Turnips and potatoes share quite a few similarities and are featured in many recipes around the world. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. What’s the difference between a potato and a turnip?
Turnips are the B. rapa species from the Brassicaceae family and potatoes are the S. tuberosum species from the Solanaceae family. Turnips have a white skin with a purple top and a white flesh. Potatoes have a beige to brown skin with a white to yellow flesh. Turnips average 6 inches long and potatoes 3-12 inches.
Other differences between the turnip and potato:
- Turnips taste sweeter than the starchier, earthy potato.
- Turnips costs approximately 50% more than potatoes.
- Turnips contain fewer calories and carbohydrates than potatoes.
- Potatoes contain a higher percentage of vitamins, fiber and minerals than turnips.
This article will include a side-by-side comparison of their nutrients. In addition, I’ll examine their tastes, textures, costs and whether one can substitute for the other. We’ll also take a look at their health benefits and glycemic index.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Turnip vs Potato Nutritional Comparison
There are some nutritional similarities and differences. Therefore, let’s take a look at the nutrients contained in each.
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the nutrients contained in turnips and potatoes:
|Potato Raw (100 g)||Turnip Raw (100 g)|
|Protein||1.68 g||0.90 g|
|Carbohydrates||15.7 g||6.4 g|
|Fiber||2.4 g||1.8 g|
|Fat||0.10 g||0.10 g|
|Sugar||1.15 g||3.80 g|
|Vitamin A||8 IU||0 IU|
|Beta-carotene||5 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||9.1 mg||21 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.20 mg||0.09 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||18 mcg||15 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.07 mg||0.04 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.03 mg||0.03 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||1.07 mg||0.40 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.28 mg||0.20 mg|
|Magnesium||21 mg||11 mg|
|Phosphorous||62 mg||27 mg|
|Potassium||407 mg||191 mg|
|Iron||0.52 mg||0.30 mg|
|Copper||0.11 mg||0.08 mg|
|Calcium||9 mg||30 mg|
|Zinc||0.29 mg||0.27 mg|
Both turnips and potatoes contain the same types of nutrients. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which one contains a higher percentage than the other. Are turnips healthier than potatoes?
Potato is healthier than turnips due to its higher percentage of fiber, vitamin A, B vitamins and minerals. Potato provides more B6, folate, thiamin, niacin, B5, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper and zinc than potatoes.
Turnips are also healthy and provide a good number of nutrients. Turnips provide a higher percentage of vitamin C and calcium than potatoes. Turnips contain fewer calories and carbohydrates than potatoes.
Both contain very little fat. Therefore, your choice may come down to availability, taste preferences or particular goals. One such goal may be weight loss. What’s better for weight loss, potatoes or turnips?
Turnips are better for weight loss due to their lower number of calories and carbohydrates. Turnips contain 140% fewer calories than potatoes. 100 grams of raw turnips contain 28 calories while potatoes contain 69 calories.
Turnips contain fewer carbohydrates than potatoes. Therefore, if you’re on a low carb or Keto diet, turnips are the better choice. Check out the Keto tip just below.
Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.
Which should you choose, turnip or potato?
Choose turnips if you’re solely aiming for a low-calorie diet and are sure you can get your vitamins and minerals from other sources. If you want a more robust food option with a healthier serving of many vitamins and minerals, it’s better to choose potatoes.
Also keep in mind the comparisons listed above are for raw vegetables. Processed turnips or potatoes will have a drastically different nutritional composition.
Similarly, pay attention to how you cook the vegetables and what ingredients you add. While potatoes are healthier overall, you may end up with a less healthy meal if adding traditional toppings like butter, sour cream or bacon.
Turnips vs Potato: Taste and Texture
If you cook turnips and potatoes without any spices, many people wonder if they’d be able to tell the difference between the two. Let’s answer, do turnips taste like potatoes?
Turnips taste different than potatoes. Turnips are slightly sweeter and have the spiciness of radishes and the savory taste of cabbage. Potatoes are starchier and earthy with no hint of spice.
