Winter is here! It is the time of pretty and half purple-hued turnips. Apart from being beautiful and photogenic, this vegetable is also very versatile much like other winter salad veggies. This vegetable looks attractive with a combination of two colours – creamy white and purple. It has a slightly sweet, bitter and spicy taste, which can be mellowed down by steaming, sautéing or baking.

The quirky vegetable is not just about the looks. It is delicious to be eaten raw and will surely make you eat salad more often. It can also be used in making vegetable recipes. Generally, white-hued vegetables are not given the attention, they should in the health food world, this colour actually provides more than you would think. The inside part of turnip that we consume is white. This white edible flesh helps in boosting heart health and immune system. The leaves of turnip are also edible and eaten as turnip greens. The white bulb is rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and magnesium. Amongst vitamins, it contains vitamin C, folate and niacin. This vegetable is high in fibre, low in calories and is typically inexpensive, making it an easy choice for inclusion in any healthy diet even by the weaker section of the society. Turnip greens are also rich in nutrients like vitamin A, folate, vitamin C and calcium. According to the United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked turnip cubes, weighing about 156 grams contains: 34 calories, 1.11 g of protein, 0.12 g of fat, 7.89 g of carbohydrate (including 4.66 g of sugar), 3.1 g of fiber, 51 mg of calcium, 41 mg of phosphorus, 14 mg of magnesium, 276 mg of vitamin K, 25 mg of sodium, 0.19 mg of zinc, 18.1 mg of vitamin C, 0.28 mg of iron and 14 mcg of folate.

Besides eating raw, due to distinct flavour and firmness, turnips are great for cooking as well. Depending upon the cooking method, this purple creamy vegetable can be diced, grated, chopped or sliced. It adds a unique but nutritious dimension to dishes. It blends in quite well with other ingredients. As they are great for mashing, they can be added in stews and soups. Their green leaves can also be a flavorful and nutritious addition to them. Turnip makes a great combination with carrot and cauliflower recipes. It can be pickled with them by adding salt, red chilli powder, vinegar and jaggery.

Health benefits:

Lowers blood pressure: Turnips are loaded with potassium, which is thought to help decrease blood pressure by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.

Anti-cancer properties: Being cruciferous, this creamy white and purple-hued vegetable contains a compound called as sulforaphane that has anti-cancer properties. And not destroys just one kind of cancer, many: pancreatic, prostate, melanoma and oesophagal. It increases antioxidant defence mechanisms, allowing the body to better detoxify harmful chemicals and hormones. Turnip also contains a type of phytonutrient known as indoles, which are known cancer fighters.  

Good for digestion: Being high in fiber, it promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract and may prevent constipation. As it moves through the digestive tract, fiber adds bulk to stool to aid in the treatment of constipation.

Ideal for diabetic patients: Because of low carbohydrate content and a significant amount of fibre, turnips help the diabetics by reducing the amount of sugar that is absorbed in the bloodstream. Fiber is not easily broken down by the body, so it holds sugar particles during digestion and only releases them slowly in the bloodstream – an action that prevents hike in blood sugar level especially in type-2 diabetes.

Weight loss: Turnip is loaded with fiber and fiber has been documented for its beneficial effect in increasing satiety. It makes you feel full for a longer period of time. This helps reduce the amount of carbs you consume in the long run. By adding adequate amounts of turnip into your diet, you can satisfy your hunger easily while also eliminating your fear of eating too many calories.

Key to promoting better immune health: Turnips are an excellent source of water-soluble vitamin C. Getting enough vitamin C in your diet can help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of infections like the common cold. They can also prevent and improve outcomes for other conditions, such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea infections.

Heart-friendly: Being high in heart-promoting compounds like fiber and antioxidants, turnip is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease. It can lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol, two major risk factors for heart disease.

Improves metabolism: Turnips contain vitamin B complex that ensures proper functioning of body organs and helps lead a healthy life by regulating the hormonal and enzymatic processes of our body. It ensures that our body is able to absorb and utilise all the nutrients it gets from food.

Prevents and cures bone issues: Due to high calcium and potassium content, turnips may keep your bones healthy. They may also help reduce joint damage and even prevent osteoporosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Of course, the best quality and best value turnips are the stuff of winter season.

Know how to pick out the best turnips: when you visit farmers’ market, you have the option of small and large turnips. The younger, smaller turnips will have a sweeter flavour as compared to the stronger, spicier and woodier taste of the larger ones. Although, turnips have a long shelf life, but choose the pieces which are firm and hard to touch and void of any bumps or bruises. The top of the root should be hued bright purple and the rest should be creamy white. If the stem is also attached to it, the greens should be hued a bright and vivid colour.

Turnips have been utilised for their medicinal properties for thousands of years and are considered a staple of many types of alternative medicine including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

This vegetable has proven to be most efficient when consumed raw.

Wonder no more! What are you waiting for? Explore a few turnip recipes you can start experimenting with at home.