What are turnip greens?
Turnip greens are simply the top dark greens of the turnips. They don’t usually get much attention in the culinary world; however, they are edible and highly nutritious.
Turnip greens can be enjoyed the same way you would kale or collard greens. They are great for soups, stir-fries, and stews, and their peppery zing makes them a precious ingredient in Southern-style dishes.
Consuming them raw may not be a good idea since they are highly fibrous and tough, making it difficult for the stomach to digest.
Turnip greens belong to the cruciferous class of vegetables, known for their high levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial compounds like antioxidants. They are also famous for boosting immunity and lowering the risk of various chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
This article provides more on turnip green nutrition, health benefits, and risk factors.
Turnip greens nutrition:
Turnip greens can also be referred to as turnip tops or turnip leaves.
They are a good source of phytochemicals, fiber, and other essential vitamins.
Research shows an impressive amount of vitamins A, B, C, and K and a wide range of antioxidants, including glucosinolate, a sulfur-containing molecule with potent anti-cancer properties.
They are also rich in other nutrients including fiber, and minerals such as folate, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one cup (144 grams) of cooked turnip greens provides about:
- Calories: 8
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Vitamin K: 529 micrograms, or 662 percent of the daily requirement
- Vitamin A: 10,982 IU, or 220 percent of the daily requirements
- Folate: 170 micrograms, or 42 percent of the daily requirement
- Vitamin C: 5 milligrams, or 66 percent of the daily requirement
- Manganese: 5 milligrams, or 24 percent of the daily requirement
- Calcium: 197 milligrams, or 20 percent of the daily requirement
- Copper: 4 milligrams, or 18 percent of the daily requirement
- Vitamin E: 7 milligrams, or 14 percent of the daily requirement
- Vitamin B6: 3 milligrams, or 13 percent of the daily requirement
- Magnesium: 7 milligrams, or 8 percent of the daily requirement
- Potassium: 292 milligrams, or 8 percent of the daily requirement
- Riboflavin (B2): 1 milligrams, or 6 percent of the daily requirement
- Iron: 2 milligrams, or 6 percent of the daily requirement
Turnip greens benefits:
Turnip greens are among the richest sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Regular consumption may offer various health benefits like:
1. Lower risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and nutrition is essential in increasing or decreasing its risk.
According to a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cruciferous vegetables are associated with reduced mortality from heart disease in both men and women.
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in folate, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that fight disease and promote heart health in various ways.
For example, turnip greens are great at lowering LDL cholesterol oxidation, which increases your risk of developing cardiovascular conditions.
The high folate content in turnip also prevents the harmful build-up of homocysteine within the arteries. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid usually broken down by folate, vitamin B12, and B6 to create other chemicals that the body needs.
Too much homocysteine is often a sign of vitamin deficiency, and it may increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
Cruciferous vegetables are also effective in fighting inflammation, preventing oxidative stress, and lowering blood pressure, all of which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
2. Promote strong and healthy bones
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient for bone health, and turnip green provides lots of it.
With a single cup of cooked turnip greens offering 600 percent of your daily requirements, eating them often may help maintain bone health and prevent fragile bones, especially as one gets older. It may also increase bone density and lower the risk of hip fractures common with vitamin K deficiency.
In one study, low levels of vitamin K were associated with low bone mineral density compared to high vitamin K intakes.
3. It may help fight cancer
Leafy greens, including cruciferous vegetables, contain antioxidants that have been shown to prevent certain cancers, including breast, bladder, lung, colon, prostate, and ovarian.
These antioxidants prevent oxidative cell damage, including DNA damage that may cause cell mutation leading to cancer formation.
Turnip greens are exceptionally high in glucosinolates, a sulfur compound with powerful anti-cancer properties. Glucosinolates are especially effective in digestive tract cancers such as stomach, colon, rectal cancers, and bladder cancers.
This antioxidant also stimulates healthy cell production while promoting tumor cell death.
Additionally, studies also show that high vitamin C and A in cruciferous vegetables may further protect the body against cancer.
4. Improving eye health
Turnip greens are rich in carotenoid antioxidants like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin that protect the eyes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in leafy greens and other colored fruits and vegetables.
They are also found in high concentrations in the macula and retina of the human eye. These antioxidants play an essential role in absorbing the damaging U.V. light and blue light from entering the eye. This helps preserve healthy cells and prevent oxidative damage that may lead to eye conditions such as macular degeneration.
5. May protect against cognitive decline
Turnip greens are high in sulforaphane, which has been shown to protect against cognitive decline.
Sulforaphane has a cytoprotective effect against oxidative stress, thus preventing brain damage and maintaining cognitive functions.
In one study, a sulforaphane extract provided neuroprotective effects compared to a placebo.
6. Prevents anemia
Turnip greens are a healthy vegetable that can help fight anemia. They are high in iron, a nutrient that can help to reduce the risk of developing anemia. In addition, turnip greens are also high in vitamin C, which enhances iron absorption in the body.
