Are turnips good for you? Health benefits of this underrated root veg revealed

Turnips can support your health in many ways, from your gut to your brain health. A leading dietitian explains how.

When it comes to vegetables that are particularly good for you, turnips might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But this under-appreciated vegetable could have more benefits than you think. When eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, they can help with many things from supporting your gut health to your cognitive function. That’s a turn-ip for the books! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). 

Earlier this year, they made headlines when the Environment Secretary encouraged Britons to cherish seasonal foods such as turnips to help ease shortages of some vegetables. If you’re growing your own, spring to early summer is a good time to sow early varieties – they can be ready for harvesting in as little as six weeks.  

Cubed pieces of turnip in an air fryer, alongside a whole turnip on a chopping boardCredit: Exceptional

Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian and chair of the British Dietetic Association for London, explains why their popularity has fallen over the years.

“People in the UK would historically have eaten a lot more turnips because they are native to the UK and grow easily in the British climate. They have a slightly more bitter taste than vegetables like carrots, and are less versatile than potatoes, so we have favoured those as our tastes and diets have evolved. 

“They are a good substitute logistically and politically because they grow easily in the UK.” 

Medlin adds: “Like all plants, turnips contain lots of useful nutrients. Specifically, they are good sources of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, copper, and manganese. They are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes but also lower in fibre. You can also eat the turnip leaves.” Just as there are health benefits of parsnips, here are a few reasons you might want to give turnips a try. 


1. Aids iron absorption

Turnips are a source of vitamin C, which may help with iron absorption. The body doesn’t absorb iron from plant sources (non-heme iron) easily, so vitamin C helps to increase the amount of iron absorbed from plant-based sources. Medlin confirms this, adding: “This is why we recommend adding veggies to lentil dishes.” 

This is particularly important for older people, for whom iron absorption can be more difficult and iron deficiency is more common. Some vitamin C will be lost during cooking and can leak out into the cooking water, so for maximum vitamin C, try eating turnips raw (shredded in a salad, for example) or in a soup or a stew, where you won’t lose the vitamin C in the cooking liquid.  

If you can get hold of them, turnip leaves are even higher in vitamin C than the turnips themselves.   

2. May support cognitive function

Turnip greens (the leaves) are rich in flavonoids (antioxidant compounds found in fruit and vegetables) and purple turnips contain anthocyanin – a type of flavonoid. A recent study showed that higher intakes of flavonoids were linked to better self-reported cognitive function in later life. Researchers found that people who consumed the highest number of flavonoids per day were almost 20% less likely to have memory and thinking problems, compared to those with the lowest daily flavonoid intakes. 

“Flavonoids are really important for our general health,” says Medlin. “Having them in our diet is shown to support the prevention of many conditions and diseases.  

“Anthocyanins often come from blueberries and other purple fruits and vegetables, so having a locally grown and cheaper source of these is of benefit to lots of people.”  

3. Beneficial for gut health

Turnips contain several types of prebiotic fibre, including inulin, which also supports our gut health by feeding good bacteria in the digestive system. 

Medlin says: “All fruits and vegetables contain fibre, so eating a variety of these means we can feed good bacteria in our colon with lots of different fibre, which helps keep our gut microbiome healthy.”  

It’s important to note that you still need a variety of vegetables, so add turnips to your diet, rather than swapping them for another vegetable, to benefit your digestion and gut health. A more diverse microbiome is considered a healthier one. “Adding grated turnip to a salad [made up of other vegetables] would be an extra source of fibre and benefit our gut health,” adds Medlin.  

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi) that live in your digestive tract. Scientists are still learning more about our microbiome, but it’s estimated that each person has 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria in their gut. 

4. May assist bone health

It’s not just calcium, protein and vitamin D that are key to healthy bones as you age; vitamin A is also essential. So it’s good to hear that turnips offer decent levels of vitamin A. 

Medlin says: “Vitamin A is very important for both building new bones and breaking down old bone tissue, which is essential for overall bone health. Without vitamin A, we’re not able to complete these processes effectively, leading to bone deterioration.” 

For women, keeping bones healthy is particularly important post-menopause due to oestrogen – the hormone that maintains bone density and strength – decreasing. 

Researchers still have a lot to uncover about the link between vitamin A and bone health, and some studies have even suggested that a high intake of vitamin A can lead to a higher risk of bone fractures. However, you’d only get high amounts from eating a lot of liver or from supplements, so you can safely eat turnips to your heart’s content.


5. Can aid with healing wounds

Turnips can also help with wound healing. This is because they are high in vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting which is part of the wound recovery process. 

Turnips are also a good source of vitamin C, which is involved in all stages of wound healing. 

6. All-round support to help the body function well

Turnips provide a good dose of manganese – a trace mineral that your body needs in small amounts to keep many of its systems working optimally. It can boost the immune system as well as bone health.  

Plus, manganese helps with the absorption of many nutrients. For example, it helps the body to use vitamins C and E and choline and thiamine. It also works with vitamin K by clotting the blood to aid in wound healing. 

Sophie’s tips for adding turnips to your diet 

Gemma Harris

Written by Gemma Harris she/her


Gemma Harris has been a journalist for over seven years and is a self-confessed health and wellbeing enthusiast, which led her to specialise in health journalism. During her career, she has worked with top editors in the industry and taken on multiple high-discipline fitness challenges for certain outlets. She is particularly passionate about nutrition; after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in 2016, she discovered her fascination for gut health and founded – a dedicated space for providing a hopeful outcome for people with gut issues. Gemma’s core aim is to help others through her writing.

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