Turnips and potatoes have a lot in common – both are widely available, relatively inexpensive and packed with essential nutrients. You can bake, roast, boil, mash, saute, grill or otherwise prepare a turnip as you would a potato. While both of these root vegetables get most of their calories from complex carbohydrates, or starches, only potatoes are considered “starchy.” This is because much of a turnip’s weight – and volume – comes from water.
A 1-cup serving of cubed cooked turnip has just about 35 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since turnips are virtually fat-free and have very little protein, it’s not surprising that more than 90 percent of their calories come from carbohydrates. Starches account for roughly 40 percent of the 8 grams of carbohydrates in a 1-cup serving; the rest is in the form of simple carbohydrates, or sugar. The same serving also supplies about 3 grams of fiber, or 12 percent of the recommended daily value.
Turnips are almost 94 percent water by weight, an attribute that helps keep their carbohydrate levels – and calorie count – fairly low compared to starchier vegetables. Just over 80 percent of the calories in a baked potato – or nearly 110 of the 130 calories supplied by an average-sized vegetable – can be attributed to complex carbohydrates, according to the USDA. Ounce for ounce, potatoes deliver almost 10 times more starch than turnips. Other starchy vegetables include corn, parsnips, green lima beans, green peas, plantains, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, butternut squash and canned pumpkin.
Turnips are a satiating, low-calorie food, largely because of their water and fiber content. Although they do contain moderate amounts of iron, magnesium and B vitamins, turnips are highest in vitamin C and potassium. A 1-cup serving of cubed cooked turnip provides 30 percent and 8 percent of the daily values for vitamin C and potassium, respectively. The vegetable’s edible greens are actually far more nutritious than its root. For about 30 calories, a 1-cup serving of chopped boiled turnip greens delivers 220 percent, 61 percent and 43 percent of the daily values for vitamin A, vitamin C and folate, respectively, as well as 20 percent each of the daily values for calcium and dietary fiber.
Chop a raw turnip and toss the pieces into a pot of bean stew as it cooks. Not only will the turnip add some texture and a bit of earthy sweetness, but its high vitamin C content will also help you absorb more iron from the beans. Mash boiled or baked turnips together with boiled or baked potatoes for a creamy side dish that’s lower in calories and carbohydrates than traditional mashed potatoes. If you can pull fresh baby turnips out of your own garden or find them at your local farmer’s market, try sauteing them whole in a bit of olive oil – greens and all – to accompany grilled fish or poultry.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Turnips, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Potatoes, White, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Turnip Greens, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- American Diabetes Association: Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff, M.S., R.D.
- Wellness Foods A to Z: An Indispensible Guide for Health-Conscious Food Lovers; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.