Rutabagas on a Low-Carb Diet

Enjoy the nutritional benefits of rutabagas

Root vegetable on table
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The rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a healthy alternative to the potato and is packed with a variety of nutrients. Rutabagas originated as a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. Sometimes they are referred to as turnips because they share a similar exterior appearance, but they do have differences. Rutabagas are generally larger in size, and the flesh of most rutabagas is orangish-yellow (whereas turnip flesh is a creamy white).

They taste a little sweeter than turnips. Just like a turnip, both the rutabaga root and leaves can be eaten—the root is cooked similarly to potatoes, and the greens are used in much the same way as chard or spinach.

In North America, they're called rutabagas, but in other English-speaking countries they're known as "Swedes." Other names for rutabagas are Swedish turnips, yellow turnips, neeps, and even "​tumshies" and "snaggers" in isolated areas.

Carbohydrates and Fiber in Rutabagas

A one-half cup of raw rutabaga cubes provides 2 grams of fiber (which is double that of a potato), 4 grams effective (net) carbohydrate, and only 25 calories. Compared to other root vegetables, the rutabaga is one of the highest in fiber per serving, providing more than 12 percent of the daily requirement. Fiber aids in digestion by preventing gastrointestinal distress and constipation. The high fiber content of the rutabaga also makes you feel full, which can help you eat less if you want to lose weight.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load

Because of the lower concentration of carbohydrates in rutabagas, this root vegetable is a good choice for those people who are prone to or have type 2 diabetes. The glycemic index of rutabaga is 72, which isn't especially low. But its glycemic load is a low 7 and a better indication of how it is metabolized and might affect blood sugar and insulin response.

A glycemic load of less than 10 is considered to be low. By comparison, a baked russet potato has a glycemic index over 100 and a glycemic load of 33.

Vitamins and Minerals

Rutabagas are an excellent source of vitamin C. A single serving of rutabaga contains more than half of your daily requirement. Rutabagas are a good source of potassium. Minerals such as manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous are crucial in the development and maintenance of bone tissue. Rutabagas possess a valuable amount of these minerals.

How to Enjoy Rutabagas

One fun and easy way to enjoy rutabagas are to chop them into fry shapes, drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake them to make rutabaga fries. This can make a side dish to serve with grilled meat and other vegetables.

Experiment with replacing potatoes with rutabagas in casseroles and stews. Try them mashed. You can also use them in soups, either cubed or pureed. If you aren't avoiding potatoes completely, using a mix of potatoes and rutabagas in a dish is one way to reduce the carbs and calories.

Sources:

Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International Tables of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283. doi:10.2337/dc08-1239.

Basic Report: 11436, Rutabagas, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3152.

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