What Are Rutabagas?
Close your eyes and imagine crossing a turnip with a cabbage. What you might see is a rutabaga (Brassica napus var. napobrassica). In fact, it’s likely that rutabaga is the result of an ancient genetic cross between turnips and cabbage, making rutabaga a centuries-old genetically modified crop.
When it comes to rutabaga vs. turnip, the major difference is their size and color. Rutabaga is generally yellow or brown with golden flesh, while turnips can be white or white and purplish pink in color with a white flesh. Oblong-shaped rutabagas are also much larger than turnips and feature a rougher, bark-like exterior.
As for taste, the rutabaga is considered the sweeter of the two; they’re popular in vegetable or beef stews. Both root vegetables have edible, nutrient-rich greens that can be eaten raw or cooked.
Rutabagas, turnips, and cabbage are all members of the Brassica family, and are generally referred to as cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all members of the same tribe. Other names for rutabaga are Neobrasscia, swede, neep, or snagger.
Rutabaga is very nutritious, high in antioxidants, and, as part of a healthy diet, may contribute to improved overall health.
Rutabaga Nutrition Facts
One medium-sized rutabaga (about 385 g) offers:
|Vitamin C||96. 5 mg||161%|
|Vitamin E||1.2 mg||6%|
|Vitamin B6||0.4 mg||19%|
High levels of potassium and fiber are important contributors to some of rutabaga’s benefits. Additionally, rutabagas are a good source of glucosinolates and carotenoids, which are compounds with some unique health benefits.
Health Benefits of Rutabaga
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Rutabagas are a great source of antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin C. Antioxidants work to fight off free radicals and keep cells healthy, contributing to anti-aging, immune health, and anti-inflammation.
Vitamin C is a very versatile antioxidant that’s been shown to strengthen the immune system and promote collagen growth. It also plays a vital role in iron absorption to help promote oxygen-rich blood.
Carotenoids are a type of antioxidant associated with healthy eyes and a reduced risk for certain cancers and eye diseases.
Rutabaga is also a good source of glucosinolates, a type of sulfur-containing antioxidant found in cruciferous vegetables. They have been shown to successfully limit inflammation and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
2. Promotes Digestive Health
Rutabaga is a great source of fiber, which can aid health in a number of ways. Two ways it helps digestive health are adding bulk to stool and feeding healthy gut bacteria. These digestive aids are a result of rutabaga being high in insoluble fiber.
Fiber’s benefits can extend beyond digestive health, too. A healthy microbiome—which is partly fueled by insoluble fiber—may have multiple health impacts including improved mood, better immune function, and less inflammation. A high-fiber diet is also associated with lower cholesterol and better heart health.
3. Has Anti-Aging Properties
Vitamin C and glucosinolates may help slow the aging process in a couple of ways.
For starters, vitamin C not only helps tame oxidative stress on skin cells and reduce inflammation, but it also plays a role in collagen production. Collagen is required for healthy skin, while also helping to protect the skin from potential damage via UV rays and more.
Glucosinolates may also help protect skin from UV rays, but research up to this point is rather limited.
4. Fits Nicely into a Weight Loss Plan
Fruits and veggies fit nicely into most weight loss diets, and rutabaga might have some added benefit. Because it is so high in fiber, it has the potential to limit appetite by helping you feel fuller, longer. This can be a tool to help prevent snacking and overeating.
The benefits of fiber may extend even further than curbing appetite. It’s possible that having a more diverse population of gut bacteria can prevent long-term weight gain.
5. Rich in Potassium
Potassium plays a crucial role in the function of cells, and therefore a big role in overall health and functionality. One of the most important functions of potassium may be its effect on heart function. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure and regulate sodium balance, and people with high-potassium diets tend to have a lower risk for stroke and heart disease risk.
How to Cook Rutabaga
Rutabagas can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be roasted, sautéed, fried, boiled, mashed, or used as an ingredient in soups and stews. You can also grate them raw for use in coleslaws and salads or mixing with mashed potatoes.
Here are some steps on how to prepare rutabaga for cooking, along with a few popular cooking methods:
Step 1: Wash thoroughly to remove dirt.
Step 2: Slice in half through the central stalk.
Step 3: Lay slices flat and cut into half-inch-thick semi-circles.
Step 4: Peel each piece.
Step 5: Cut into cubes.
- Baking: Placed sliced rutabaga in a shallow baking dish with a few tablespoons of water. Bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour, until tender.
- Boiling: Place in boiling hot water with a half-teaspoon of salt. Cover until water boils again, then let simmer over low heat for approximately 30 minutes.
- Roasting: Heat oven to 390 F and dress rutabaga with olive oil. Cook in for roughly 40 to 45 minutes.
- Steaming: Steam in a basket or colander over boiling water for approximately 25 minutes.
- Stir-Frying: Sauté in oil for about seven minutes.
Healthy Rutabaga Recipes
1. Rutabaga Fries
Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves:4
1 large rutabaga
1 tbsp avocado oil or other high-smoke point vegetable oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
- Set the oven to 450 F.
- Cut off the stem and root ends of the rutabaga and discard. Peel.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the rutabaga into sticks. First, cut the rutabaga in half, then cut one half into even slices (1/4-inch-thick). Stack the slices and cut them the other direction into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Repeat with the remaining half of the rutabaga.
- Place the sticks in a large bowl and drizzle with vegetable oil. Toss to evenly coat in oil. Season with garlic powder and pepper and toss until evenly distributed.
- Arrange sticks in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with salt.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and flip the rutabaga sticks. Return to the oven and bake until they are tender and well browned, for about 40 minutes.
2. Parsnip and Rutabaga Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes Serves: 4
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 large rutabagas, peeled and cut into one-inch-thick cubes
5 cups vegetable broth (low-sodium)
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp sage leaves, freshly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Garnish: sliced scallions
- Place butter in a large pot and melt over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, for about four minutes.
- Add the parsnips and rutabagas and stir. Pour in the broth, increase to high heat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
- Transfer the vegetables and a small amount of liquid to a blender/food processor (in batches). Puree with the honey and sage leaves until smooth.
- Return to the pot, add the cream, and heat over medium-high heat for another minute until the whole thing is heated through. Serve hot in bowls with the scallions sprinkled on top.
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