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Turnip greens
  • Due to their rich carotenoid content, turnip greens rank as our 8th best source of vitamin A at WHFoods. This "Top 10" status for turnip greens has been confirmed in a recent study on the beta-carotene and lutein content in the leaves of this cruciferous vegetable. Two varieties of turnips (and turnip greens)—Topper and Alamo—were analyzed in the study. Not only were both varieties found to be rich in beta-carotene and lutein (two well-studied and health-supportive carotenoids), but both varieties were also found to have significant concentrations of these carotenoids in both their upper and lower leaves. This finding is good news for anyone who enjoys turnip greens in their meal plan because all of the leaves of the plant— provided that they are unblemished and richly green in color—can serve as excellent sources of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which is the easiest carotenoid for our body to convert into the retinol form of vitamin A. (Our Vitamin A nutrient profile will provide you with more detailed information and carotenoids and vitamin A.)
  • Glucosinolates are unique sulfur-containing nutrients that are well known for their link to cancer prevention as well as their ability to support detox processes within our cells. While turnip greens, like most cruciferous vegetables, are rich in glucosinolates, recent studies on turnip greens suggest that they may be unique among their fellow cruciferous vegetables in terms of their specific glucosinolate composition. These studies show that the most plentiful glucosinolate in turnip greens is 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 or other members of this vegetable group. Although more research is needed to flesh out the health significance of the unique glucosinolate mixture in turnip greens, this new information is one more reason to consider adding turnip greens to your meal plan as a unique food in its potential for nutrient support.
  • All nine of our WHFoods cruciferous vegetables can make outstanding nutrient additions to your meal plan. That being said, only one member of this cruciferous vegetable group achieves 10 separate ratings of "excellent" in our nutritional rating system—and that group member is turnip greens! Our two next closest cruciferous vegetables in terms of having "excellent" nutrient scores are bok choy and mustard greens (each achieving eight ratings of "excellent"). Collard greens show up next on the list, with six ratings of "excellent." Exactly which 10 nutrients get provided in an "excellent" amount by turnip greens? They are vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, folate, copper, manganese, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, and vitamin B6.
  • It's important to not overcook your turnip greens. A recent research study has shown that a difference of even 1 or 2 minutes in cooking time can decrease the total chlorophyll content, total phenol content, and overall antioxidant capacity of the turnip greens. In this study, the turnip greens were blanched by placing them directly in water that was previously heated to 194°F (90°C). At WHFoods, we go one step further, avoiding direct contact with water altogether: our Quick Steaming method for turnip greens is described in detail in our Tips for Preparing Turnip Greens section in this profile.

WHFoods Recommendations

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).

Turnip Greens, cooked
1.00 cup
(144.00 grams)
Calories: 29
GI: very low

NutrientDRI/DV

 vitamin K588%



 folate42%

 copper40%


 fiber20%

 calcium20%







 iron6%







This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Turnip greens provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Turnip greens can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Turnip greens, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

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.

Broad-Based Nutritional Support of Turnip Greens

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.

Glucosinolate Benefits of Turnip Greens

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.

Antioxidant Benefits of Turnip Greens

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.

Description

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.

History

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.

How to Select and Store

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.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Turnip Greens

Rinse turnip greens under cold running water. Chop greens into 1/8-inch slices for quick and even cooking.

The Nutrient-Rich Way of Cooking Turnip Greens

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.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Serve healthy sautéed turnip greens seasoned with some soy sauce, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.
  • Make a simple meal with a little Southern inspiration. Serve cooked turnip greens with beans and rice.
  • Healthy sauté turnip greens, sweet potatoes and tofu, and serve alongside your favorite grain.
  • Use turnip greens in addition to spinach when making vegetarian lasagna.

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.

Individual Concerns

Turnip Greens and Goitrogens

You may sometimes hear turnip greens being described as a food that contains "goitrogens," or as a food that is "goitrogenic." For helpful information in this area—including our WHFoods Recommendations—please see our article What are goitrogens and in which foods are they found?

