Is it OK to eat turnip greens raw?

Turnip greens are the leafy green tops of turnips, a root vegetable similar to radishes or beets. Turnip greens are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, some people wonder if it is safe to eat turnip greens raw. There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to eat raw turnip greens. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine if it is OK to eat turnip greens raw, looking at nutritional benefits, health risks, ways to reduce risks, and proper storage and handling.

Can You Eat Turnip Greens Raw?

Yes, it is generally safe to consume turnip greens raw in moderation. Turnip greens contain goitrogens, compounds that may disrupt thyroid function if consumed in excess. Cooking helps reduce goitrogens. However, eating raw turnip greens occasionally likely poses little risk for most healthy individuals. Those with thyroid issues may want to limit intake of raw turnip greens.

Nutritional Profile of Raw Turnip Greens

Eating turnip greens raw offers maximum nutrition, as some nutrients diminish with cooking. One cup of raw turnip greens (about 100 grams) provides:

  • Calories: 18
  • Protein: 1.2 g
  • Carbs: 3.8 g
  • Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Vitamin K: 230% DV
  • Vitamin A: 85% DV
  • Vitamin C: 43% DV
  • Calcium: 20% DV
  • Iron: 5% DV

Turnip greens are high in antioxidants like quercetin, kaempferol, and glutathione. They also contain plant compounds like glucosinolates linked to cancer prevention. Overall, turnip greens are very nutrient-dense.

Potential Benefits of Eating Raw Turnip Greens

Here are some of the top benefits you may gain from eating raw turnip greens:

1. May Support Heart Health

The nutrients in turnip greens like vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate help protect heart health. Vitamin K is needed for proper blood clotting. Vitamins C and folate lower homocysteine, high levels of which can damage blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis. The antioxidants in turnip greens also fight inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease.

2. May Promote Healthy Vision

With its high vitamin A content, raw turnip greens may help boost eye health. Vitamin A forms the pigments in the retina needed for good vision, especially night vision. It also fights free radical damage and inflammation that can harm the eyes. The lutein and zeaxanthin in turnip greens also support eye health.

3. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties

Turnip greens contain sulfur-containing glucosinolates that may inhibit cancer growth during the initiation, promotion, and metastasis phases. Myrosinase enzymes in turnip greens break glucosinolates down into active isothiocyanates with anti-cancer effects. More research is still needed, but turnip greens show promise for cancer prevention.

4. May Support Thyroid Function

Although overconsuming raw turnip greens could disrupt thyroid function, eating them cooked regularly may support a healthy thyroid. Turnip greens are rich in iodine, a key nutrient the thyroid needs to produce hormones. Two cups of cooked turnip greens provide over 100% of the RDI for iodine.

5. May Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Compounds in turnip greens like quercetin, kaempferol, vitamin K, and vitamin C all combat inflammation. The antioxidants neutralize free radicals that damage cells and trigger inflammatory responses. Reduced inflammation promotes overall health.

6. May Support Detoxification

The antioxidants like glutathione and vitamins A, C, and E in turnip greens boost the body’s natural detoxification processes. These nutrients facilitate the neutralization and elimination of toxins and pollutants we encounter. Supporting detox with turnip greens’ nutrients can prevent damage from harmful exposures.

7. May Strengthen Bones

Raw turnip greens provide calcium, vitamin K, folate, magnesium, and phosphorus for bone health. Vitamin K activates osteocalcin, a protein involved in anchoring calcium inside bones. Folate and magnesium also prevent bone loss. The nutrients in turnip greens may help prevent osteoporosis.

Potential Health Risks of Raw Turnip Greens

While raw turnip greens offer nutrition benefits, there are some potential health risks to consider as well:

1. Goitrogenic Effects

The main concern with eating raw turnip greens is their goitrogen content. Goitrogens are substances that may suppress thyroid hormone production by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. Cooking helps inactivate goitrogens. Those with thyroid disorders should limit intake of raw turnip greens and choose cooked instead.

2. Pesticide Exposure

Unless organically grown, turnip greens may contain pesticide residues if consumed raw. Cooking can help reduce pesticides. Opt for organic turnip greens or wash thoroughly before eating raw.

3. Higher Oxalate Levels

Turnip greens contain oxalates. When consumed in excess, oxalates may bind to calcium and cause kidney stones in those prone to them. Cooking reduces oxalates by 30-87%. People with kidney issues may want to avoid overconsuming raw turnip greens.

