6 Delicious Reasons To Love Kohlrabi, According to an RD

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Imagine a vegetable that looks like a cross between an alien spaceship and a turnip, and you've got kohlrabi. A member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and kale, this unassuming vegetable, with its bulbous shape and crisp texture, boasts a subtle sweetness that sets it apart from its cruciferous counterparts. When it comes to kohlrabi benefits, this veg is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber making it a nutritional powerhouse that deserves more attention, which it seems to finally be getting.

As food trends continue to evolve, kohlrabi's unique qualities and culinary flexibility have contributed to its increased presence in kitchens and on menus, elevating it from an overlooked vegetable to a celebrated ingredient.

Experts In This Article

“While it’s widely consumed in Europe and Asia, kohlrabi has just started to gain more interest in the U.S. due to its unique look and delicious taste,” says New York-based registered dietitian Samina Kalloo, RDN, CDN. But beyond being a tasty addition to many recipes, kohlrabi is packed with nutrition, making it a smart choice for our overall health as well. Learn all about what this lesser-known veggie is, how it benefits our health, and ways to use it in the kitchen, here!

What is kohlrabi?

While often referred to as “German turnip,” kohlrabi is not part of the root veggie family. However, it’s no wonder it acquired this nickname as the word kohlrabi comes directly from the German language, with “kohl” translating to cabbage and “rabi” to turnip. Despite its bulbous, root-looking appearance, adorned with leafy shoots, kohlrabi (scientific name Brassica oleracea, variety gongylodes) is a member of the brassica vegetable family just like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. The entire plant grows above ground and its globe, shoots, and leaves are all edible. The exterior of this alien-like veggie can be either green or purple, though some varieties have white or even blue skin. Regardless of the skin color, the interior will always be off-white, similar to a parsnip.

From kohlrabi, you can expect a mild, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of pepper and notes of broccoli and cabbage. With a satisfying crunchy texture, it can be enjoyed either raw or cooked, but cooking will soften its texture significantly. And while the kohlrabi growing season varies depending on location, it’s generally considered to be a cooler weather veggie, harvested during early spring, fall, or winter—though you’ll often find it at summer farmers markets as many grow it during the warmer months, too. Your best bet for finding it at the grocery store is usually during fall or winter; however, as this vegetable grows in popularity, more and more supermarkets are carrying it year-round.

6 kohlrabi benefits to keep in mind

Thanks to its robust nutrition profile, kohlrabi has so much to offer. It’s notably high in water, fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium, folate, calcium, and vitamins C and B6. You’ll also find plenty of plant compounds1 in this crunchy veggie, including phenolic acids, anthocyanins, glucosinolates, and isothiocyanate, especially in its skin2.

As you might imagine, these nutrients translate into some pretty impressive health benefits, here are some of the most noteworthy:

Supports immune health

Between the vitamin C and plant compounds found in kohlrabi, this tasty veggie boosts our immune health from multiple angles. “One cup of raw kohlrabi contains 62 milligrams of Vitamin C per serving, which provides about 84 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for women and 70 percent of the RDA for men,” says Kalloo. “Vitamin C protects cells against the impact of free radicals, strengthening the immune system.”

The plant compounds found in this vegetable also work to reduce inflammation in the body while warding off free radicals or unstable molecules at the root of many acute and chronic illnesses. Interestingly, vitamin B6 also plays a key role in maintaining a strong immune system through regulating immune responses3. Further, “current research4 suggests that glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals found almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables such as kohlrabi, exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and chemo-protective effects, aka anti-cancer benefits,” shares Kalloo. Evidence5 even points to kohlrabi having antibacterial effects, likely due to the action of these nutrients.

Boosts heart health

This brassica also champions heart health through the fiber, potassium, and plant compounds it boasts. The soluble fiber found in kohlrabi binds to dietary cholesterol in the small intestine, helping to rid it from the body instead of being absorbed into the blood where it can contribute to plaque build-up in and  on the veins and arteries, aka atherosclerosis.

Proper potassium intake is linked with better blood pressure regulation6, especially amongst those with hypertension, or prolonged high blood pressure levels. Plus, this mineral is a major electrolyte, promoting healthy heart rhythms7.

