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When it comes to vegetables, kohlrabi is probably one of the more unique-looking ones out there. Appearing like some sort of alien space-craft that would be more at home on a Star Wars planet than on planet Earth, this odd-ball crucifer has yet to gain wide-spread popularity in North America. For those looking to explore strange new vegetables, seek out nutrition, and boldly go where they haven’t gone before, it’s time to take a giant leap into the unknown and try this veggie!
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassicaceae (aka cruciferous) vegetable family. Along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, gai lan, kale and Savoy cabbage, kohlrabi is a cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea. All members of the family descended from wild cabbage, with the original species evolving over thousands of years into cultivars with different characteristics enjoyed as common veggies today. For instance, cultivars with large heads became cabbage, large leaves for kale, and thick stems with flower buds for broccoli. In the case of kohlrabi, selection of kale plants with short fleshy stems resulted in this vegetable which is a swollen or bulb-shaped edible stem. This occurred somewhere in Europe roughly 500 years ago, making it a relatively new vegetable. By the late 1500s, kohlrabi was being grown in many European countries including Austria, Germany, England, Italy and Spain, while in the US, it has been grown since the early 1800s. Its name comes from German, meaning “cabbage turnip” which is fitting since the swollen stem does kind of look “turnip-esque”. Not surprisingly then, this veggie is sometimes also referred to as ‘German turnip.’ In case you’re wondering what exactly this veggie looks and tastes like, let me explain. The outer color of kohlrabi varies from greenish white to reddish purple, while the flesh is white. The shape varies from round to that of a flattened globe – similar in appearance to an onion with leaves sticking out of it. Kohlrabi is sweet and tender, with a juicy, crisp texture, similar to an apple. Its taste has been described as that of a milder turnip, a cross between a cucumber and mild broccoli, or like broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder. It can be eaten raw or cooked and makes a great addition to salads and stir fries. In addition to the swollen stem, the leaves are edible, and can be used in place of kale or spinach. Today, this veggie is mainly produced in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and is popular in Asia and Europe, where it is a staple of German cuisine. Outside of these areas, sadly it is relatively unknown. Hopefully learning all the awesome nutrition kohlrabi has to offer will help you “stem” an interest in this “kool” veggie!
Nutrivore Score for Kohlrabi – 2497
Kohlrabi has a Nutrivore Score of 2497, making it a super nutrient-dense food! Plus, it is a low-carb and low-calorie-density food; the calorie count of kohlrabi is only 36 calories per cup!
Per serving, kohlrabi is a best source (>50% daily value) of glucosinolates and vitamin C; an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of polyphenols; and is a good source (10-20% daily value) of copper, fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
Kohlrabi Nutrition Facts
One serving of kohlrabi is standardized to 1 cup of kohrabi, or about 135 grams (4.8 ounces). When you cook kohlrabi, it loses some volume: one cup raw kohlrabi is equivalent to a little over 3/4 cup boiled kohlrabi.
|Kohlrabi, raw||Nutrivore Score: 2497||Nutrient Density: Super!|
|Serving Size: 1 cup (135 grams)||Protein: 2.3 grams||Net Carbohydrate: 3.5 grams|
|Calories: 36||Total Fat: 0.1 grams||Dietary Fiber: 4.9 grams|
|Vitamin A||2.7 μg RAE||0% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||67.5 μg||6% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||27.0 μg||2% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.5 mg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.2 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||202.5 μg||12% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||~||~|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||21.6 μg||5% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||83.7 mg||93% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.6 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin K||0.1 μg||0% DV|
|Choline||16.6 mg||3% DV|
|Calcium||32.4 mg||2% DV|
|Copper||174.2 μg||19% DV|
|Iron||0.5 mg||3% DV|
|Magnesium||25.7 mg||6% DV|
|Manganese||187.7 μg||8% DV|
|Phosphorus||62.1 mg||5% DV|
|Potassium||472.5 mg||10% DV|
|Selenium||0.9 μg||2% DV|
|Sodium||27.0 mg||1% DV|
|Zinc||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Kohlrabi Nutrition Varies With Cooking
The Nutrivore Score for kohlrabi varies depending on the method of preparation.
|Kohlrabi, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt||2402|
|Kohlrabi, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt||2402|
Health Benefits of Kohlrabi Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1-cup serving of kohlrabi and see how they benefit our health.
