Like many people, you may have heard of kohlrabi but perhaps you're not sure exactly what it is or what to do with it. Kohlrabi actually belongs in the cabbage family and looks a lot like a turnip but has leaves extending out of the edible part of the plant, which looks like a big, round stem. Many people falsely believe that kohlrabi is a root vegetable. Kohlrabi can be found in both white (which really looks more like a light-green color) and purple varieties. Kohlrabi is being praised for its powerful nutrient content and tasty flavor.
How Kohlrabi is Enjoyed
The flavor of kohlrabi has been described as being mild and similar to a white turnip, cabbage or the stem of broccoli. Kohlrabi can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Because of its crisp, juicy texture and slightly spicy flavor, raw young kohlrabi can easily be thrown into a colorful summer salad or added to cabbage in a quick, tasty slaw. Peel off the the thick outer layer and the next fibrous layer underneath. Once you peel those first two parts, you'll reach the layer of juicy flesh you can eat.
Kohlrabi is also delicious when cooked. Roast, grill or steam kohlrabi to bring out its natural sweetness, and utilize fresh herbs rather than salt to add flavor. If you're looking to bulk up your soups or stews without bulking up your waistline, kohlrabi is your new best friend. The water and fiber content of kohlrabi makes it super-filling--excellent for weight loss.
But why stop there? Don't discard those tender leaves--they can be easily cooked like other greens. Simply saute them with a little oil and your favorite spices and seasonings or toss them into a quick, nutritious, veggie-filled stir-fry. Add some tofu, beans, eggs or lean meat or fish and you've got yourself a quick, well-balanced, nutrient-filled dish that's sure to please even the pickiest eater.
A Nutrient Powerhouse
Kohlrabi is one of nature's most nutrient-dense foods, meaning it provides a plethora of beneficial compounds for very few calories. In fact, a 1-cup serving of cooked kohlrabi (slices, boiled and drained, 165-grams) provides a mere 48 calories but gives you about 2 grams of dietary fiber. In addition to fiber's ability to lower cholesterol and improve bowel function, it's also responsible for keeping you feeling full for longer.
Kohlrabi is also loaded with vitamins and minerals. One serving contributes an impressive 89 mg of vitamin C, which is 149% of the Daily Value (DV). Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, meaning it prevents cells in your body from being damaged by fighting off disease-promoting free radicals.
Kohlrabi is also a good source of vitamin B6 (0.3 mg, 13% DV). In addition to these disease-fighting vitamins, kohlrabi provides mighty minerals, including potassium (561 mg, 16% DV), copper (0.2 mg, 11% DV) and manganese (0.2 mg, 12% DV). The potassium in kohlrabi may help prevent high blood pressure, and copper and manganese are important for proper iron absorption and metabolism.
Much like its fellow cruciferous vegetables, kohlrabi also houses many disease-fighting phytochemicals, including isothiocyanates, indoles, anthocyanins (in the purple type of kohlrabi) and sulforaphane. These powerful plant compounds, which aren't lost during cooking, have been shown to provide protection from cancers of the prostate and colon and also act as anti-inflammatories.
Don't let the awkward outer appearance of kohlrabi keep you from trying it. It's not only high in beneficial nutrients and low calories, it's also incredibly delicious.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.