What's more, all the plant compounds found in this strange-looking veggie will reduce inflammation to support heart health—anthocyanins are particularly beneficial for heart health8. This is due to their ties to healthier blood pressure levels9 and reduced risk for cardiac events like heart attack and stroke10. Plus, one study11 found increased intake of cruciferous vegetables like kohlrabi to be linked with a lower risk for atherosclerosis-related vascular disease (a type of heart disease) and related mortality in older women.

Helps maintain metabolic health

The nutrients found in kohlrabi also aid in better metabolism. The fiber it contains helps to slow digestion, regulating the blood sugar response for more stable energy levels and blood sugar management in those with and without metabolic health concerns like diabetes. In fact, kohlrabi has been deemed an anti-diabetic agent12 due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential.

Meanwhile, the vitamin B6 found in kohlrabi plays a supporting role in more than 100 enzymatic reactions13 in the body, including those that help to metabolize carbs, fats, and protein. Similarly, the vitamin C found in the plant is crucial to optimal dietary iron absorption14.

Promotes gut health

Both the water and fiber abundant in kohlrabi help this veggie are good for your gut and digestive health as well. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promotes overall digestive regularity while combating common gastrointestinal (GI) complaints like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. However, the soluble fiber it offers takes these benefits one step further by acting as a prebiotic in the gut microbiome. Prebiotics are food for our healthy gut bacteria, helping the microbiome, a community of trillions of microorganisms in the large intestine, thrive. The gut microbiome is intricately linked with not only our gut health but our immune and overall health as well.

Finally, the water in kohlrabi helps food to move more easily through our GI tract while enabling fiber to function appropriately and clear out waste.

Encourages brain health

Through the support of the gut microbiome, kohlrabi also promotes better brain health. This is because the health of the gut and brain are closely related through a connection called the gut-brain axis. This means that if our gut microbiome isn’t in tip-top shape, our mental and overall brain health may suffer and vice versa. Also, kohlrabi’s vitamin B6 is a significant contributor to neurotransmitter creation. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules in the brain, vital to healthy brain cell communication.

Last, but not least, the anthocyanins in kohlrabi are considered to be neuroprotective agents15, helping to safeguard us from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

There are also a few bonus benefits of kohlrabi worth mentioning

One of which is skin health, which it promotes through the collagen-synthesizing vitamin C16 and hydrating water kohlrabi contains. The other perk is bone health: “The calcium and magnesium in kohlrabi support bone health and muscle function,” explains Kalloo. The manganese it contains also offers similar bone-boosting benefits17.

Ways to enjoy kohlrabi

With all these impressive health-promoting benefits of kohlrabi, you may be itching to give this up-and-coming veggie a try, if you haven’t already.

But before doing so, there are a few tips for choosing and storing kohlrabi you should know. At the farmers market or grocery store, look for a kohlrabi bulb that feels heavy in your hands, is free of cracks or bruising, and shows no sign of mildew or rot.

While some kohlrabi will be sold only as a bulb, those with their stems and leaves attached are a better buy as these parts of the plant are both nutritious and delicious—just make sure the stems and leaves aren’t showing any signs of wilting. And, as with many other veggies, the smaller the kohlrabi, the more tender its texture, which is optimal for raw applications.

In terms of storage, ideally, you want to separate the bulb from the leaves and stems as they have different shelf lives. The kohlrabi bulb will stay fresh in a resealable bag in the fridge for anywhere between seven and 10 days, while the leaves and stems should also be stored in a resealable bag with a paper towel, though they’ll only stay fresh for three to five days. You can chop the bulb and store it in an airtight container for up to a year in the freezer as well.

When prepping this veggie, you can either keep the skin on or remove it if it looks tough after washing. However, if the skin isn’t too thick or you’ll be cooking your kohlrabi, leave it on as it’s super nutrient-dense. For raw preparation, kohlrabi makes for the perfect crunchy salad or slaw ingredient and is excellent as crudité.

Meanwhile, cooked kohlrabi is a delicious soup, stew, or stir-fry addition. Both the bulb and stems and leaves can be either roasted, sauteed, or grilled with garlic and chili for a savory side dish. You can even spiralize the bulb of kohlrabi for a low-carb pasta swap or smash it up with butter and milk for a potato-free mash.

