By: Cat Ebeling, RN, MSN-PHN, co-author of the best-sellers: The Fat Burning Kitchen, The Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix
Passing by an odd-looking vegetable in the farmer’s market or produce section of the grocery store, you glance at it, but keep going. What is that, you ask yourself? It’s a kohlrabi, that’s what it is, and it’s definitely worth a try!
Kohlrabi (pronounced coal-Rob-ee), is one of the newest superstars of the cruciferous veggie family. Once, a rather rare spotting in local market, it is now poised to grab the superfood crown away from kale.
Kohlrabi has big light green or purple bulbs with leaves that are attached to the outside of it. It’s an odd looking vegetable for sure. The bulb is delicious if you skin off the tough outer skin and slice it up and eat it raw, or you can make slaw out of it. It has a crunchy taste a bit like a broccoli stem, but milder and sweeter. The leaves are edible too, with a taste reminiscent of collard greens, only with a milder taste.
Like other members of this famous star-studded family, kohlrabi is full of phytonutrients that protect your health by fighting cancer, lowering inflammation, and protecting your heart.
Kohlrabi contains a large amount of vitamins A, C and K, as well as B-vitamins. It also contains copper, manganese, iron, potassium, dietary fiber and calcium, and is rich in phytochemicals and carotenes as well. With this amazing supply of nutrients, it’s not surprising that kohlrabi offers immense benefits for your body. Some of those healthy benefits include:
• Digestive health
• Stable blood sugar
• Helps with weight loss
• Fights heart disease
• Helps lower blood pressure
• Fights cancer
The cruciferous vegetable family is known for its cancer-fighting abilities and kohlrabi is no slouch in this area. Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds known as glucosinolates, which are well-known for their ability to fight breast, cervical, colon, lung and other cancers. These glucosinolates also support detoxification, protecting your cells’ DNA, and preventing dangerous cell mutations like cancer.
Like the rest of the cruciferous family of collards, kale, radishes, arugula, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, this little darling kohlrabi contains myrosinase, which turns its sulfur-filled compounds into cancer-fighting bombs. These glucosinolates also transform into indoles, which prevent estrogen in the body from enhancing cancer cell growth.
Eating a diet high in cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lowered risk of many cancers, so it’s a safe bet to include kohlrabi in your diet on a regular basis.
However, when it comes to eating cruciferous veggies for their cancer-fighting potential, eating them raw or lightly cooked is best, says Dr. Paul Thornally, a food scientist at University of Warwick. Cooking cruciferous vegetables too long destroys the valuable myrosinase enzyme that fights cancer. Shredding also causes these vegetables to degrade more quickly, so if you are making slaw, shred right before eating.
Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure
By now we should all be aware that a diet high in fresh, organic vegetables helps fight heart disease for a number of reasons. All vegetables, especially cruciferous veggies have tons of powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals, protect the heart and blood vessels and lower inflammation.
One large study of adults ranging in age from 25 years to 74 years showed that there is an inverse association of fruit and vegetable intake with the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in the general U.S. population.
And the Journal of Nutrition showed that this analysis of several studies proved vegetable consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. By adding more vegetables like kohlrabi in your diet, you can certainly improve your heart and your health.
One of the most important indicators of potential heart disease is an inflammatory compound found in the body called “C-Reactive Protein” (CRP). Eating vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, especially beta carotene, like kohlrabi, reduces CRP. Lowering your level of CRP lowers your chances of heart disease and other harmful inflammatory diseases.
Many people who have high blood pressure are also at a higher risk of heart disease and strokes. Hypertension is a very common health issue that has an increased risk as you grow older. Often people have high blood pressure and don’t even know it. There are several good ways to lower blood pressure naturally, including a diet rich in vegetables like kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi contains a high levels of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant which protects against high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, cancer and inflammation in the blood vessels. Kohlrabi contains more vitamin C than an orange, which is over 100% of the recommended daily allowance. This all-purpose vitamin helps to keep the immune system strong, build collagen, help with healthier skin and gums, and fight diseases. So if you feel a cold coming on, grab a few kohlrabi and munch away!
Keeps Blood Sugar Low and Aids in Weight Loss
Kohlrabi and other cruciferous vegetables contain large amounts of fiber, as well as water, which makes you feel full, while the nutrients in kohlrabi satisfy your body. This prevents you from eating higher calorie, starchy, sugary processed foods that can make you gain weight.
Kohlrabi is very low in sugar or carbohydrates, so its delicious crunchy texture makes it a great substitute for crackers or chips for dipping. Its high fiber will also fill you up, while maintaining a low level of glucose. Next time you feel the munchies coming on, slice up a few kohlrabi and use them to dip into hummus or guacamole for a delicious snack that doesn’t make your blood sugar go up. This study of men in Finland showed that higher intakes of fruit, berries and vegetables that included kohlrabi resulted in a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Where to Find Kohlrabi
While kohlrabi used to be a rare sighting, it is starting to grow in popularity, because of its mild, slightly sweet taste and it’s store of amazing phytochemicals that protect your health.
Look for kohlrabi in the early spring and summer months and fall. There are several different varieties available, with the most common one being the light green globes. My favorite is the purple one, although when you peel away the tough outer skin, it’s a creamy white inside, no matter what color the outside is.
If the leaves are intact and the kohlrabi is fresh, the leaves are edible and delicious, much like collard greens with less bitter taste. You can lightly stir fry the greens, add it to soups or stews or even chop it up and add to your favorite salad or smoothie.
The bulb can be sliced up and eaten raw, or shredded into a slaw. This recipe for kohlrabi slaw with cilantro, jalepeno and lime looks amazing!
Kohlrabi is also delicious and mild cooked and can be added to stir fry, soups or your favorite dish. Dr. Josh Axe has this delicious curried cauliflower soup with kohlrabi in it, that you will absolutely love.
Enjoy your new favorite superstar vegetable!
Here in Malta kohlrabi has been grown by our farmers along the ages and raw kohlrabi (gidra -in Maltese) has always been part of our sandwiches and salads and of course soups.
However lately (I’m 75 years old) when I ate it, it produced flatulence. Why?
I don’t dare eat it. What can I do?
Jo, go ahead and fart to your heart’s content. It is natural to do so. I fart many times a day and have no regrets about it at all