Turnip (Brassica rapa) is a root vegetable grown and consumed worldwide. The vegetable contains micronutrients, thus making it healthy. However, its use in babies is often questioned due to the possible presence of nitrates and nitrites (1).
But is the quantity of dietary nitrate and nitrite found in turnip really a concern for infants?
In this post, we will tell you about the possible health benefits of turnips, their side effects, and more.
Can Babies Eat Turnips?
Yes, babies can eat turnip bulbs and turnip greens (fresh, green leaves) in moderate amounts as a part of a well-balanced diet. Being a highly nutritious and low-calorie vegetable, turnips can support your baby’s growth and development.
Some people may avoid thevegetablefor its nitrate and nitrite content. However, it is important to know that dietary intake of nitrate/nitrites in controlled amounts can be beneficial for health
(2). Also, vegetables, such as turnips, are unlikely to expose the body to nitrate and nitrite levels that are harmful. It is the inorganic nitrates and nitrites found in fertilizers that usually are the cause of health issues associated with nitrate and nitrites (3).
When Can Babies Have Turnips?
Babies can start eating turnip bulbs and greens as soon as they start consuming solids, which is after the age of six months. However, parents might prefer to wait until their baby turns eight to ten months old. Babies at this age eat a wider variety of foods and may find it easier to digest turnip.
Nutritional Value OfTurnip
|Carbohydrate, by difference||11.6g||–|
|Fiber, total dietary||4.6g||–|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||6.83g||–|
|Calcium, Ca||75.9mg||270mg (7-12 months)|
|Magnesium, Mg||20.7mg||75mg (7-12 months)|
|Phosphorus, P||59.8mg||275mg (7-12 months)|
|Potassium, K||405mg||700mg (7-12 months)|
|Sodium, Na||605mg||200mg (7-12 months)|
|Zinc, Zn||0.276mg||5.6mg (7-12 months)|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||26.4mg||35mg (7-12 months)|
|Folate, total||20.7µg||32µg (7-12 months)|
|Choline, total||19.8mg||150 mg (AI)|
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization, and National Institutes of Health
Turnip has several varieties,but the most common ones are the Purple Top White Globe, Tokyo, and Just Right (white) (7).
Possible Health Benefits OfTurnip For Babies
Apart from its cardioprotective effects that are attributed to the presence of nitrates, nitrites, and there are some more health benefits of turnip that are worth a check.
- Aids in bowel regulation: Turnip and its greens provide sufficient dietary fiber with water that is needed to regulate thebaby’s bowel movement (8).
- Enhances iron absorption: Turnip greens contain a high amount of vitaminC. This vitamin enhances iron absorption (9).
- Contains prebiotics: The indigestible carbohydrate in turnip greens can act as prebiotics and support the immune system. Prebiotics in the gut could help promote gut microbes, which can help in the positive modulation of immunity (10).
- Can promote bone health: Turnip green is rich in vitaminK and calcium. Both these nutrients help promote bone health in the long run when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
- Possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties: In traditional medicine, turnipsare used for the treatment of headaches, rheumatisms, and edemas. Besides, it is believed to improve blood pressure and blood sugar. All these health benefits are attributed to the presence of bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, phenolics, and indoles, that exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects (11).
- May exhibit antimicrobial properties: Turnip, like other brassica family vegetables, contain glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, compounds that have antimicrobial properties (12).
Regular consumption of turnip is also known to exhibit anti-cancer effects due to the presence of anthocyanins, vitaminC, and other such bioactive compounds.
Probable Side Effects Of Turnip
Although turnip has several promising health benefits for your baby, it can have some side effects, as well.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances: Indigestible carbohydrates such as raffinose could lead to bloating and flatulence in some babies.
- Possible drug interaction: Although rare, turnip ingestion can have possible drug interactions. For example, for babies on blood thinners, the intake of vitaminK rich foods, such as turnip, should be limited.
