The Nutritional Value and Benefits of Rutabaga

Do you know what rutabaga is? Today, we'll tell you how to eat it as well as the health benefits of rutabaga.
The Nutritional Value and Benefits of Rutabaga
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Would you like to learn about the benefits of rutabaga?

Is it cabbage or is it a turnip? Although they seem very different, there’s a vegetable that has the characteristics of both. Today, we’ll tell you about the nutritional value and benefits of rutabaga, a cross between a cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and turnip (Brassica rapa).

It’s considered a cruciferous tuber. Percival has described it as a cabbage that has a turnip-like stem. It also goes by the name of swede, swedish turnip, and neep.

Experts suspect that this vegetable originated in the Czech Republic during the 17th century as a cross between wild cabbage and turnip. Today, you can find it in North America, Canada, and Northern Europe, forming part of their gastronomy. There are two main types: The purple-skinned, which is similar to the radish, and the Laurentian, a Canadian variety with creamy pulp.

Both the leaves and the bulb of the rutabaga are edible. They have a flavor and texture similar to broccoli and cabbage, but when cooked, they acquire a sweetness similar to sweet potato.

The nutritional values of rutabaga

Rutabaga has some nutrients that are surprising in quantities, which we’ll see below, according to data provided in the table of food composition, in grams per 100 grams of raw vegetable.

For vitamins and minerals, the percentages that cover the recommended daily value (DV) are shown:

  • Calories: 27
  • Carbohydrates: 6.2 grams
  • Fiber: 3.6 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 0.15 milligrams – 12% of the DV
  • Protein: 1.7 grams
  • Vitamin C: 62 milligrams – 103 % of the DV
  • Potassium: 350 milligrams – 7 % of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 46 milligrams – 4 % of the DV
  • Vitamin B9: 16 milligrams – 4 % of the DV

Rutabaga provides vitamin C above the recommended daily value. According to Castillo-Velarde, vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant against free radicals.

Also, a group of doctors recommends it as a wound-healing agent. They highlight it for the good absorption of iron and its immunomodulatory capacity. However, heat can destroy it. That’s why some experts suggest microwaving or steaming.

Rutabaga manages to cover 12% of the recommended intake of vitamin B6. Brown and other authors state that pyridoxine is necessary for protein metabolism, red blood cell production, and immune health.

This interesting vegetable is also a good source of potassium, a mineral that, according to Dr. Tejada-Cifuentes, maintains heart health and, as an electrolyte, fluid balance.

At the same time, one cup of rutabaga or 135 grams provides 17% of the daily requirement of dietary fiber. Recognized by nutritionists for its benefits in diabetes prevention, body weight, and gastrointestinal health, among others.

A hand opening a microwave.
Microwave cooking of foods with vitamin C is suggested so as not to destroy the nutrient and to be able to take advantage of it almost completely.

The potential health benefits of rutabaga

Experts recognize rutabaga as having multiple health benefits, due to the presence of certain nutrients and bioactive components. Let’s take a look at some of them and their scientific support.

A source of antioxidants

A publication in the journal Preventive Nutrition and Food Science highlights rutabaga for its variety of antioxidants. This is because, in addition to vitamin C, it contains free radical blocking phytochemicals. Anthocyanins, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates are some of them.

The purple skin of rutabaga is very rich in anthocyanins, a pigment that gives a red, purple, or blue color to some vegetables and fruits. Cassidy and other researchers claim that these pigments have a positive effect on the prevention of heart disease, while Devore and others link them to reduced mental decline.

Rutabaga, especially purple rutabaga, contains isothiocyanates and glucosinolates. According to certain observational studies, they may contribute to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. However, more specific studies are necessary to confirm the findings.

It may prevent heart disease

Some researchers claim that the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables widen blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Therefore, these researchers associate them with a lower risk of heart disease. At the same time, isothiocyanates prevent the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Anthocyanins can also lower blood pressure and the risk of heart failure, according to documentation by a group of experts and the journal Circulation.