If the turnips were harvested when they were older, you may get a slightly bitter flavor. Some people find turnips tasting like a cross between a potato and a carrot.
When potatoes are baked or fried, they get a golden, crispy crust with a pillowy inside. Potatoes get very soft when boiled, so people love turning them into silky smooth mashed potatoes.
Find out how potatoes compared to bread for health and nutrients in my article, Potatoes vs Bread: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Turnip and Potato Substitutions
There are times when only one of the two is available or you don’t want to run out to the store. In these situations you’ll wonder, are turnips a good substitute for potatoes?
Turnips and potatoes can substitute for each other although the taste and texture will differ. Turnips and potato can be used in the same recipes requiring boiling, baking, frying, soup, stews or mashing. Both can substitute for each other using the same weight called for in a recipe.
The following can substitute for turnips:
- Celery root
The following can substitute for potatoes:
- Sweet potato
- Red potatoes
- Any type of white potato
Alternatives to Potatoes and Turnips
If you’re looking for alternatives to turnips and potatoes, there are quite a few healthy options you can go with:
- Rutabagas. Rutabagas are vegetables containing the turnip and wild cabbage genes. They look like turnips but are bigger and generally taste better.
- Parsnips. This vegetable is a cross between carrots and parsnips and (in my opinion) tastes great.
- Celery Root. This is an interesting member of the parsley family. The crisp celery-parsley flavor makes it an excellent vegetable to eat raw, cooked or baked.
- Carrots. Carrots are the tastiest alternative to potatoes and turnips. You can eat them raw or cook them for the same soft feel you’d get from potatoes and turnips.
Turnips take slightly longer than potatoes to cook in most dishes. However, you can reduce the cooking time by slicing the vegetables thinner.
Cooking one inch turnip cubes will take around 15-20 minutes. If you’re looking to roast them in the oven, you’ll need to wait 20-30 minutes.
On the other hand, potatoes will take 10-20 minutes to become soft, no matter whether you boil them or roast them in the oven.
Find out if potatoes or rice have more nutrients in my article, Potato vs. Rice Nutrition: Which is Better?
Turnip and Potato Costs
With the rising prices of just about everything, the cost of something certainly matters to most. The price may sway your decision about which food to use. Therefore, which costs more, turnips or potatoes?
Turnips cost more than potatoes. The average price for potatoes is $0.99 per pound. The average price for turnips is $1.46 per pound.
Depending on where you live, it may be easier to find potatoes than turnips. Potatoes are readily available and affordable to purchase in any supermarket.
Smaller grocery stores will have potatoes by default but may have very little stock of turnips, depending on demand.
I conducted an extensive search for turnips and potatoes online.
I checked Safeway online and found the following turnip and potato prices:
- $1.49 per pound
- Idaho Gold potatoes
- $1.20 per pound
- Idaho Russet potatoes
- $0.60 per pound
- Red potatoes
- $1.20 per pound
- Russet potatoes
- $0.60 per pound
I checked Shoprite supermarket for the prices of potatoes and turnips:
- $1.44 per pound
- $0.99 per pound
I also checked Walmart and only found potato prices:
- $0.99 per pound
Turnips and potatoes are easy to find on Amazon and more affordable. Check their current prices, potatoes.
Additionally, even if you have both options, make sure to take your budget into consideration. If you’re on a tight budget, buying turnips may prevent you from being able to buy food that can round out your diet and provide you with your daily needs of calories, vitamins and minerals 3.
Find out how cassava compared to potatoes in my article, Cassava vs. Potato: Are They The Same? Let’s Compare.
How To Store Turnips and Potatoes
Whichever you choose or have on hand, proper storage is crucial. How you store them can affect how long they last before going bad and how they taste when cooked. Therefore, how do you store potatoes?
Store potatoes in a dark, cool place away from heat and do not store them in the refrigerator. A humid basement or root cellar is the best area. They should be kept in a burlap bag or ventilated container and stored between 40°F and 60°F.
