packed with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K, which are important if you suffer from any inflammatory conditions. These ‘good’ fats can lower inflammation, balance cholesterol levels, and promote overall wellness. So boil down those leaves and enjoy the benefits, particularly if you suffer from gout, arthritis or chronic pain.
The B family of vitamins is often overlooked, but without them, our hormonal and enzymatic processes would be very difficult to control, and all of our bodily functions would be compromised. Turnips supply a healthy dose of vitamin B to the body, ensuring that all of our organ systems are functioning properly and that our hormone levels are stable.
How to Select and Store Turnips?
Turnips are available throughout the year but they mostly tend to flourish in cold weather. Hence, one would find fresh and sweet turnips from winter through spring.
While selecting, look for the ones that are smaller in size, with a heavy skin, no brown or unhealthy looking spots, and with lush, green tops. They can be placed in plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, sometimes more. Both the root and the greens of turnips are used in cooking. Despite being slightly bland in taste, they have plenty of uses in the kitchen.
How to Cook Turnips?
Turnips can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked. They can be chopped, sliced, diced or left whole depending on their size, and the chosen cooking technique. They can be cooked in different ways like baking, boiling, sautéeing or steaming. One must ensure not to overcook them in order to retain their crunchy texture.
Before cooking or serving turnips, care must be taken to wash them under running water and scrub them thoroughly with a brush to remove any dirt or fungicide residues. Peeling them and cutting away their greens is optional.
Adding turnips to your food helps you gain all the key benefits that they possess. Turnips can be cooked in many ways and can be added to soups and salads, among other recipes. Let’s look at a few ways to serve them:
Salads: Young or baby turnips which are often harvested at an early stage are delicate and sweet in taste. They make an excellent ingredient when added raw in a vegetable salad along with cabbage, carrot, and beetroot. As they grow larger in size, turnips tend to have a more pronounced, woody taste, and hence are not always preferred in salad preparations.
Stew: When diced into cubes, turnips can be a great addition to a piping hot vegetable stew with potatoes, carrots, shallots, and kohlrabi. The variants can be chicken, beef, and lamb stews. In fact, their top greens can be used along with other vegetables and greens to cook various soups and curries.
Dips or coleslaw: Another cool tip to use raw turnips is to cut them into sticks which can be used in dips, or grate them for a salad or coleslaw!
Word of Caution: Like other cruciferous vegetables, some of the compounds found in turnips can affect the thyroid gland and the production of this hormone. If you are at risk of thyroid disorders or currently suffering from one, it might be wise to speak to a doctor before adding turnips to your diet. Aside from that, enjoy eating turnips!