You'll want to include turnip greens as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, we recommend 3/4 cup of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis. This amount is equivalent to approximately 5 cups per week. A more optimal intake amount would be 1-1/2 cups per day, or about 10 cups per week. You can use our Veggie Advisor for help in figuring out your best cruciferous vegetable options.
We recommend Quick Steaming turnip greens for maximum nutrition and flavor. Cut greens into 1/2-inch slices and let sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance it health-promoting benefits and steam for 5 minutes. Toss with our Mediterranean Dressing (see the Nutrient-Rich Way to Cook Turnip Greens in the How to Enjoy section below).
Unlike some of their fellow cruciferous vegetables, turnip greens have not been the direct focus of most health-oriented research studies. However, turnip greens have sometimes been included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that have been lumped together and studied to determine potential types of health benefits.
As mentioned earlier in this profile, turnip greens achieve more ratings of "excellent" in our food rating system than any of their fellow cruciferous vegetables. Included in their 10 "excellent" ratings are fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; turnip greens also contain a wide variety of phytonutrients including carotenoids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates. If you combine the "excellent" nutritional ratings achieved by turnip greens with their "very good" and "good" ratings, you end up with 20 total ratings, including high scores for fiber, protein, and omega-3 fats. In short, turnip greens will provide you with measurable nutrient benefits in every major category of nutritional science.
Like all of its fellow cruciferous vegetables studied thus far, turnips (including both their leaves and their roots) are sources of unique sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. In our article Feeling Great with Cruciferous Vegetables you can get fuller details about glucosinolates and their link not only to cancer prevention but also to support of detoxification processes in our cells. Recent studies on turnip greens, however, suggest that this particular cruciferous vegetable may have a somewhat unusual glucosinolate profile in comparison with other "crucifers" like broccoli or cauliflower or collard greens. According to these recent studies, the most plentiful glucosinolate in turnip greens turns out to be gluconapin, followed by a second glucosinolate called glucobrassicanapin. These particular glucosinolates give scientists reasons to think about turnip greens (and turnips) as being more closely linked to Brassica family plants like rapeseed (which is the source of canola oil) than to broccoli and other members of this vegetable group. It's not yet clear how this unique glucosinolate profile in turnip greens (and turnip roots) translates into specific health benefits, but we suspect that turnip greens will eventually be shown to provide unique health support owing to this factor, giving us yet another reason to include this specific cruciferous vegetable in our meal plan.
Since turnip greens rank in our Top 5 Foods for vitamin E, our Top 10 Foods for beta-carotene, our Top 15 Foods for manganese, and our Top 20 Foods for vitamin C, we end up with a pretty impressive contribution of antioxidant nutrients from this vegetable since each nutrient above has been extensively studied and is known to be critical for helping us lower our risk of unwanted oxidative stress and the chronic diseases (for example, atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis) that have been linked to excessive oxidative stress.
In the case of vitamin E and turnip greens, it is interesting to note that beta-tocopherol and beta-tocotrienol appear to be the major forms of vitamin E in the leaves of this cruciferous vegetable. While all forms of vitamin E found in food provide us with nutritional support, it is generally helpful for us to consume foods that provide us with vitamin E in a variety of different forms, including both tocopherols and tocotrienols. Turnip greens clearly rise to the occasion in this regard!
Research on carotenoid antioxidants in turnips greens is especially strong. Beta-carotene and lutein are two carotenoids that have been carefully studied in the leaves of this plant, and we know that they are present in plentiful amounts in both upper and lower leaves. (In some plants, due to the angle of sunlight and the positioning of the leaves, the lower leaves end up with substantially lower concentrations of some carotenoids, including lutein and beta-carotene. But this situation does not appear to be the case with the turnip plant and its greens.) The antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol have also been identified in fresh turnip greens.
All cruciferous vegetables provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:
Turnip greens are, of course, the leaves of the turnip plant. You will also sometimes hear these greens being referred as turnip "tops." The vast majority of turnip plants that are grown commercially are grown primarily for their roots rather than their leaves, but you can enjoy the leaves of any turnip plant alongside of their better-known roots.