- Allergy: Turnip allergy is not common, yet some cases of ingestion of raw and cooked turnip are documented. The allergic reaction to turnip is mostly due to an IgE cross-reactivity with latex (13). Contact allergy to turnip green is also possible (14).
Precautions To Take While Feeding Turnip To Babies
Once your pediatrician gives the go-ahead to feed turnip to your baby, follow these precautions to avoid any side effects.
- Introduce turnip to your baby in steamed or cooked and mashed or puree form. Young babies can digest cooked and pureed turnip with ease.
- Do not include any new food while introducing turnip. Follow a “three to five-day wait” rule to rule out a possibility of intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy.
- Introduce no more than two teaspoonsof pureed or mashed turnip. You may increase the amount once the baby seems comfortable with the food.
- As your baby gets comfortable, prepare age-appropriate recipes to feed turnips to your baby in several ways. For example, you can try well-cooked turnip slices as finger foods.
- For older babies, try whole baby turnips to prepare several recipes such as roasted baby turnips.
How To Select And Store Turnips?
According to EWG, turnip is not one of the “dirty dozen” foods that are contaminated with pesticides (15). However, its contamination is possible, and thus, it is good to buy organic turnip. Besides, you can follow these simple steps to ensure your baby’s safety.
- Select small turnips as large turnips are generally old with a strong, pungent taste that babies may dislike.
- Choose turnips that are soft and smooth to touch. The leaves should look fresh and bright green.
- Discard the turnip if it seems to be mushy to touch. Do not use leaves if they look yellow and wilted.
- Wash the turnip bulbs and leaves under running water. You can use a vegetable brush to remove soil from the turnip.
- Pat them dry.You can store them in the refrigerator for upto two weeks and in the freezer for about eightto tenmonths.
- Keepthe turnips away from other raw vegetables and raw meat. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Never store turnip for more than 12 months since its quality deteriorates.
Turnip Food Recipes For Babies
Here are some simple and easy to prepare turnip recipes that are worth a check.
1. Turnip puree (6+ months)
Turnip puree is prepared from a steamed or cooked turnip for young babies who cannot chew.
You will need:
- 2 baby turnip bulbs
- 1 cup water
- 1tsp jaggery powder (optional)
- Steam or cook the whole baby turnip bulbs. Steaming the turnip well will take approximately 20 minutes. Cooking can be done in a pressure cooker in three to four whistles.
- Put the pieces of cooked turnip in a blender, add some water, and blend.
- Blend until you get a smooth paste. Adjust consistency by adding more water or a small amount of breastmilk.
- You may add half a teaspoon of jaggery powder if needed.
- Serve it to your baby while still warm.
Tip: Once your baby gets comfortable with this new food, you may try adding some more vegetables to prepare a mixed puree. Some of the nutritious combinations to try are adding turnip to corn, apple, pear, carrot, or sweet potato baby food.
2. Turnip and lentil soup (8+ months)
Soup is easy to digest and nutritious as it has a mix of vegetable and lentil.
You will need:
- 1 cup red lentil
- 1 cup turnip bulb (cooked and mashed)
- ½ cup onion (diced)
- ½ cup tomatoes (diced)
- ¼ cup parsley (finely chopped)
- ½ tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1tbsp virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Wash the red lentil thoroughly and put them in a pressure cooker to cook. Cook up to five whistles.Keep aside the cooked lentil to cool.
- Take a thick bottom pan and put it on medium heat. Add one teaspoon oil to it.
- As the oil heats, add onions and ginger-garlic paste to it.
- Fry the onions until they turn golden brown. Add tomatoes and salt, and let the mix cook until the tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
- Once tomatoes are cooked, add lentils and mashed turnips to it. Cook everything for seven to eight minutes. Switch off the flame and let the mix cool.
- Once cool, transfer the mix into a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Add water to adjust consistency. The soup should be smooth and flowy.
- Garnish the prepared soup with finely chopped parsley and serve it to your baby while still warm.
