Turnips have long had a place in the human diet -- their consumption dates back to prehistoric times, according to the Alternative Field Crops Manual. The nutritional value of your turnips depends on the cooking method you choose -- boiling them will result in significant nutrient loss, while steaming them until just tender yields a meal with greater nutrient content. Cooked turnips are low in calories, at roughly 50 calories per serving, and make a healthful addition to your diet because they contain vitamins and fiber.
Turnips -- whether boiled or steamed -- serve as good sources of dietary fiber. Eating foods rich in fiber helps you stick to your diet plan because the fiber absorbs water and fills your stomach. Following a high-fiber diet also offers long-term benefits by lowering your risk of chronic digestive disorders, as well as heart disease and type-2 diabetes. A cup of mashed boiled turnip contains 4.6 grams of fiber -- 18 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 12 percent for men. One large steamed turnip provides 3.3 grams of fiber -- 13 percent and 8 percent of the recommended daily fiber intakes for women and men, respectively.
Cooked turnips also boost your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes the health of your skin -- it promotes the formation of collagen needed for skin strength and also provides natural sun protection. The vitamin also helps you metabolize fatty acids and cholesterol and plays a role in brain cell communication. Steamed turnips contain more vitamin C per serving than boiled turnips -- 38 milligrams per serving compared to 28 milligrams in boiled mashed turnips. Both types of cooked turnips, however, contribute a considerable amount toward the 75 milligrams recommended for women per day and 90 milligrams recommended for men.
Look to turnips as a source of vitamin B-6, also called pyridoxine. A diet rich in vitamin B-6 supports the health of your reproductive system by helping you make steroid hormones -- the hormone family that includes the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Vitamin B-6 also helps you make nucleic acids -- the small subunits that make up your DNA -- and promotes red blood cell function. A serving of steamed turnips contains 0.17 milligram of vitamin B-6, or 13 percent of the recommended daily intake. Boiled mashed turnips contain slightly less B-6, at 0.15 milligram per serving, or 12 percent of the recommended daily B-6 intake.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
Although turnips are naturally low in fat and calories, that doesn't mean they need to lack flavor. Lightly coat chopped turnip in olive oil before steaming, and sprinkle your dish with kelp granules to add a "salty" flavor without using table salt. Alternatively, add dried rosemary or sage to your mashed turnips, or boil turnip chunks with sliced carrots and mash the two veggies together for a side dish with natural sweetness.