Whether it's the culinary potential or impressive health benefits of kohlrabi that’s grabbed your attention, there are so many delectable reasons to give this brassica a try, so don't let its unusual shape put you off. “Kohlrabi looks more intimidating than it is to cook," Kalloo says. "You’ll be pleasantly surprised by its mild, yet tasty flavor and how simple it is to prepare."

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Paśko, Paweł et al. “Health Promoting vs Anti-nutritive Aspects of Kohlrabi Sprouts, a Promising Candidate for Novel Functional Food.” Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) vol. 76,1 (2021): 76-82. doi:10.1007/s11130-020-00877-1
  2. Rahim, Md Abdur et al. “Identification and Characterization of Anthocyanin Biosynthesis-Related Genes in Kohlrabi.” Applied biochemistry and biotechnology vol. 184,4 (2018): 1120-1141. doi:10.1007/s12010-017-2613-2
  3. Qian, Bingjun et al. “Effects of Vitamin B6 Deficiency on the Composition and Functional Potential of T Cell Populations.” Journal of immunology research vol. 2017 (2017): 2197975. doi:10.1155/2017/2197975
  4. Connolly, Emma L., et al. “Glucosinolates From Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Potential Role in Chronic Disease: Investigating the Preclinical and Clinical Evidence.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 12, 2021, https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.767975.
  5. Ben Sassi, Ahlem et al. “Volatiles, phenolic compounds, antioxidant and antibacterial properties of kohlrabi leaves.” Natural product research vol. 36,12 (2022): 3143-3148. doi:10.1080/14786419.2021.1940177
  6. Filippini, Tommaso et al. “Potassium Intake and Blood Pressure: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of the American Heart Association vol. 9,12 (2020): e015719. doi:10.1161/JAHA.119.015719
  7. Toto, Robert D. “Serum Potassium and Cardiovascular Outcomes: The Highs and the Lows.” Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN vol. 12,2 (2017): 220-221. doi:10.2215/CJN.00030117
  8. Wallace, Taylor C. “Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 2,1 (2011): 1-7. doi:10.3945/an.110.000042
  9. Igwe, E. O., Charlton, K. E., & Probst, Y. C. (2019). “Usual dietary anthocyanin intake, sources and their association with blood pressure in a representative sample of Australian adults.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Cardiovascular Disease, vol. [volume number, if available], no. [issue number, if available], pp. [page range, if available]. Published online 27 March 2019. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12647
  10. Cassidy, Aedín et al. “Habitual intake of anthocyanins and flavanones and risk of cardiovascular disease in men.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 104,3 (2016): 587-94. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.133132
  11. Blekkenhorst, Lauren C et al. “Cruciferous and Allium Vegetable Intakes are Inversely Associated With 15-Year Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease Deaths in Older Adult Women.” Journal of the American Heart Association vol. 6,10 e006558. 24 Oct. 2017, doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.006558
  12. Jung, Hyun Ah et al. “Anti-Diabetic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Green and Red Kohlrabi Cultivars (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes).” Preventive nutrition and food science vol. 19,4 (2014): 281-90. doi:10.3746/pnf.2014.19.4.281
  13. Brown, Mary J., et al. “Vitamin B6 Deficiency.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2023, Jan-. Updated 8 Aug 2023. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470579/
  14. Lane, Darius J R, and Des R Richardson. “The active role of vitamin C in mammalian iron metabolism: much more than just enhanced iron absorption!.” Free radical biology & medicine vol. 75 (2014): 69-83. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.07.007
  15. Smeriglio, Antonella et al. “Chemistry, Pharmacology and Health Benefits of Anthocyanins.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 30,8 (2016): 1265-86. doi:10.1002/ptr.5642
  16. Pullar, Juliet M et al. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients vol. 9,8 866. 12 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9080866
  17. Rondanelli, M., Faliva, M. A., Peroni, G., et al. “Essentiality of Manganese for Bone Health: An Overview and Update.” Natural Product Communications, vol. 16, no. 5, 2021, doi:10.1177/1934578X211016649.

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