Tip: You can add seasonal vegetables with roasted herbs and seeds powder to intensify the nutritional value of the recipe. Check for any possible allergies if you are adding herbs and seeds for the first time.
3. Baked turnip crisps
You can add baked food items to your baby’s diet once they initiate self-led weaning.
You will need:
- 3-4 baby turnips
- 4tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- ¼ tsp pepper powder
- ½ tsp mixed herbs or herb mix
- ½ tsp salt
- Two sheets of baking paper (parchment paper)
- Preheat the oven to 420°F (215°C).
- Slice the baby turnips into thin slices. Keep the slices as thin as possible to make them crispy.
- Once done, take a large mixing bowl. Put the sliced turnips, olive oil, herb mix, and salt into it. Check that all the slices are evenly coated with salt, herb mix, and oil.
- Place the baking paper sheets on the baking tray. Place the turnip slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Keep at least a quarter-inch distance between two slices.
- Put the baking tray into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Turn the turnip slices in between to ensure they cook evenly from all the sides. Once they look golden brown and evenly cooked, take them out of the oven. Let them cool.
- Before serving, sprinkle pepper powder and Parmesan cheese.
Tip: You can mix turnip crisp with some other vegetable crisps and make a fun bowl of crispies. It is a good idea to serve these crisps with homemade hummus instead of ketchup to intensify the overall nutritional value of the meal.
4. Creamy turnip greens with tofu (12+ months)
This recipe is ideal for babies once they begin to chew.
You will need:
- 2 sets of turnip greens
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 100g plain tofu (small cubes)
- 1 cup onion (finely chopped)
- ½ tsp black pepper powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cup water
- Wash the turnip greens thoroughly in the large bowl. Ensure no dust, dirt, or grit is left on the surface of the leaves and their stalk.
- Chop off the tough stems and discard discolored leaves.
- Roughly chop all greens and keep them aside in a bowl.
- Take a stock pan and add a tablespoon to it. As the oil heats, put onions in the pan and saute them until they turn golden brown.
- Add tofu cubes and saute till tofu cubes also turn light brown from both the sides.
- Add turnip greens, salt, and a half cup of water into the pan.
- Let the greens cook with the lid covered. Once done, add coconut milk to the pan and let the mix come to a boil.
- Switch off the flame and let the mixture cool.
- Serve it to your baby or toddler with freshly baked garlic cornbread.
Tip: You can make this recipe with turnip bulbs, fish, pork, and chicken as well. However, while you try to experiment with the recipe, check for proper cooking instructions.
Turnips are a healthy vegetable. You can use turnip bulbs, and turnip leaves to prepare healthy recipes for your baby. However, while you do so, ensure that you use fresh, small turnips with a mild sweet taste. Also, while using either turnip bulb or green, serve them to your baby in an age-appropriate way.
2. Norman G Hord, et al.,Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits; Oxford University Press
3. Nitrate/Nitrite – ToxFAQs; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4. Turnip, cooked, from fresh, fat not added in cooking, FDC ID: 788543; Fooddata Central; USDA
5. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
6. Choline; National Institute of Health
7. Turnip; Kansas State University
8. Fiber Content of Selected Vegetables; NCBI
9. ShailjaChambialet al.,Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview; NCBI
10. Sachi Tanaka et al.; Changes in Gut Microbial Ecology and Immunological Responses of Mice Fed the Insoluble Fraction of Brassica rapa L. that was Fermented or Not; NCBI
11. Paul S,et al.,Phytochemical and Health-Beneficial Progress of Turnip (Brassica rapa).; NCBI
12. Dias C,et al.,Antimicrobial activity of isothiocyanates from cruciferous plants against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).; NCBI
13. Celso Pereira,et al.,Allergy Net: Turnip and zucchini: new foods in the latex‐fruit syndrome; Researchgate
14. Allergy to turnip greens; Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
15. Turnip; EWG
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