Nutritional Profile

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.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Turnip Greens, cooked
1.00 cup
144.00 grams
Calories: 29
GI: very low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K529.34 mcg588367.6excellent
vitamin A549.00 mcg RAE6138.1excellent
vitamin C39.46 mg5332.9excellent
folate169.92 mcg4226.5excellent
copper0.36 mg4025.0excellent
manganese0.49 mg2515.3excellent
fiber5.04 g2012.6excellent
calcium197.28 mg2012.3excellent
vitamin E2.71 mg (ATE)1811.3excellent
vitamin B60.26 mg159.6excellent
potassium292.32 mg85.2very good
magnesium31.68 mg84.9very good
pantothenic acid0.39 mg84.9very good
vitamin B20.10 mg84.8very good
iron1.15 mg64.0very good
phosphorus41.76 mg63.7very good
vitamin B10.06 mg53.1good
omega-3 fats0.09 g42.3good
vitamin B30.59 mg42.3good
protein1.64 g32.0good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Turnip greens. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Turnip Greens, cooked
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
1.00 cup
(144.00 g)
GI: very low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Protein1.64 g3
Carbohydrates6.28 g3
Fat - total0.33 g--
Dietary Fiber5.04 g20
Calories28.802
MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Carbohydrate:
Starch-- g
Total Sugars0.76 g
Monosaccharides-- g
Fructose-- g
Glucose-- g
Galactose-- g
Disaccharides-- g
Lactose-- g
Maltose-- g
Sucrose-- g
Soluble Fiber1.66 g
Insoluble Fiber3.38 g
Other Carbohydrates0.48 g
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat0.02 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.13 g
Saturated Fat0.08 g
Trans Fat0.00 g
Calories from Fat2.98
Calories from Saturated Fat0.69
Calories from Trans Fat0.00
Cholesterol0.00 mg
Water134.21 g
MICRONUTRIENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B10.06 mg5
Vitamin B20.10 mg8
Vitamin B30.59 mg4
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)1.06 mg
Vitamin B60.26 mg15
Vitamin B120.00 mcg0
Biotin0.58 mcg2
Choline0.43 mg0
Folate169.92 mcg42
Folate (DFE)169.92 mcg
Folate (food)169.92 mcg
Pantothenic Acid0.39 mg8
Vitamin C39.46 mg53
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
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)
Alpha-Carotene0.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene6588.00 mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents6588.00 mcg
Cryptoxanthin0.00 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin12153.60 mcg
Lycopene0.00 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU)0.00 IU0
Vitamin D mcg0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)2.71 mg (ATE)18
Vitamin E International Units (IU)4.03 IU
Vitamin E mg2.71 mg
Vitamin K529.34 mcg588
Minerals
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Boron-- mcg
Calcium197.28 mg20
Chloride21.60 mg
Chromium-- mcg--
Copper0.36 mg40
Fluoride-- mg--
Iodine-- mcg--
Iron1.15 mg6
Magnesium31.68 mg8
Manganese0.49 mg25
Molybdenum-- mcg--
Phosphorus41.76 mg6
Potassium292.32 mg8
Selenium1.30 mcg2
Sodium41.76 mg3
Zinc0.20 mg2
INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids0.09 g4
Omega-6 Fatty Acids0.04 g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic0.00 g
15:1 Pentadecenoic0.00 g
16:1 Palmitol0.02 g
17:1 Heptadecenoic0.00 g
18:1 Oleic0.01 g
20:1 Eicosenoic0.00 g
22:1 Erucic0.00 g
24:1 Nervonic0.00 g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic0.04 g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)-- g
18:3 Linolenic0.09 g
18:4 Stearidonic0.00 g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic0.00 g
20:4 Arachidonic0.00 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 Butyric0.00 g
6:0 Caproic0.00 g
8:0 Caprylic0.00 g
10:0 Capric0.00 g
12:0 Lauric0.00 g
14:0 Myristic0.00 g
15:0 Pentadecanoic0.00 g
16:0 Palmitic0.06 g
17:0 Margaric0.00 g
18:0 Stearic0.01 g
20:0 Arachidic0.00 g
22:0 Behenate0.00 g
24:0 Lignoceric0.00 g
INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Alanine0.11 g
Arginine0.10 g
Aspartic Acid0.17 g
Cysteine0.02 g
Glutamic Acid0.22 g
Glycine0.10 g
Histidine0.04 g
Isoleucine0.08 g
Leucine0.15 g
Lysine0.10 g
Methionine0.04 g
Phenylalanine0.10 g
Proline0.08 g
Serine0.07 g
Threonine0.09 g
Tryptophan0.03 g
Tyrosine0.06 g
Valine0.11 g
OTHER COMPONENTS
nutrientamountDRI/DV
(%)
Ash1.54 g
Organic Acids (Total)-- g
Acetic Acid-- g
Citric Acid-- g
Lactic Acid-- g
Malic Acid-- g
Taurine-- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total)-- g
Glycerol-- g
Inositol-- g
Mannitol-- g
Sorbitol-- g
Xylitol-- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total)-- mg
Aspartame-- mg
Saccharin-- mg
Alcohol0.00 g
Caffeine0.00 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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