Kohlrabi Provides 399.6 mg of Glucosinolates
Kohlrabi is a phenomenal source of glucosinolates, providing a whopping 399.6 mg of glucosinolates per 1-cup serving!
Glucosinolates are well-studied sulfur-containing compounds which break down into bioactive isothiocyanates and indoles when vegetables are damaged (via chewing, cutting, or other processing).
Isothiocyanates (like sulforaphane) are absolute rock stars as far as human health is concerned! Research spanning human epidemiology, animal models, and in vitro experiments show that dietary isothiocyanates are inversely associated with bladder cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer; some evidence also suggests they may be able to improve ventricular function following heart attacks.
Indoles also have powerful cancer prevention benefits through multiple mechanisms that include modulation of phases I and II detoxification enzymes, regulation of cell cycle arrest, control of cell growth, induction of apoptosis, antioxidant activity, anti-angiogenic effects, and epigenetic regulation. Indole-3-carbinol breaks down into 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM), which is known for its anti-inflammatory, immune system modulating, cancer prevention and estrogen metabolism benefits.
Learn more about glucosinolates here.
Kohlrabi Provides 93% DV Vitamin C
Kohlrabi is also a rich source of vitamin C, providing an impressive 93% of the daily value per 1-cup serving!
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has powerful antioxidant properties (meaning it can help combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species) and that serves as an enzyme cofactor (meaning it’s needed for enzymes to do their job, for example vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis, which is essential for bones, joints, teeth, blood vessels, skin and eyes) and playing important roles in immune system and skin health. Higher intakes of vitamin C are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and gout. Vitamin C can also help regulate the stress response and reduce anxiety, and there’s preliminary evidence that it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about vitamin C here.
Kohlrabi Provides 226.8 mg of Polyphenols
Kohlrabi is an excellent source of polyphenols, providing 226.8 mg of polyphenols per 1-cup serving!
Polyphenols play a huge role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions associated with oxidative stress. In fact, a major reason foods like red wine and olive oil (as well as diets rich in both, such as the Mediterranean diet) show up as so beneficial may be due to their high polyphenol content! Along with chronic diseases, supplementing with polyphenols has been shown to protect against infections and reduce the signs of aging. Polyphenols exert their most potent effects by acting as antioxidants—preventing cellular damage by neutralizing hazardous oxygen radicals and improving cellular health as a result (which, in turn, benefits virtually every system in the body). As a result of their antioxidant properties, polyphenols also boost the immune system and protect against both chronic and acute diseases. In addition, polyphenols can help regulate enzyme function, stimulate cell receptors, modulate the functions of inflammatory cells (including T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and natural killer cells), alter adhesion molecule expression, affect nerve cells and cardiac muscle cells, and exert antiviral effects. Learn more about polyphenols here.
How Much Kohlrabi Should We Eat Per Day?
You know the old aphorism, a Brassica vegetable a day keeps the doctor away! Wait, that’s not how it goes? It should be!
Every serving of fresh, whole vegetables or fruit we eat daily reduces the risk of all-cause mortality by 5% to 8%, with the greatest risk reduction seen when we consume eight or more servings per day. In fact, consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits daily reduces all-cause mortality by 31% compared to eating less than 40 grams daily. A 2017 meta-analysis showed that 2.24 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, 660,000 deaths from cancer, and 7.8 million deaths from all causes could be avoided globally each year if everyone consumed 800 grams of veggies and fruits every day.
Eating vegetables and fruit in abundance lowers risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and bone fragility fractures (including hip fracture), cognitive impairment and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), neurodegenerative diseases, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, depression, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory polyarthritis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and lowers markers of inflammation. Learn more in Importance of Vegetables and Fruit.
Covering half of your plate with a variety of vegetables (and three quarters of your plate if your starchy food is a root vegetable or winter squash) at each meal is a simple way to easily achieve the goal of 800 grams daily (about 5 to 8 servings depending on the vegetable).
Studies show that, for every 100 grams of cruciferous veggies (like kohlrabi), we eat daily, all-cause mortality decreases by 24%!
Just remember, it’s always best to mix up the veggies you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week), and kohlrabi definitely has a place at the table.