It’s Time We Honored Turnips + Recipes

This year I decided to grow turnips in my small potted garden. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that I’ve enjoyed for years, including the greens, but I’ve never attempted to grow my own. Currently, I have one pot with some impressive foliage, but the bulbs are not yet ready to harvest.

Turnips are an often neglected vegetable, yet they should be honored at least for their longevity, as they have been around since prehistoric times. Unlike their cousins (e.g., broccoli, kale, cauliflower), turnips have not made it big in the restaurant or home scene, but that’s a situation that could change once we understand their benefits and how to enjoy them.

How Nutritious Are Turnips?

Let’s begin with the nutritional value of turnips. One cup of cooked, cubed turnip (156 grams) provides a mere 34 calories, 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein. That same cup offers 30 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements, as well as 8 percent of potassium, 6 percent of manganese, and 5 percent of calcium, plus other vitamins and minerals. On the glycemic load scale, turnips come in at a healthy 2.

What Are Some Health Benefits of Turnips?

The nutritional qualities of turnips can help with a number of health-related conditions. For example:

Intestinal health. Incorporating high-fiber foods such as turnips into our diet has been shown to reduce the risk and occurrence of constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and colorectal cancer.

Blood pressure. Turnips are a very good source of potassium, a mineral that can help reduce blood pressure by dilating the arteries and releasing sodium from the body. These veggies also contain a fair amount of nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide in the body and help expand blood vessels, thus reducing blood pressure.

Weight loss. Consuming foods that are high in fiber and low in calories, such as turnips, can be helpful when trying to lose weight. Such foods can make you feel fuller longer, which reduces the desire to eat more and sooner. High-fiber foods also keep blood glucose levels stable.

Cancer. As with all of the cruciferous vegetables, turnips contain a certain amount of sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to possess cancer-fighting abilities. In a 2015 review of the anticancer properties of sulforaphane, the researchers noted that the substance has an ability to “intervene in multistage carcinogenesis” through a variety of mechanisms and “a number of anticancer pathways.”

Learn more about The Healing Power of Plants

Vision. We aren’t tossing citrus aside, but turnips also provide a significant amount of vitamin C, which can help support and promote healthy vision. Vitamin C is one of the nutrients identified as helping in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, while the vitamin also has been named as possibly reducing the risk of cataracts.

How Do I Buy And Store Turnips?

If you are a fan of turnip greens (and I highly recommend them!), buy your turnips with bright green tops attached. The bulbs themselves should be small and heavy for their size. Larger turnips tend to have a spicer taste but also can be woody. Turnips should be stored in a dark, cool place (not the refrigerator), similar to potatoes.

What Are Some Great Ways To Enjoy Turnips?

Let’s start at the top. Turnip greens can be steamed or eaten raw in salads. Try them in recipes that call for other greens or mix and match with other favorites.

Turnips can be eaten raw or cooked. The crisp, peppery taste of raw turnips can be enjoyed shredded in green salads as well as added to cole slaw. Most people, however, prefer to cook their turnips, and the options are endless. Turnips can be roasted, braised, boiled, stir-fried, baked, mashed, and added to soups, salads, stews, casseroles, and even used as snacks. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Turnip Chips (serves 2-4)
4 medium turnips, sliced thin
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp garlic powder
Juice from 1 small lemon or lime

Preheat the oven to 425°F. You should use the middle rack of the oven. Slice the turnips into slices no thicker than ¼ inch. In a large bowl, combine the oil and salt and add the slices, tossing them until they are coated. Arrange the slices in a single layer on baking sheets and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning them when you see them getting brown. They are done when they are golden on both sides. Remove the slices from the oven, place them in a large bowl and spritz with lemon or lime juice. Sprinkle with garlic powder, toss well, and serve. They can be enjoyed warm or cooled.

Sauteed Turnips and Greens (serves 2-4)
4 medium turnips, cut into 1” cubes
Greens from the turnips, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, sliced small
½ small red onion, minced
1 to 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Seasoning of your choice
Fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet, saute the turnip cubes, garlic, and onion in olive oil until tender. Add the chopped greens and cook until they are wilted. Season with salt, pepper, and/or herbs of your choice and a squeeze or two or fresh lemon.

For another turnip recipe...

Image via Abingdon Farmers Market

Ashworth A et al. High-nitrate vegetable diet increases plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations and reduces blood pressure in healthy women. Public Health Nutrition 2015 Oct; 18(14): 2669-78
Kunzmann AT et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015 Oct; 102(4): 881-90
McCusker MM et al. An eye on nutrition: the role of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants in age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataract. Clinics in Dermatology 2016 Mar-Apr; 34(2): 276-85
Nagarajan N et al. The role of fiber supplementation in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2015 Sep; 27(9): 1002-10
Schmier JK et al. Cost savings of reduced constipation rates attributed to increased dietary fiber intakes: a decision-analytic model. BMC Public Health 2014 Apr 17; 14:374
SELFNutrition Data. Turnips
Tortorella SM et al. Dietary sulforaphane in cancer chemoprevention: the role of epigenetic regulation and HDAC inhibition. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2015 Jun 1; 22(16): 1382-424
Ware M. Turnips: Health benefits, facts, research. Medical News Today 2016 1 Jan
Weikel KA et al. Nutritional modulation of cataract. Nutrition Reviews 2014 Jan; 72(1): 30-47

By Deborah Mitchell| January 30, 2017
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at

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