4. Bacterial Contamination

Like any produce, raw turnip greens may become contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli if improperly handled, harvested, or washed. Cooking eliminates harmful bacteria. Practice caution if consuming raw turnip greens.

5. Allergic Reactions

Some people may be allergic to turnip greens and develop symptoms like hives, itching, swelling, or anaphylaxis. Those with vegetable allergies should avoid turnip greens unless tested. Introduce turnip greens slowly to monitor for any reactions.

Who Should Avoid Raw Turnip Greens?

The following individuals should exercise caution or avoid consuming raw turnip greens:

  • Those with thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • People taking anti-thyroid medications
  • Individuals who suffered thyroid cancer
  • People prone to kidney stones or with kidney disease
  • Those with known vegetable allergies
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis
  • Anyone on blood thinners due to the high vitamin K content

For these populations, it is safer to consume turnip greens cooked instead of raw. Consult a healthcare provider to discuss proper intake amounts of raw turnip greens for your individual health status and needs.

Ways to Reduce the Risks of Raw Turnip Greens

Here are some tips to minimize potential risks from eating raw turnip greens:

Consume in Moderation

Limit portion sizes of raw turnip greens and do not eat them every day. Occasional intake of raw turnip greens is likely fine for most people but avoid overconsumption.

Cook Occasionally

Balance intake of raw turnip greens by cooking them some of the time as well. Cooking neutralizes goitrogens, pesticides, and oxalates.

Remove Oxalates

To reduce oxalates, soak or boil turnip greens before consuming raw. Discard the water after boiling to get rid of dissolved oxalates.

Buy Organic Greens

Choose organic turnip greens whenever possible to minimize pesticide exposure from raw consumption.

Wash Greens Thoroughly

Inspect greens and rinse well under running water to remove dirt and debris. This reduces the risk of bacterial contamination.

Avoid If Allergic

Anyone with a known turnip greens allergy should avoid consuming them raw entirely and talk to an allergist.

Introduce Slowly

If turnip greens are new to your diet, start with small servings of cooked greens and gradually work up to raw in case of allergies.

Following these tips can help make eating raw turnip greens safer and reduce nutrient deficiencies from overcooking.

Proper Handling and Storage of Raw Turnip Greens

To enjoy raw turnip greens safely, be mindful of proper storage and handling:


– Store raw turnip greens refrigerated at 32-40°F in a perforated plastic bag.

– Do not wash greens before storing. Moisture speeds spoilage.

– Greens will keep 5-7 days when refrigerated properly.


– Check leaves and discard any that are yellow, limp, or slimy.

– Wash just before eating under cool running water.

– Dry greens thoroughly with a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels.

– Use immediately after washing for raw preparations.

Food Safety

– Avoid cross-contaminating greens with raw meat, poultry, or fish.

– When eating raw, use cleaned and sanitized cutting boards and utensils.

– Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours and use within 3-5 days.

Following these storage, handling, and food safety tips will help prevent foodborne illness from consuming raw turnip greens.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Raw Turnip Greens

Here are some nutritious and delicious ways to eat raw turnip greens:

Simple Salad

Toss raw torn turnip greens with EVOO, lemon juice, sliced onion, avocado, tomato, and chopped walnuts. Top with goat cheese or feta.

Scrambled Egg Wrap

Make a breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs, raw turnip greens, roasted red peppers, and salsa wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

Green Smoothie

Blend raw turnip greens with banana, Greek yogurt, milk, ground flaxseed, and ice for a nutrition-packed smoothie.

Citrus Salad

Mix raw turnip greens with orange or grapefruit segments, shaved fennel, toasted almonds, and a citrus vinaigrette.

Pesto Pasta

Toss pasta with pesto made from turnip greens, basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan, and pine nuts for a unique pasta dish.


Top corn tortillas with cooked chicken or beef, raw turnip greens, queso fresco, salsa, and avocado for vibrant tacos.

The Bottom Line

Turnip greens are highly nutritious and offer health benefits when consumed raw in moderation. However, overconsumption may pose risks for some individuals due to compounds that can disrupt thyroid function and higher levels of oxalates and pesticides compared to cooked greens. Those with thyroid issues, kidney problems, or turnip green allergies should avoid eating them raw. For others, raw turnip greens are likely fine to eat occasionally as part of a balanced diet, especially if following proper handling and preparation methods to reduce risks. Incorporate raw turnip greens into salads, smoothies, wraps, and other dishes to take advantage of their nutritional profile without overdoing it. Use common sense, listen to your body, and balance raw with cooked turnip greens to safely reap their nutritious benefits.

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