Turnips may not be the most impressive vegetable in the market, but there are many different health benefits associated with them, including their ability to improve bone health, boost the immune system, prevent cancer, reduce inflammation, protect heart health, regulate metabolism, increase circulation, and optimize digestion.
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What is Turnip?
A turnip is a white-skinned root vegetable that has become globally popular both for human consumption and livestock feed. Scientifically known as Brassica rapa, turnips are commonly grown in temperate areas across the globe, and is cultivated for the nutritional value and taste of the root. Turnip greens are also consumed in some parts of the world as a cruciferous vegetable, and there is a slightly different nutrient profile between the leaves and the root. These leaves, however, 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 the better part of 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.
Turnips are not only excellent at soaking up flavor and adding a hearty element to your meals and stews, but the root vegetable also possesses high levels of important nutrients and minerals that the body requires to function properly. Turnip is rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Amongst vitamins it contains vitamin C, folate and niacin. This vegetable is high in fiber and also low in calories and typically inexpensive, making it a logical choice for inclusion in any healthy diet.
Health Benefits of Turnips
Benefits of turnips are many and the use of this vegetable helps to boost heart health, immune system and prevent cancer. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the many health benefits in detail.
Improve Heart Health
Turnips have a number of essential nutrients that our bodies need for their proper function, including high levels of potassium and fiber. Potassium is able to function as a vasodilator, helping to reduce the strain on our blood vessels and arteries by lowering 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.
Help in Digestion
Most people are aware that dietary fiber is particularly important in the digestive process. It can help to clear up symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, cramping and bloating, as well as more serious gastric issues that can occasionally arise. Fiber can help to bulk up stool and move it through the gut, while also 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, which 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 is also present in large quantities within turnips, and ascorbic acid is one of the most 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, including cancer and heart disease.
Improve Bone Strength
Calcium is found in high concentrations within turnips, and can help aid in the growth and repair of bone matter throughout our body. Calcium is essential in boosting bone mineral density, especially as we grow older and begin to suffer through arthritis and osteoporosis. If you want to add some strength and durability to your bones, add calcium-rich turnips to your diet!
Aside from vitamin C, turnips also provide considerable levels of vitamin E, manganese and beta-carotene, all of which can function as antioxidants within the body, seeking out and neutralizing free radicals before they can induce further cell mutation or drive the spread of cancer. Antioxidants like those found in turnips help to prevent chronic health conditions over the long term, and should always be considered an important part of your daily and weekly diet.
Those turnip greens that we mentioned as being bitter and difficult to swallow, per se, are also packed with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K, which is important if you suffer from any inflammatory conditions. These “good” fats can lower inflammation, balance cholesterol levels, and promote overall wellness in the body, 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 so 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 hormonal levels are stable.
How to Select and Store?
Turnips although are available throughout the year, tend to flourish in cold weather, hence one would find the freshest and the sweetest turnips from winter through spring.
While selecting, look for the ones that are smaller in size, with a heavy skin, no brown/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 Turnip?
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 to not 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, but not necessary.
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 in their growth, owing to their delicate and sweet taste, make an excellent ingredient when added raw in a vegetable salad along with cabbage, carrot and beetroot.
As they grow older and larger in size, turnips tend to have a more pronounced, woody taste, and hence are not always preferred in recipes when it comes to salads.
Stew: When diced into cubes, they can be a great addition to a piping hot vegetable stew with potatoes, carrots, shallots, and kohlrabi. The variants of this 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!
A Final Word of Warning: Like other cruciferous vegetables, some of the compounds found in turnips can affect the thyroid gland and the production of the thyroid hormone. If you are at risk of thyroid disorders, or currently suffer from one, it might be wise to speak to a doctor before adding turnips to your diet in a major way. Aside from that consideration, enjoy!