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The unsung hero of the cabbage family: Kohlrabi and its impressive health benefits

The unsung hero of the cabbage family: Kohlrabi and its impressive health benefits

Ever heard of kohlrabi?  Green or purple, this little-known vegetable packs a powerful punch of nutrients, including fiber and vitamin C.  And even though kohlrabi has long been popular in many European and Asian countries, it's growing in popularity here in the United States too, thanks to its potential health benefits.

If you've ever wondered what kohlrabi is, what it tastes like, why bother eating it, and how to consume it, this article has got you covered. 

Kohlrabi is related to cabbage, kale, and broccoli, but it's a standout vegetable on its own, too

As mentioned, kohlrabi is a cruciferous veggie, meaning it's related to better-known plants like broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, and Brussels sprouts. 

Sometimes called German turnip or turnip cabbage, kohlrabi has an acquired taste for some people (the Food Network describes its taste as the "peppery version of the insides of a broccoli stem" with "the sweetness of broccoli with a bit of the peppery spice of turnips or radishes").  It has a bulbous shape with leafy stems and is usually either pale green or purple in color. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of kohlrabi contains the following (and impressive) nutrition content: 

  • 36 calories
  • 5 grams of fiber (that's up to 20% of your daily recommended fiber intake!) 
  • 8 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of plant-based protein
  • 93% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C (gram for gram, that's more than the amount of vitamin C you'll find in a single orange!) 
  • 12% of the DV of vitamin B6
  • 10% of the DV of potassium 
  • 8% of the DV of manganese
  • 6% of the DV of magnesium
  • 5% of the DV of folate

These nutrients work together to support a wide range of important bodily functions, including:

  • Proper immune function
  • Brain and nervous system function
  • Gut health
  • Skin repair and elasticity
  • Metabolism
  • Red and white blood cell production

For this reason, eating kohlrabi as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can be a great way to support your overall well-being!  Kohlrabi may even support healthy weight thanks to its low-calorie, high-fiber properties that will help you fill you up without filling you out

Like other cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi is also known to contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing organic compounds shown to help block cancer cell growth, at least in laboratory studies.  This might help explain why some observational studies on humans have found a correlation between high levels of cruciferous veggie intake and a decreased risk of certain types of cancer.

How to enjoy kohlrabi 

If you can find kohlrabi at your local grocery store, natural foods market, or farmer's market, don't be afraid to buy it and try something new with your dinner this week! 

First, know how to prepare your new favorite veggie.  Use a vegetable peeler or very sharp knife to peel and discard the tough outer layer.  If eating raw - which is recommended, to preserve the crunch, texture, and nutrient content - try chopping or shredding your kohlrabi into small pieces using a knife, food processor, or mandolin.  If cooking, you might want to cut the kohlrabi into wedges or medallions, or use a food spiralizer to make "noodles."

Here are some classic ways to enjoy kohlrabi following the necessary food prep: 

  • Add it to a crudités plate and enjoy with hummus, olives, and other fresh veggies
  • Toss it with your favorite stir-fry 
  • Grill or roast with other veggies for a perfect side dish 
  • Grate or sprinkle over your daily salad
  • You can also try it steamed, boiled, and/or mashed (and even mix it into mashed potatoes to help "sneak" some more veggies into your kids' diet)

Sources for this article include:

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