Rutabaga Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Rutabaga, annotation
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Rutabaga is a root vegetable similar to a turnip, but with a slightly sweeter taste. Both are members of the Brassica (cabbage) family and can be easily grown in many parts of the world—especially in areas where it is cold.

Rutabagas and turnips have a long history of use in food and in social settings. In fact, in some parts of the world, rutabagas have been carved to ward off evil spirits. Rutabaga is quite nutritious and high in some vitamins and minerals.

Rutabaga Nutrition Facts

One cup of rutabagas (140g) provides 52 calories, 1.5g of protein, 12g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Rutabagas are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and phosphorus and have a low glycemic load. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one 1 cup (140g) of cubed raw rutabaga.

  • Calories: 52
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 16.8mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 3.2g
  • Sugars: 6.2g
  • Protein: 1.5g
  • Vitamin C: 35mg
  • Potassium: 427mg
  • Phosphorus: 74.2mg

Carbs

Most of the calories in rutabagas come from two types of carbohydrates: fiber and sugar. There are 3.2 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving of raw rutabaga. Fiber is necessary for healthy digestion and can boost heart health by helping your body rid itself of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

There are also 6.2 grams of naturally occurring sugar in rutabaga. While too much sugar (specifically, too much added sugar) is not considered healthy, consuming foods with naturally occurring sugars can be a good way to provide your body with energy for everyday activities. 

While the glycemic index of rutabaga is fairly high at 72, the estimated glycemic load is just 7. Glycemic load is generally considered the more valuable measurement as it takes serving size into account when calculating a food's effect on blood sugar.

Fats

There is almost no fat in rutabaga and the very small amount of fat it does contain is polyunsaturated fat. Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Protein

You'll get a small boost of protein in a single serving of rutabaga. A 1-cup serving provides 1.5 grams of this muscle-building macronutrient.

Vitamins and Minerals

Rutabagas provide substantial vitamins and minerals. A 1-cup serving provides the following minerals:

  • Potassium: 427mg (13% of the RDA for men; 16% for women)
  • Phosphorus: 74mg (11% of the RDA for adults)
  • Iron: 0.6mg (8% of the RDA for adult men; 3% for women)
  • Magnesium: 28mg (7% of the RDA for men; 9% for women)
  • Calcium: 60mg (6% of the recommended dietary allowance for adults)
  • Zinc: 0.3mg (3% of the RDA for men; 4% for women)

A single-cup serving of rutabaga also contains many vitamins:

  • Vitamin C: 35mg (39% of the RDA for men; 47% for women)
  • Thiamin: 0.13mg (11% of the RDA for men; 12% for women)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.14mg (11% of the RDA for adults)
  • Folate: 29mcg (7% for the RDA for adults)
  • Niacin: 0.98mg (6% of the RDA for men, 7% for women)
  • Riboflavin: 0.06mg (5% of the RDA for adults)
  • Vitamin E: 0.42mg (3% of the RDA for adults)

Calories

One cup of cubed rutabagas provides 52 calories. If you eat them whole, one medium rutabaga (386 grams) supplies roughly 143 calories, according to USDA data, while a large rutabaga (772 grams) is closer to 286 calories.

Summary

Rutabaga is high in fiber while also supplying the body with numerous vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C. Large versions of this root vegetable do supply a lot of calories, but single-serving portions (around one cup) fits easily into a low-calorie diet plan if you are watching your calorie intake.

Health Benefits

As a cruciferous vegetable, rutabagas can help promote good health in many ways, making them a smart addition to your diet.

Supports the Immune System

Rutabagas are rich in vitamin C. Just 1 cup supplies nearly half the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of this important vitamin. Vitamin C is essential for immune system function and healthy connective tissue.

Promotes Bone Health

Because they contain magnesium and calcium, rutabagas can contribute to better bone health. That makes this vegetable helpful to people with bone density issues.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Rutabagas are a good source of potassium (1 cup has almost as much as a large banana). Consuming enough potassium in the diet helps the body regulate blood pressure appropriately.

Reduces Risk of Eye Diseases

In addition to the important macronutrients and micronutrients in rutabagas, this vegetable also provides phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are important for eye health and consuming enough of them may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, two eye diseases related to aging.

Improves Heart Health

Research shows that a diet rich in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, which would include rutabagas, can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease by as much as 15%.

Prevents Chronic Disease

The fiber found in rutabagas, along with the phytonutrients typical of cruciferous vegetables, contributes to a lower risk of digestive diseases, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Allergies

There are very few reports of rutabaga allergies. However, some people experience symptoms of oral allergy syndrome after contact with other vegetables in the cabbage family. Symptoms may include swelling of the mouth, lips, or throat upon contact, and may be related to certain pollen allergies.

If you suspect an allergy or sensitivity to rutabaga, contact your health care provider to get personalized advice and medical attention.

Adverse Effects

Like other cruciferous vegetables, rutabagas contain raffinose, a naturally occurring sugar that can cause bloating and gas. If rutabagas have this effect on you, try eating them steamed (instead of raw). It also helps to add fiber-rich foods to your diet gradually so your digestive system can adapt to them.

Varieties

There are a dozen or so varieties of rutabaga with variations in color, shape, and size but similar nutritional profiles. Rutabagas are also sometimes called swedes, winter turnips, Swedish turnips, Russian turnips, or Canadian turnips, as they are in the same plant family as turnips.

You can also eat rutabaga greens if you find the roots for sale with the greens still attached (or grow them yourself). Cut off and store them separately from the roots, and eat them as you would other leafy greens like spinach, mustard greens, or kale.

When It's Best

Rutabagas are a winter crop but typically available year-round. Look for rutabagas that are firm and feel heavy for their size. At the supermarket, they'll be coated with wax. It's perfectly safe, but you'll need to peel the rutabaga before cooking.

Storage and Food Safety

Keep rutabagas in a cool place (either the refrigerator or a cold basement or root cellar). They will last for months. You can also prepare a rutabaga puree and store it in the freezer. It will last for up to a year if you use bags meant for freezing.

How to Prepare

Rutabagas can be eaten raw or cooked. Shaved or shredded rutabaga can be added to salads or used instead of cabbage in recipes. You can also use rutabagas instead of turnips or other root vegetables in recipes. 

When it comes to cooking rutabagas, you can roast, sauté, bake, fry, or boil them. You can also mash them or add cubed rutabaga to soups and stews. Rutabagas pair well with carrots if you choose to combine root vegetables for a side dish.

Recipes

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