Storing potatoes in a refrigerator can make the center hard and change the cell structure. This can diminish the flavor. If you don’t have a cool basement, store them in a ventilated place, away from heat and light.
How do you store turnips?
- Remove the greens and wipe off any soil.
- Cover the turnip in a damp cloth.
- Place the covered turnip into a ventilated container.
- Store in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
- Store up to 4 to 5 months.
To find out what the difference is between taro and potato check out my article, Taro vs. Potato – A Complete Comparison.
Turnip and Potato Glycemic Index
Knowing the glycemic index of food is important especially if blood sugar levels are a concern. Avoiding blood sugar spikes is an important part of consuming healthy food.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 4. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 5.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Now we know what the glycemic index is, and how it affects blood sugar, let’s answer, does turnips or potatoes have a higher GI?
Turnips have a similar GI when compared to Russet and Yukon Gold potatoes. Turnips have a GI of 62, a boiled russet potato has a GI of 54 and a boiled Yukon Gold has a GI of 58. Turnips are considered a medium GI food.
Potatoes all have different GI scores. In addition to how a potato is cooked, the heat of the potato when eaten affects the GI.
A study published in the Journal of the Diabetic Association found boiled potatoes eaten cold had a GI score of 56. When eaten hot the boiled potato had a GI score of 89 6.
Turnip and Potato Health Benefits
As noted in the nutrient section of this article, the nutrients provided by turnips and potatoes have many health benefits. Let’s examine how each one of these nutrients benefit health issues.
Turnips provides 1.8 grams of fiber and potatoes 2.4 grams per 100 gram serving. They both contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber remains in the digestive tract and provides gut related health benefits. Fiber rich diets have been linked to regular bowel movements and a lower risk of colon cancer 7.
Potatoes provide much more than turnips. Turnips provide 191 mg of potassium and potatoes 407 mg per 100 grams raw. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 8.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 9. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 10.
Turnips provide much more than potatoes. Turnips provide 30 grams of calcium and potatoes 9 mg per 100 grams.
Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 11.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Helps muscles function properly.
- Helps nerve function.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
Turnips provide 11 mg of magnesium and potatoes 21 mg per 100 grams. Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 12.
Magnesium helps control the following:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
- Nerve function
One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 13.
If you’re interested about how sweet potatoes held up against pumpkin for health and nutrition, check out my article, Pumpkin vs Sweet Potato: A Complete Comparison.
The B vitamins provided by turnips and potatoes include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Red blood cells.
- Brain function.
- Nerve function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Energy levels.
A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation. In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 14.
Potatoes provide 9.1 mg of vitamin C compared to 21 grams mg for turnips. The body can’t make vitamin C, so it must come from the foods ate every day.
Vitamin C has been shown in studies to help with the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body 15.
Vitamin C helps heal and repair wounds, maintain healthy bones, skin and cartilage. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and fights free radicals which damage the cells. Helping to prevent cell damage can help with the following:
- Heart disease.
- Certain diseases like cancer.
- Promote healthy aging.
Read Next – More Potato vs Food Articles!
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- USDA: Turnips, raw
- USDA: Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, raw
- USDA: Fruit and Vegetable Prices
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Glycemic index of potatoes commonly consumed in North America
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Vitamin C and Immune Function
- Wikipedia: Russet potato
- California Department Of Education: Potatoes, Russet
- USDA: Potatoes, Russet, Flesh and skin, baked
- The University of Maine: Potato Facts
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Potatoes, russet, flesh and skin, raw, 1 Potato large (3″ to 4-1/4″ dia)
- Food Source Information Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center Of Excellence: Potatoes
- Wikipedia: Potato
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Yukon Gold: Characteristics
- USDA: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
- University of Florida: University of Florida Potato Variety Trials Spotlight: Yukon Gold
- USDA: Macronutrients
- Wikipedia: Turnip
- USDA: Turnips
- USDA: Turnips, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt
- Hamilton: Turnips
- University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Root for the Turnip!
- Purdue University: Turnip