Primarily harvested from October to November, rutabagas are root vegetables similar to turnips. Their health benefits are vast, helping to boost the immune system, enhance digestive health, and improve metabolic function. Rutabagas may also lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels and aid with cellular and enzymatic functions.
What Are Rutabagas?
Rutabagas belong to the Brassica (cabbage) family and grow in many parts of the world, especially in colder climates. It’s a cross between a cabbage and turnip, offering a sweeter flavor profile than a classic peppery turnip. As a food source, both the root and the leaves are edible, with the leaves tasting similar to other bitter greens like chard or beet greens. People handle the root in various ways, using it as a potato substitute or shaving it thinly for slaws and salads. It offers a wide range of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds that make it a wonderful addition to your diet. Let’s explore some of the most impressive health benefits below.
May Improve Digestion
One serving of rutabaga provides 12% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of fiber. Dietary fiber has many functions in the body, the primary one being that it helps to bulk up stool and prevent constipation. Optimal digestion is an essential part of overall health, as regular bowel movements can aid with toxin elimination and assist with weight loss efforts. The insoluble fiber in rutabagas also feeds gut bacteria, promoting a healthier microbiome.
Rich In Potassium
This may not seem like an impressive health benefit, but potassium plays many important roles in the body. In regards to heart health, potassium works to reduce the amount of sodium in the body, helping to naturally reduce blood pressure. One study found that cruciferous vegetables, including rutabagas, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 15%. The body also requires potassium for nerve signaling and muscle contraction. People who regularly consume potassium-rich foods have a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
May Prevent Premature Aging
Rutabagas exhibit impressive antioxidant activity, being excellent sources of vitamins C and E. Both of these vitamins work to neutralize free radicals, which contribute to oxidative stress. Not only does this help combat disease, but it may also improve the health of the skin and combat signs of premature aging. Vitamin C works to neutralize free radicals in the skin caused by environmental pollution and ultraviolet (UV) light. Vitamin C also aids collagen synthesis, which helps to keep skin strong and healthy. The glucosinolates in rutabagas also play a protective role in skin aging, especially in relation to UV damage.
May Enhance Immune Function
In addition to fighting free radicals, vitamin C also works to enhance immune function. A single serving of rutabaga provides half of the RDI of vitamin C, which stimulates the immune system to produce white blood cells. The body also needs vitamin C to repair connective tissues, muscles, and blood vessels. Experts also note that people who regularly consume vitamin C-rich foods have accelerated wound healing.
Reduces Risk Of Eye Diseases
Cataracts and macular degeneration are two of the most common eye diseases in relation to aging. In fact, by age 65, more than 90% of people in the U.S. will develop cataracts. According to several surveys, roughly 11 million people in the U.S. are affected by macular degeneration. Although rutabagas cannot cure either of these conditions, they do offer phytonutrients that are necessary for optimal eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants that may decrease the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.