The latest health food getting many second glances from health foodies during cold and flu season is an old, traditional Japanese favorite: pickled turnips. And while Westerners may close their minds and mouths at first when it comes to trying this Eastern cultural dish at first, research is showing that pickled turnips may just live up to the immune strengthening hype after all.
Suguki are pickled turnips, a traditional Japanese dish that is available at many authentic Japanese restaurants. Japanese traditionalists have long been singing the praises of its many medicinal properties, and the song has now begun to finally spread to the scientific community.
Under the direction of lead researcher Ms. Naoko Waki, of Kagome Co. Ltd., a research team investigated the potential immunological effects of Lactobacillus brevis KB290, a bacteria found in Suguki. Unlike many bacteria, Lactobacillus brevis is remarkably tolerant to acidic stomach juices, due to a protective layer of sugars the bacteria possess called exopolysaccharides.
A group of mice were exposed to the flu virus, and were then fed a strain of Lactobacillus brevis. The study, published in the Society for Applied Microbiology’s journal Letters in Applied Microbiology, shows that the bacteria in Suguki successfully helped to protect the mammals against the influenza virus.
The hope is that other health foods rich in this bacteria will also help the human body produce immune system molecules and antibodies that destroy virus infected cells. To further this research, a priobiotic drink made from traditional Japanese pickled turnips is now being tested on humans, to see if the immune boosting results will be the same.
While more research is needed to determine the role that pickled turnips and Lactobacillus brevis bacteria play on the human immune system, there are some things we do already know for certain: turnips are a health food that are packed with vital, health promoting nutrients.
A low calorie root vegetable, turnips are stock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They are rich in vitamin C, which helps to eradicate free radicals, to fight inflammation and to strengthen the immune system. The leafy greens of turnips are even more nutritious than the roots themselves, containing vitamin C and K, lutein, carotenoid and xanthin. The fresh greens are an excellent source of a B-complex group of vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin and folates, as well as iron, copper, manganese and calcium minerals.
Turnips help protect against heart disease and heart attacks, improve digestive health and help prevent against bone disease and osteoporosis. High fiber turnips also help regulate metabolism and body weight. Pickled or not, you can’t go wrong with turnips – so hit your local Japanese restaurant this cold and flu season, and give them a try for yourself.