Tuning up Your Health With Turnips

Turnips belong to the species Brassica rapa, along with bok choyrapini, and napa cabbage. They belong to the Brassicaceae family, along with mustardkalecollards, watercress, Brussels sproutsarugularadishescabbage, kohlrabibroccolihorseradish, and cauliflower.

Wild forms of the hot turnip and its relatives the mustards and radishes are found over west Asia and Europe. There is evidence that turnips were domesticated before the 15th century BC; they were grown in India at this time for their oil-bearing seeds. Both the Greeks and Romans developed several new varieties, and turnips were as important to our early European ancestors as potatoes were to our South American ancestors. Turnips, along with other root vegetables, were the hidden treasure of medieval peasant families. Marauding armies might trample your grain or steal your apples, but it was too time-consuming for them to dig up all your turnips. Turnips remained a mainstay of the European table until potatoes supplanted them in the 18th century. The original Jack o’Lanterns were made in Ireland out of turnips. Only after Irish immigrants came to North America did they discover that the American squash, pumpkin, made a pretty cool Jack o’Lantern.

Early European settlers introduced turnips to North America. They grew well in the South, where they became an integral part of Southern African-American cuisine. Plantation owners may have grown turnips for their roots, leaving the leaves for the enslaved Africans. Because Western African cuisine traditionally uses a wide variety of greens, the enslaved Africans readily adopted turnip greens. Turnip greens continue to be an important vegetable in traditional Southern American cooking.

Turnips are very low-calorie root vegetables: they contain only 28 calories per 100 grams, about 1/4 of the calories of potatoes. They are a very good source of antioxidantsmineralsvitamins, and fiber. Fresh turnip roots provide about 21 milligrams or 35% of of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C per 100 grams. Vitamin C is a powerful water-soluble antioxidant that your body requires to synthesize collagen. It also helps your body scavenge harmful free radicals, prevents cancers and inflammation, and helps boost immunity.

Turnips also provide most of the B vitamins, which help with fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism; nervous system function; and healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. Turnips are high in iodine, which is required for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, as an antioxidant, for mammary and salivary glands, gastric mucosa, and your immune system. Turnips also contain coppermanganese and potassium, and they have small amounts of ironcalciumphosphorussodiummagnesiumzinc, and selenium.

Hydroxycinnamic acids are potent antioxidants that keep your body’s cells safe from harmful free radicals (dangerous substances that are released into the body’s cells during oxygen-related reactions), act as anti-inflammatories (substances that prevent unnecessary inflammation within your body), keep your blood healthy, prevent cancer and much more. One such substance, caffeic acid, found in turnips, is highly protective in your body. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and it may also prevent cancer and diabetes.

Turnip greens contain several times the amount of certain minerals and vitamins as the roots. Whenever possible, eat the greens as well as the roots.

Nutrients in 100 Grams Raw Turnip Root



Daily Value

vitamin C 21 mg


iodine 33 µg


copper 0.085 mg


vitamin B6 0.09 mg


manganese 0.134 mg


carbohydrates 6.43 g


fiber 1.8 g


potassium 233 mg


folate 15 µg


pantothenic acid 0.2 mg


thiamine 0.04 mg


iron 0.3 mg


calcium 30 mg


phosphorus 27 mg


niacin 0.4 mg


riboflavin 0.03 mg


sodium 39 mg


magnesium 11 mg


zinc 0.27 mg





protein 0.9 g


selenium 0.7 µg


vitamin K 0.1 µg


fat 0.1 g


vitamin E 0.03 mg


Cholesterol 0 mg


Turnips are available all year long, but are at their best in fall and spring, when they are small and sweet. Small young turnips or “baby turnips” result when the roots are harvested early in the growing stage. Look for brightly colored turnips with creamy looking bulbs. Baby turnips look like somewhat large white spring radishes. In fall and spring, look for turnips with their greens attached to be sure they were freshly harvested. In winter, turnips will come from storage and their leaves may have been removed. Mature turnips have a purple ring around the tops. In any case, you want firm turnips without blemishes that feel heavy for their size.

If you buy turnips with their greens attached, remove the greens when you get them home. Store turnip roots loosely wrapped in a bag in the crisper of the refrigerator or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, loose in a root cellar. Like any root vegetable, they keep best a cool, dark, dry environment.

Wash turnip roots in cold running water in order to remove soil and any residues from the surface. Trim the top and bottom ends of the root.

Baby turnips are delicate and  sweet, with thin skins that you don’t need to peel. You can eat them raw in salads with cabbage, parsnips, carrots, and beets. Raw baby turnip slices with olives and cherry tomatoes make a delicious appetizer. You can also roast unpeeled baby turnips, like a new potato, or steam them or sauté them.

As turnips advance in age and maturity, their flavor becomes more pronounced and texture more firm and woody. Mature turnips have tough skins that should be removed. Scrub them until clean, and then peel them. Cut them into cubes about 1/2 inch in size, and put these in boiling salted water. Cook uncovered until they can easily be pierced with a fork and drain the water from them. Season with additional salt, if necessary, and with pepper. They’re good with a white sauce, and they’re also a better vegetable to mash than potatoes.

Turnip cubes can mix well with other vegetables like kohlrabi, potatoes, or carrots in variety of soups or stews.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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