It isn’t only the presence of phytochemicals that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The high fiber content protects against heart disease. This is supported by a review of 15 studies on the 24% decrease in the probability of suffering from this disease.

It helps maintain a healthy intestine

Rutabega is a cruciferous vegetable with high fiber values. A cup a day covers 17% of the recommended needs.

Nutrients magazine states that some types of soluble fiber can act as prebiotics. That’s to say, to be food for beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. A review on this subject argues that fiber maintains intestinal health and protects against obesity and heart disease.

The journal Nutrición Hospitalaria also refers to prebiotic fiber for its positive effects on bacteria having to do with a healthier immune system.

At the same time, the Spanish Digestive System Foundation recommends insoluble fiber to help increase stool volume and improve constipation.

It may boost the immune system

Rutabaga can make an important contribution to the diet of vitamin B6. In fact, one cup a day covers 15% of the recommended values.

Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of T cells and white blood cells. These are immune cells that deal with foreign substances and are important for a healthy defense system.

Several researchers agree that supplementation with vitamin B6 and other micronutrients improves all three levels of immunity.

At the same time, the journal Nutrients also highlights the role of ascorbic acid in boosting white blood cell function and strengthening the immune system. The vitamin C in rutabaga covers the total requirement for an adult.

Precautions regarding the consumption of rutabaga

Despite the benefits of rutabaga, some dermatological studies have revealed a food hypersensitivity to this vegetable. Itching, atopic dermatitis, skin rash, rhinitis, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and an allergic contact reaction may occur.

At the same time, a scientific review points out the importance of practicing caution regarding the consumption of rutabaga and the anticoagulant warfarin at the same time, as they may interact unfavorably.

A pile of rutabage.
Rutabaga has a high proportion of beneficial nutrients. Its preparations are varied in gastronomy.

Read also: Cream of Kale and Spinach; A Shot of Vitamins

How to prepare rutabaga

To enjoy the benefits of rutabaga, as you can prepare rutabaga raw or cooked. When raw, its flavor is reminiscent of broccoli, but a little milder and with a spicy touch.

You can add it to salads, grate it, or cut it into thin slices or julienne. What’s more, you can serve it as a side dish, replacing potatoes, or as part of a portion of mixed vegetables.

If you prefer, it goes great as a crunchy appetizer with hummus. Since skin is somewhat difficult to chew, you can remove it with a sharp knife without any problem.

As for the leaves, you can prepare them raw in salads or steam them like chard or spinach. You can also sautee them and add them to a soup.

The tuber becomes sweeter when you cook it. If you prefer to bake it in the oven, we recommend you to let it brown until it’s tender or combine it with cauliflower or broccoli and add onions to contrast the flavor of the cruciferous vegetables.

As a cream soup, it’s exquisite. You can mix it with chicken broth, cooked potato, fine herbs, and vegetables. Remember that the lower the heat during preparation, the better you’ll take advantage of the vitamin C in rutabaga. So, you can steam it or sauté it with garlic, olive oil, and a little chopped parsley.

Conclusions regarding the uses and benefits of rutabaga

In conclusion, rutabaga is a vegetable loaded with nutrients and active compounds that are beneficial to health. It’s very rich in vitamin C, B6, fiber, and flavonoids. You can eat it raw or cooked, alone, or with other vegetables, but make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of its components.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Sekirov I, Russell SL, Antunes LC, Finlay BB. Gut microbiota in health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2010;90(3):859-904.
  • Lane DJ, Richardson DR. The active role of vitamin C in mammalian iron metabolism: much more than just enhanced iron absorption! Free Radic Biol Med. 2014 ;75:69-83.
  • Castillo-Velarde Edwin Rolando. Vitamina C en la salud y en la enfermedad. Rev. Fac. Med. Hum.  [Internet]. 2019;  19( 4 ): 95-100. Disponible en:
  • Scott O, Galicia-Connolly E, Adams D, Surette S, Vohra S, Yager JY. The safety of cruciferous plants in humans: a systematic review. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012; 503241.
  • Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017, 3;9(11):1211.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.