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

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one 1 cup (140g) of cubed raw rutabaga.

  • Calories: 52
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Fiber: 3.2g
  • Sugars: 6.2g
  • Protein: 1.5g

Carbs

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

There are also 6.2 grams of naturally occurring sugar. 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.

Fat

There is almost no fat in rutabaga and that very small amount of fat is polyunsaturated fat.

Protein

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

Vitamins and Minerals

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

  • Calcium: 60mg (6% of the recommended dietary allowance 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)
  • Phosphorus: 74mg (11% of the RDA for adults)
  • Potassium: 427mg (13% of the RDA for men; 16% for women)
  • Zinc: 0.3mg (3% of the RDA for men; 4% for women)

A 1-cup serving of rutabaga also contains the following vitamins:

  • 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)
  • Thiamine: 0.13mg (11% of the RDA for men; 12% for women)
  • Vitamin C: 35mg (39% of the RDA for men; 47% for women)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.14mg (11% of the RDA for adults)
  • Vitamin E: 0.42mg (3% of the RDA for adults)

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 for women. 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.

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, the food also provides phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants are important for eye health, and consuming enough of them can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, two eye diseases related to aging.

Improves Heart Health

Research shows that a diet rich in leafy green 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 separately from the roots, and eat as you would other leafy greens like spinach, mustard greens, or kale.

When It's Best

Rutabagas are a winter crop but are 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. 

To cook rutabagas, you can roast, sauté, bake, fry, boil, or mash them. You can also mash them or add them 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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Article Sources
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