Rutabaga (botanical name Brassica napus) belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables; rutabaga is well-known worldwide as swede. However, in most places in the western hemisphere, especially North America, this vegetable is known as rutabaga. Basically, rutabaga is a root vegetable, which is something like a cross between turnips and cabbage.
While the actual origin of this cruciferous vegetable is yet to be ascertained, almost everyone is of the belief that rutabaga is native to Russia and Scandinavia. During the 19th century, this vegetable was introduced into England and it soon became very popular, as people began eating it extensively. However, there is some evidence that people in North America harvested rutabagas in the beginning of the 19th century.
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The roots of rutabaga (Brassica napus) are cooked in various ways and consumed, while its leaves can be consumed in the form of a leafy vegetable. In addition, people also use the roots as well as tops of rutabagas to feed their livestock during the winter months. They are given to the animals directly, or the animals are allowed to forage the rutabaga plants in the fields.
Rutabagas have several uses, including therapeutic and culinary. Rutabaga contains potent antioxidant compounds. Rutabagas also contain glucosinolates, a rather rare variety of compounds containing sulfur. It has been found that glucosinolates are effective in reducing cancerous tumour growth in the body. In addition, this cruciferous vegetable contains loads of vitamin C and carotenoids, which serve as antioxidants. As antioxidants are effective in combating the detrimental free radicals, consumption of rutabagas helps to prevent the healthy cells of our body from being mutated and transformed into cancerous cells. In addition, rutabagas have also shown to be effective in putting off premature aging, encouraging the healthy regeneration of the cells in the tissues and organs and enhancing eyesight.
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Similar to other cruciferous vegetables, rutabagas also contain elevated levels of dietary fiber, which accounts for over 12 percent of an adult human being's daily requirement in a single serving. Dietary fibers have several functions in our body. However, they mainly improve digestion by means of building up stool and, at the same time, putting off constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. Since rutabagas are low in calorie content, but contains loads of nutrients, this vegetable is considered to be a vital part of any weight-loss diet. In addition, the elevated amounts of dietary fiber in rutabagas makes one feel full and not feel hungry for a long time. Most importantly, when you eat rutabagas, you actually cannot overeat.
Rutabagas contain considerable amounts of vitamin C. In fact, one serving of this cruciferous vegetable provides us with over 50 percent of our required daily allotment (RDA) of this nutrient in our diet. Our body requires vitamin C for various functions, including boosting the immune system to make plenty of white blood cells (leukocytes). In addition, vitamin C is an essential element for producing collagen, which is necessary for the development as well as healing of the muscles and tissues present in the skin. This vitamin is also essential for the health of our blood vessels. Findings of many studies have confirmed that consuming elevated amounts of vitamin C can directly help in preventing the development of colorectal cancer.
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Potassium is another valuable nutrient found in rutabagas. This essential mineral possesses the ability to lower high blood pressure by lessening stress as well as tightening of the blood vessels, allowing the blood to flow freely, thereby providing enough oxygen to different parts of our body. At the same time, potassium also helps in reducing the risks of blood clot formation. The combination of dietary fiber and potassium in rutabagas helps to lower the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood stream, thereby preventing serious conditions like atherosclerosis. Moreover, they also reduce the chances of suffering from strokes and heart attacks.
Rutabagas contain several essential minerals, counting calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Each of these minerals has vital functions in developing as well as maintaining bone tissues. Osteoporosis is one of the common bone related diseases affecting most people worldwide. Therefore, it is important to maintain the health of the bones and ensure that they remain strong as you grow older. Consumption of rutabagas may prove to be beneficial for this purpose.
Many vegetarians often complain that the foods they consume do not supply them with enough nutrients, especially proteins and essential minerals. In fact, rutabagas are a wonderful food for vegetarians, as they provide almost all the necessary proteins, which people find it difficult to get if they don't consume meat. In fact, proteins and amino acids form the building blocks for new cells and they are essential for stimulating proper growth, development, reproduction, healing, contraction of muscles and numerous other bodily functions.
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For instance, zinc is an essential element for several enzymatic functions all over the human body. The absence of such enzymatic functions will not only make our bodily functions ineffective, but may be responsible for several more dangerous health conditions. Rutabagas contain modest amounts of zinc and they are valued for this attribute.
In several cultures across the globe, rutabagas serve the purpose of potatoes, by substituting the latter. However, the carbohydrate content of this cruciferous vegetable is much less compared to potatoes. Carbohydrates break into simple sugars, with the potential to cause chaos in the body's glucose and insulin levels. Hence, on many occasions, rutabagas are used as substitutes for potatoes, especially for people with diabetes and those who wish to reduce their carb intake. It has been found that this cruciferous vegetable possesses the aptitude to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Although the carbohydrate content of rutabagas is just 20 percent less compared to same quantities of potatoes, they have added nutritional value. Therefore, it is always prudent as well as healthy to opt for rutabagas. Moreover, this vegetable is also delicious.
Rutabaga is consumed raw and even after cooking. People in Finland consume rutabaga after cooking it in various ways. They bake, roast and boil the vegetable and also use it to enhance the flavour of soups. Raw rutabaga is sliced into very thin pieces and added to salads or consumed as a side dish. Rutabaga is also a main ingredient of lanttulaatikko, a Swede casserole that is very popular during Christmas. In fact, Finns use this vegetable in almost all dishes which require a root vegetable.
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People in Norway and Sweden cook rutabaga together with potato and occasionally carrot. These vegetables are pounded together with butter either using stock or sometimes with cream or milk, to prepare a puree, which is locally known as rotmos (in Swedish, it denotes root mash). In Norway, this preparation is called kålrabistappe. Usually, people add onion to this dish. People in Sweden usually eat rotmos along with cured and simmered ham hock with mustard. This is a typical Swedish dish locally known as fläsklägg med rotmos. People in Wales also prepare a mash akin to the one made by the Norwegians and Swedish, but they only use rutabaga and potato in the recipe called ponch maip.
In Scotland, rutabaga and potato are boiled and subsequently crushed separately to prepare a dish called tatties and neeps (in Scotland, potatoes are called tatties). Traditionally, this preparation has been served along with haggis, the national dish of Scotland. Together, this forms a main course of any Burns supper. This preparation, however, varies from one region to another. In Orkney, people add onion to clapshot. In addition, people extensively use rutabagas in various types of stews and soups.
In England, people boil rutabaga along with carrots and butter and pulverized pepper before serving them either in the form of a puree or mashed. The water used to boil these vegetables is flavoured and, hence, they retain it for soup or for adding it to gravy. In fact, rutabaga is an important vegetable ingredient for cooking traditional Welsh lamb broth, which is locally known as cawl. In England, it is eaten as Irish Stew. In addition, this vegetable also forms an important ingredient of the well-liked condiment called Branston Pickle. Rutabaga is among the four traditional components of the pasty that has its origin in Cornwall and Devon.
People in Canada use rutabaga in the form of a dietary fiber in various foods like Christmas cake and mincemeat. In Atlantic Canada, people use this vegetable in the form of a side dish along with their Sunday dinner.
In the United States, people mainly consume rutabaga as a part of casseroles or stews. They prepare this vegetable by mashing it along with potatoes or bake it in a pasty. Rutabaga is a common vegetable in the boiled dinner of people residing in New England.
Apart from chances of developing allergic reactions, no other reported health risks of using rutabaga have been reported so far. Even the incidences of allergy are somewhat rare. Nevertheless, any individual who is allergic to cabbage, turnips, spinach or any other cruciferous vegetable should check with their physician before they start using rutabaga to know whether this vegetable is suitable for them.