June 23, 2024

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Raw or Cooked Turnips, What’s More Nutritious?

5 min read

Turnips are root vegetables. Younger “baby turnips” are smaller and sweeter than bigger, older ones, which tend to be more bitter and peppery. In general, turnips taste like a potato-radish hybrid. As they mature, their flavor intensifies. There are many different types of turnips. The most common turnip looks like a heart-shaped bulb that’s white on the bottom and purple on top. Giant white turnips resemble rutabaga and are often wax-coated after harvest to create a vapor barrier that seals in moisture and prolongs shelf life.

This article discusses the health benefits of turnips, offers some creative prep methods for raw or cooked turnips, and explains why eating this edible taproot can be problematic for some people.

Turnips: Benefits of an Often Overlooked Vegetable

Like other vegetables in the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family—such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage—turnips are a rich source of sulforaphane and glucosinolates. These plant-based compounds have many health benefits and may help prevent chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress.

Turnips contain antioxidants, compounds that promote overall health and wellness. Eating turnips can help manage type 2 diabetes and may protect against some types of cancer while lowering the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

Like other powerhouse vegetables and superfoods, turnips can help people stay healthy. The Centers for Disease Control classifies turnips as a powerhouse fruit and vegetable (PFV) because they contain 10% or more of 17 qualifying nutrients in a 100-calorie serving.

Turnip Nutrition Facts (Single Serving)
Energy 36.4 kilocalories (kcal)
Water 119 grams (g)
Carbohydrate 8.36 g
Total Sugars 4.94 g
Fiber 2.34 g
Protein 1.17 g
Total lipid (fat) 0.13 g
Sodium 87.1 milligrams (mg)
Calcium 39 mg
Phosphorous 35.1 mg
Vitamin C 27.3 mg
Choline 14.4 mg
Magnesium 14.3 mg
1 cup raw, cubed (130 g)

Raw vs. Cooked Turnips

Can you eat raw turnips? Yes, turnips can be eaten raw. However, they generally taste better raw when they’re younger and smaller. Cooked turnips of any age or size can be used in various dishes and prepared in many ways. Cooking turnips can also give them more flavor.

Nutritional Differences

From a nutritional standpoint, there are pros and cons to eating either raw or cooked turnips. For example, more vitamin C is preserved in raw turnips: 27.3 mg per cup raw versus 18.1 mg cooked.Although consuming uncooked vegetables may help gut health and bowel movement for some people, for others, eating raw vegetables can cause stomach pain or aggravate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) because of their fiber content.

Taste Differences

Smaller turnips are sweeter; bigger turnips are more bitter. Larger, mature turnips have a more peppery, radish-like flavor than younger, tinier ones, which have a more neutral flavor.

Creative Ways to Eat More Turnips

Turnips can be enjoyed raw, pickled, boiled, roasted, mashed, stewed, puréed, added to soups, or prepared almost any way you’d make potatoes. Turnips are a healthy alternative to potatoes; they’re lower in calories and have fewer carbs.

When preparing turnips, start by peeling the skin, cutting off the base root, and removing the celery-like stalks and broad leaves, if still attached. Not all grocers sell turnips with their greens intact. If your turnips come with green tops, don’t throw them away. Turnip greens are very nutritious and can be sautéed or steamed like other leafy green vegetables such as spinach.

Smaller, sweeter turnips can be sliced into wedges and eaten raw like an apple. Raw baby turnips can be sliced or diced and used in salads. Raw turnips can also be grated and used as a garnish.

Should Anyone Not Eat Turnips?

People taking blood thinners (anticoagulants) such as Warfarin should be careful about suddenly eating large quantities of turnips because they’re relatively high in vitamin K, which can interfere with these medications.

Turnips also contain goitrogens, which can disrupt thyroid function. Cooking turnips reduces goitrogen levels, but people with thyroid issues should speak to a healthcare provider before introducing turnips or other goitrogenic foods into their diet.

Summary

Turnips are root vegetables that taste like a combination of radish and potato. They can be eaten raw or cooked. Smaller turnips taste sweeter and less bitter than bigger ones. Larger turnips taste better cooked. Boiling or roasting turnips in the oven are easy prep methods. This root vegetable is often blended into mashed potatoes or used in soups. Because turnips are a cruciferous vegetable and “powerhouse” food, they have many health benefits and can help prevent chronic disease.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Christopher Bergland

Christopher Bergland is a retired ultra-endurance athlete turned medical writer and science reporter. 

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