The Anti-Carcinogenic, Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant and Detox Effects of Turnip Greens Are Underrated
Greens are highly nutritious foods that offer a variety of health benefits. They rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and can also minimize your risk of developing certain diseases. For total glucosinolate content, turnip greens outscore cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli among the most commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. That fantastic glucosinolate content brings with it some equally fantastic health benefits.
Diets high in antioxidants are proving to have a great contribution in the fight against a number of illnesses. Cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease and arthritis are just a few of the many illnesses that can have their symptoms reduced simply through the consumption of a diet rich in antioxidants, especially greens which boost activity of vital immune cells.
The turnip or white turnip is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock. Turnip leaves are sometimes eaten as "turnip greens" ("turnip tops" in the UK), and they resemble mustard greens in flavor.
Turnip greens are a good source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and calcium.
On an ounce-for-ounce basis, turnip greens contain about 4 times more calcium than a much less bitter-tasting cruciferous vegetables like cabbage. Even in comparison to mustard greens, turnip greens contain about twice the calcium content. The glucosinolates in turnip greens are phytonutrients that can be converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) with cancer-preventing properties. All cruciferous vegetables have long been known to contain glucosinolates, but it has taken recent research to show us exactly how valuable turnip greens are in this regard.
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. Based upon several dozen studies involving cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including turnip greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for turnip greens when summarizing health benefits. However, they have been well known as a cure for deadly viruses such as SARS.
Studies show that carcinogens present in cigarette smoke leads to vitamin A deficiency ultimately resulting to lung inflammation, emphysema and other lung problems.The vitamin A found in turnip greens helps in counteracting this effect and maintaining healthy lungs.
This connection between turnip greens and cancer prevention should not be surprising since turnip greens provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of turnip greens: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.
The detox support provided by turnip greens includes antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. Turnip greens also contain phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. Two key glucosinolates that have been clearly identified in turnip greens in significant amounts are gluconasturtiian and glucotropaeolin.
If we fail to give our body's detox system adequate nutritional support, yet continue to expose ourselves to unwanted toxins through our lifestyle and our dietary choices, we can place our bodies at increased risk of toxin-related damage that can eventually increase our cells' risk of becoming cancerous. That's one of the reasons it's so important to bring turnip greens and other cruciferous vegetables into our diet on a regular basis.
As an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese, turnip greens provide highest level support for four conventional antioxidant nutrients. But the antioxidant support provided by turnip greens extends far beyond these conventional nutrients and into the realm of phytonutrients. Hydroxycinnamic acid, quercetin, myricetin, isorhamnetin, and kaempferol are among the key antioxidant phytonutrients provided by turnip greens. This broad spectrum antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress--meaning chronic presence over overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and cumulative damage to our cells by these molecules--is a risk factor for development of most cancer types. By providing us with a diverse array of antioxidant nutrients, turnip greens help lower our cancer risk by helping us avoid chronic and unwanted oxidative stress.
As an excellent source of vitamin K and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), turnip greens provide us with two hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrients. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response, and ALA is the building block for several of the body's most widely-used families of anti-inflammatory messaging molecules. While glucobrassicin (a glucosinolate found in many cruciferous vegetables, and the precursor for the anti-inflammatory molecule indole-3-carbinol) does not appear to be present in turnip greens in significant amounts, other glucosinolates present in turnip greens may provide important anti-inflammatory benefits and are the subject of current research.
Like chronic oxidative stress and chronic weakened detox ability, chronic unwanted inflammation can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases (especially cardiovascular diseases).
Caution For Those With Kidney or Gallbladder Problems
Turnip greens are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating turnip greens. In every peer-reviewed research study that highlights this issue, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits--including absorption of calcium--from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid.
Tips for Preparing Turnip Greens
If you buy turnips with the tops on, you get two vegetables in one.
Rinse turnip greens under cold running water. Chop greens into 1/2-inch slices for quick and even cooking.
To get the most health benefits from turnip greens, we recommend letting them sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit may be able to help activate their myrosinase enzymes and increase formation of beneficial isothiocyanates in the greens.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Turnip Greens
We recommend Healthy Steaming turnip greens for maximum nutrition and flavor. 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 raw ice-pressed olive oil salt, and black pepper to taste . Top with your favorite optional ingredients.