Turnips belong to the scientific genus/species of plant officially named Brassica rapa. Within this group are many turnip varieties, which are often classified according to the color of their root. White root turnips include varieties like Snowball, Egg White, and Tokyo Cross. Yellow/orange root turnips include Golden Globe, Orange Jelly, and Petrowski. Red root turnips include Red Round, Scarlet Queen, and Red Root. For the most part, popular purple root varieties of turnips—including Purple Top White Globe, Royal Crown, and Milan— feature a root that has a purple top half and a lower white half.
Turnips have an especially interesting relationship to rutabagas. Somewhere along the evolutionary process, turnips (Brassica rapa) crossed with their fellow cruciferous vegetable cabbage (Brassica oleracea) and the result was rutabagas. You may find several different scientific terms being used to refer to rutabagas, including Brassica napobrassica, Brassica napus var. napobrassica, and Brassica napus subsp. rapifera).
Turnips may also have a special relationship with their fellow cruciferous vegetable rapeseed (Brassica napus subsp. oleifera), perhaps best known as the source of the widely enjoyed cooking oil, canola oil. Several recent studies on the glucosinolate content of turnip roots/greens and rapeseed have found some special similarities between these two plants in terms of their glucosinolates.
Like most of its fellow cruciferous vegetables, turnips and turnip greens have a long and geographically diverse history. For the most part, turnips are regarded as being native to several areas including the Middle East, parts of the Mediterranean, Western Asia, and Eastern Asia. The history of turnip cultivation in Europe apparently came much later, and it may be this part of the turnip's history where it received the name "turnip." This name is likely related to the Latin word napus and also to the Old English word turnepe—in which you can see the word "turn." This word history makes sense to some researchers because of the many varieties of turnip with roots that are both round and slightly elongated, almost as if those roots had been turned and rounded on a lathe.
Turnips grown worldwide and in the U.S. are primarily cultivated for their roots rather than their leaves. States like California that grow a fairly large volume of cruciferous vegetables do not tend to grown large numbers of turnips, and the total acreage of turnip crops in California is typically less than 500. Most of the turnips consumed in the United States are imported from Canada and Mexico. Turnips have a long history of cultivation in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, and parts of Asia, including Japan and China.
Turnip greens are usually available with their roots attached. Look for greens that are unblemished, crisp, and deep green in color.
At WHFoods, we encourage the purchase of certified organically grown foods, and turnip greens are no exception. Repeated research studies on organic foods as a group show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic foods, including turnip greens. In many cases, you may be able to find a local organic grower who sells turnip greens but has not applied for formal organic certification either through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or through a state agency. (Examples of states offering state-certified organic foods include California, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.) However, if you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown turnip greens is very likely to be turnip greens that display the USDA organic logo.
If you have purchased turnip greens with roots attached, remove them from the root. Store root and greens in separate plastic bags, removing as much of the air from the bags as possible. Place in refrigerator where the greens should keep fresh for about 4 days.
Here is some background on why we recommend refrigerating turnip greens. Whenever food is stored, four basic factors affect its nutrient composition: exposure to air, exposure to light, exposure to heat, and length of time in storage. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids are good examples of nutrients highly susceptible to heat, and for this reason, their loss from food is very likely to be slowed down through refrigeration.
Rinse turnip greens under cold running water. Chop greens into 1/8-inch slices for quick and even cooking.
We recommend Quick Steaming turnip greens for maximum nutrition and flavor. Quick Steaming—similar to Healthy Sauté and Quick Boiling, our other recommended cooking methods—follows three basic cooking guidelines that are generally associated in food science research with improved nutrient retention. These three guidelines are: (1) minimal necessary heat exposure; (2) minimal necessary cooking duration; (3) minimal necessary food surface contact with cooking liquid.
To Quick Steam turnip greens, fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil, chop greens. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with our Mediterranean Dressing, which includes 1 TBS lemon juice, 1 medium clove garlic (pressed or chopped), 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil salt, and black pepper to taste . Top with your favorite optional ingredients.
If you'd like even more recipes and ways to prepare turnip greens the Nutrient-Rich Way, you may want to explore The World's Healthiest Foods book.
Turnip greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, folate, copper, manganese, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin E and vitamin B6. They are a very good source of potassium, magnesium, pantothenic acid, vitamin B2, iron and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin and protein.