7. Improves digestion
Turnip greens are a valuable addition to any diet for their high levels of nutrients and antioxidants. They are a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. All of these nutrients help support digestion and overall health.
One study found that turnip greens were effective at relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. These benefits were likely due to the high levels of fiber and antioxidants in turnip greens. Fiber helps regulate gut motility and keep things moving along smoothly. Antioxidants fight off harmful free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to chronic inflammation.
If you are looking for a way to improve your digestion, turnip greens are a great option to consider.
Can you eat turnip greens?
Like other cruciferous vegetables, turnip greens are safe and healthy to consume. The only thing that could have been of concern is oxalate levels; however, these greens have minimal amounts that should not bother you.
Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds found in various whole plant foods. When taken in high amounts, oxalates may crystallize, causing kidney stones or worsening gout symptoms in sensitive individuals. So in case of these conditions, it’s better to discuss with your doctor specific restrictions.
How to eat turnip greens
These tasty, tender greens are packed with nutrients and flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes—from the obvious stew to salads and stir-fries. Here are 10 tasty ways to eat turnip greens that will make you forget you’re eating vegetables!
Deep them in hot sauce
Hot sauce is a staple in most southern kitchens, and for good reason. It’s low-calorie and tastes great on just about everything. While it’s commonly known as an accompaniment to fried chicken or barbeque, turnip greens are also a delicious way to enjoy your sauce. Hot sauce is particularly good on turnip greens because it cuts through their bitter flavor and rounds out their spicy taste. A little vinegar can also make them go down smoother!
Mix with pasta
A simple way to incorporate turnip greens into your diet is to mix them with your favorite pasta dish. Replace half of your usual pasta with shredded turnips, lightly steamed until tender. The texture will surprise you—they’re not slimy like many greens. And their bitterness won’t seep through; they take on a mild onion-like flavor when cooked with garlic and olive oil.
You can include your homemade tomato sauce, or if you’d rather use jarred sauce or canned tomatoes, just add in an extra clove of garlic and some fresh basil leaves for a quick homemade taste. This is also delicious topped with cheese after it comes out of the oven!
Add to stews
Stew is a flavorful, hearty dish that can be made with a variety of ingredients. Turnip greens can be used to add an earthy flavor and fiber to the stew. Turnip greens can be tough and have a bitter taste, but they will become tender and juicy when cooked in a stew. Just think of any of your favorite stew recipes and include turnip greens as an ingredient.
Stir-fry with other vegetables
A common way to serve turnip greens is to sauté them with onions and other vegetables. Chopping up your greens with other vegetables for a stir fry makes them more palatable. Turnip greens have a pungent, bitter flavor that can be hard to love on their own. Cooked with more delicate-tasting vegetables like bell peppers and bok choy makes them taste great! And it’s a healthy way to get your greens—and eat less meat in one sitting. They are better served with baked potatoes or rice, so you can make an entire meal out of them.
Grate raw into salads
Like kale, turnip greens are hearty and have a slightly bitter flavor that’s perfect for adding some roughage to your salad. Just remove any tough stems and mix them in with other greens like spinach or arugula.
Steep in broth or water as soup
Simmering turnip greens in broth or water is a tasty way to cook them that preserves their distinctive taste. The greens can be cooked in plain water, or you can use other types of liquids. Broth-based cooking gives your turnips a richer flavor, while water will be more similar to boiled greens. Cook them for three to five minutes before eating. Add minced onion, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving hot. The liquid can also be used as a base for soups, stews, and other dishes.
Chop and throw on top of other dishes
Cook up a pot of turnip greens with your next batch of greens, whether they’re collards or mustard. Sauté them with some onion and bell pepper and sprinkle a little vinegar on top. Toss in overtop some black-eyed peas or on top of a serving of cornbread. Or make a turnip green casserole by mixing cooked turnips with other vegetables like tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and okra. Top it off with breadcrumbs and bake until browned.
Slice thin and fry, then top pizza
If you’re tired of using regular arugula or spinach as a pizza topping, give turnip greens a try. In the same way you would prep kale, clean turnip greens by washing thoroughly to remove any grit or dirt. When cooking them in a pan on medium heat, add oil to keep them from sticking to your skillet, and use tongs to stir often while they cook. Cook until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Top them on your pizza, then cover with some cheese and bake for another 5 minutes until melted. Finish with pepper and some sauce if desired.
Stuff on sandwiches
Turnip greens have a slight bitterness that takes some getting used to, but once you’ve made your peace with them, there are plenty of ways to enjoy them. Sturdy greens like turnips are perfect for filling any hole in a sandwich or wrap: think of them as a leafy replacement for lettuce.
Turnip greens are cruciferous vegetables rich in antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, and minerals essential for good health.
Eating them can reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative stress that may increase your risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, eye problems, and certain cancers. It may also promote bone health by improving bone mineral density, thus lowering the risk of weak bones and its associated effects.
You can use turnip greens for soups, stews, or any other recipe similar to kale or collard greens.
More green vegetables:
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