The Nutritional Value of Turnip Greens

Did you know that you can eat turnip greens? In this article, we'll tell you some ways to cook them so you can take advantage of their fantastic nutritional properties! 
The Nutritional Value of Turnip Greens
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

When you eat turnips, you probably don’t pay attention to the actual turnip greens. This is why you must know that these are also edible and possess exceptional nutritional properties, according to research.

Turnips belong to the Brassicaceae family so they’re cousins of popular cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. Unlike their relatives, turnip greens are little known in the kitchen even though they’re a vehicle to access a wide range of nutrients and active phytochemicals. As you can imagine, they belong in any wholesome diet.

Continue reading this article to discover the nutritional properties and culinary applications of turnip greens. Soon you won’t be able to live without them!

The nutritional properties of turnip greens

From a nutritional point of view, turnip greens stand out for their high vitamin and mineral content. According to the ANDI index, which measures the nutrient density of foods, these leafy vegetables score quite high — with a value of 1000.

As per some research by Catamayo and Valderrama, the total mineral content in turnip greens is almost 14%, above proteins and fats. Let’s see which are the main micronutrients.

Vitamin A and carotenoids

A cup of cooked turnip greens can provide 540 micrograms or 69% of the recommended value for adults. These values correspond to the beta-carotenes that predominate in these leaves and that convert into vitamin A after we eat them.

Ámbito Farmacéutico magazine points out that vitamin A prevents blindness and strengthens vision, moisturizes the skin, promotes growth, strengthens the immune system, and participates in protein synthesis and cell differentiation.

A doctor and the letter A.
The vitamin A present in turnip greens promotes eye and dermatological health, through its beta-carotene precursors.

Read about Vitamin A: What does it do and how does it work?

Vitamin K

Like other leafy greens, turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin K. In fact, they provide about 529 micrograms per cup, which is five times the recommended value.

This vitamin promotes blood coagulation, helps maintain bone health, and keeps blood vessels in good condition. Thus, it reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and hemorrhages.

Folic acid

A cup of cooked turnip greens can cover 42% of the folic acid requirement, about 180 micrograms. As you can see, it’s an essential nutrient for DNA synthesis and the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy. It also helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep.

Calcium, potassium, and other minerals

The calcium provided by one cup of cooked turnip can cover 18% of the recommended daily value for an adult. Furthermore, this mineral has a considerable influence on bone mineralization.

Also, its potassium values are high and can cover 62% of the recommended value. In addition, the iron intake is 1.15 milligrams per serving so it covers 14% of the daily requirement.

The nutritional properties of turnip greens

A review of turnip greens recently associated their consumption with wellness. This is because the presence of active phytochemicals controls a variety of functions in the body. Moreover, the main compounds include glucosinolates and myrosinase, flavonoids, and lutein.

Antioxidant effect

Cooked turnip greens contain a significant amount of flavonoids, such as quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin. In fact, these stand out as potent free radical scavengers. This is because they help decrease inflammation, prevent oxidative stress and protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

In addition, sulfur compounds such as glucosinolates and myrosinase enzymes, are linked to possible cancer prevention. According to a review on the subject, its other compounds (isothiocyanates and sulforaphane) increase the production of detoxification enzymes.

They protect eye health

Turnip greens, in addition to vitamin beta-carotene, also contain other carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These pigments can prevent eye diseases. In fact, as Nutrition Journal explains, they block light damage once the eye absorbs them.

Prevent cognitive impairment

Sulforaphane is a group of antioxidants found in turnip greens that promote brain health and cognitive function. Actually, their protective effects against oxidative stress could improve Alzheimer’s and dementia.
A study in the journal Brain Research on experimental animals exposed to high levels of oxidative stress confirmed that those who received sulforaphane extracted from cruciferous vegetables experienced neuroprotective effects. All when compared to the control group of animals who didn’t receive it.

They may prevent diabetes and its complications

The journal Nutrición Hospitalaria reiterates that one can prevent diabetes complications by adding antioxidants to the diet. You may not be aware of it but high levels of free radicals can damage cellular enzymes. Thus, it results in insulin resistance as these radicals form by the oxidation of glucose in diabetic patients.

In this respect, a scientific review assures that the intake of antioxidants helps control cataracts, high cholesterol, weight gain, and high blood pressure, among other complications from diabetes. As we mentioned above, turnip greens contain high values of antioxidant flavonoids.

Cooking turnip greens

You must select firm, deep green turnip greens to obtain good results in the kitchen. Keep in mind that the smaller ones are more tender and have a milder flavor.

In addition, they’ll stay fresher in the fridge. So, how do you eat them?

  • Add them to soups and stews
  • Boiled or sautéed
  • Raw in salads, sandwiches, tacos, or wraps

Blanching them will take care of any bitter taste. To do this, add them to boiling water and then immediately strain them and add cold water. This cooking technique helps preserve the bright green and attractive color. They’re particularly tasty when you eat them with peas and brown rice.

Also, you can add a handful of leaves to an omelet or blend them in a fresh green smoothie with yogurt or sauté them with extra virgin olive oil and a little pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

A bowl of turnip greens.
Turnip greens aren’t that popular but you can add them to many meals.

Turnip greens contraindications

People with a tendency for kidney stones should avoid turnip greens, as well as other leafy greens. This is because these vegetables contain high values of oxalates that are the base of kidney or gallbladder crystals.

Also, don’t eat turnip greens if you’re taking anticoagulants, such as warfarin as vitamin K promotes coagulation and counteracts the action of the drug.

Turnip greens contain nitrates, which can transform into nitrites with some bacteria when prepared as juices and stored incorrectly. These can be harmful to your health, according to some studies.

In addition, nitrates interact with certain heart medications. Thus, consult a doctor before including them in your regular diet.

Turnip greens have all kinds of nutrients and health properties. However, keep in mind that a well-balanced diet is all about variety!

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