Turnip Greens, cooked
GI: very low
|vitamin K||529.34 mcg||588||367.6||excellent|
|vitamin A||549.00 mcg RAE||61||38.1||excellent|
|vitamin C||39.46 mg||53||32.9||excellent|
|vitamin E||2.71 mg (ATE)||18||11.3||excellent|
|vitamin B6||0.26 mg||15||9.6||excellent|
|pantothenic acid||0.39 mg||8||4.9||very good|
|vitamin B2||0.10 mg||8||4.8||very good|
|magnesium||31.68 mg||8||4.7||very good|
|iron||1.15 mg||6||4.0||very good|
|potassium||292.32 mg||6||3.9||very good|
|phosphorus||41.76 mg||6||3.7||very good|
|vitamin B1||0.06 mg||5||3.1||good|
|omega-3 fats||0.09 g||4||2.3||good|
|vitamin B3||0.59 mg||4||2.3||good|
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%
|Turnip Greens, cooked|
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
|GI: very low|
|BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES|
|Fat - total||0.33 g||0|
|Dietary Fiber||5.04 g||18|
|MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL|
|Total Sugars||0.76 g|
|Soluble Fiber||1.66 g|
|Insoluble Fiber||3.38 g|
|Other Carbohydrates||0.48 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0.02 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.13 g|
|Saturated Fat||0.08 g|
|Trans Fat||0.00 g|
|Calories from Fat||2.98|
|Calories from Saturated Fat||0.69|
|Calories from Trans Fat||0.00|
|Vitamin B1||0.06 mg||5|
|Vitamin B2||0.10 mg||8|
|Vitamin B3||0.59 mg||4|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)||1.06 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.26 mg||15|
|Vitamin B12||0.00 mcg||0|
|Folate (DFE)||169.92 mcg|
|Folate (food)||169.92 mcg|
|Pantothenic Acid||0.39 mg||8|
|Vitamin C||39.46 mg||53|
|Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)|
|Vitamin A International Units (IU)||10980.00 IU|
|Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)||549.00 mcg (RAE)||61|
|Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||1098.00 mcg (RE)|
|Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||0.00 mcg (RE)|
|Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||1098.00 mcg (RE)|
|Beta-Carotene Equivalents||6588.00 mcg|
|Lutein and Zeaxanthin||12153.60 mcg|
|Vitamin D International Units (IU)||0.00 IU||0|
|Vitamin D mcg||0.00 mcg|
|Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)||2.71 mg (ATE)||18|
|Vitamin E International Units (IU)||4.03 IU|
|Vitamin E mg||2.71 mg|
|Vitamin K||529.34 mcg||588|
|INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.09 g||4|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||0.04 g|
|14:1 Myristoleic||0.00 g|
|15:1 Pentadecenoic||0.00 g|
|16:1 Palmitol||0.02 g|
|17:1 Heptadecenoic||0.00 g|
|18:1 Oleic||0.01 g|
|20:1 Eicosenoic||0.00 g|
|22:1 Erucic||0.00 g|
|24:1 Nervonic||0.00 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids|
|18:2 Linoleic||0.04 g|
|18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)||-- g|
|18:3 Linolenic||0.09 g|
|18:4 Stearidonic||0.00 g|
|20:3 Eicosatrienoic||0.00 g|
|20:4 Arachidonic||0.00 g|
|20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)||0.00 g|
|22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)||0.00 g|
|22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)||0.00 g|
|Saturated Fatty Acids|
|4:0 Butyric||0.00 g|
|6:0 Caproic||0.00 g|
|8:0 Caprylic||0.00 g|
|10:0 Capric||0.00 g|
|12:0 Lauric||0.00 g|
|14:0 Myristic||0.00 g|
|15:0 Pentadecanoic||0.00 g|
|16:0 Palmitic||0.06 g|
|17:0 Margaric||0.00 g|
|18:0 Stearic||0.01 g|
|20:0 Arachidic||0.00 g|
|22:0 Behenate||0.00 g|
|24:0 Lignoceric||0.00 g|
|INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS|
|Aspartic Acid||0.17 g|
|Glutamic Acid||0.22 g|
|Organic Acids (Total)||-- g|
|Acetic Acid||-- g|
|Citric Acid||-- g|
|Lactic Acid||-- g|
|Malic Acid||-- g|
|Sugar Alcohols (Total)||-- g|
|Artificial Sweeteners (Total)||-- mg|
Note:The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.
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