The many health benefits of lettuce make it a superfood. So many types of lettuce: Romaine, iceberg, butter lettuce. Are they all the same?
It is often called ‘rabbit food’ or ‘the perfect weight loss food’ but it is much more. It is full of super-healing benefits and 20% protein by calories, it could be called ‘gorilla food’ instead.
Learn about the different types and discover all the nutrition benefits and history of this amazing superfood, and it’s few concerns.
Types of Lettuce
- Romaine – This is your classic Greek or Cesare salad. Sweet and crunchy and the lettuce full of the most health benefits.
- Iceberg – Crisphead. White on the inside. A nice crisp texture and a mild taste.
- Butter – Boston and Bibb lettuce. Large green leaves that are soft and sweet.
- Red and Green Leaf: delicate taste and leaves.
- Devils lettuce
Arugula, watercress, and mizuna are NOT classified as lettuce but are often mixed with lettuce in salads or salad mixes. They have similar nutritional benefits to lettuce.
Romaine Lettuce is Full of Health Benefits
Choose romaine if you can instead of iceberg.
Romaine has one of the highest nutritional values in the lettuce category. Most people are familiar with most of these types of lettuce but of them all, the iceberg has the least nutrition.
Each American consumed almost 11 pounds of Romaine lettuce in 2014 and 14 pounds of other lettuce. Obviously, they did not know that Romaine lettuce is the best! It certainly is my favourite lettuce.
Romaine Lettuce Nutrition is Superior
Comparing the two, Romaine has:
- Less sugar and sodium
- Twice the protein
- Twice the calcium
- Three times the Vitamin K
- Four times the iron
- Eight times the Vitamin C
- Seventeen times the Vitamin A (Nutritional data originally from USDA SR-21)
This follows the general rule to choose reds and green and dark coloured foods over whites to get more health benefits of lettuce.
This means that red and green leaf is more nutritional than iceberg as well.
Health Benefits of Lettuce
High in Fiber and Good For Weight Loss with Almost no Fat.
Lettuce has only 12 calories for 1 shredded cup. This is why it is so good for weight loss so you can eat all the lettuce you enjoy when wanting to lose weight.
Another reason it is good for weight loss is its high fiber content. This fiber also helps remove bile salts from the body. When the body replaces these salts it breaks down cholesterol to do so. This is why it is also good for your heart!
Great Source of Potassium Helps Lower High Blood Pressure
Is Heart Healthy
Lettuce’s vitamin C and beta-carotene work together to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. This prevents the build-up of plaque.
An increase of HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduction of the levels of LDL can also be found from consuming lettuce.
Omega-3 Fatty acids.
Romaine lettuce has a 2/1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. That’s a great ratio.
Calories in lettuce are not significant because there is so little fat. UNLESS you eat a lot but we actually suggest you do.
Romaine has 20 % of its calories in protein.
Like all whole foods, much of the protein in lettuce is complete but that amount can be increased by combining with balancing proteins.
Question: What does a 400-pound gorilla eat at the salad bar?
Answer: Anything he wants to!
I don’t imagine gorillas gain all that muscle by just eating lettuce but here is a short video of one doing that very thing!
Helps with Insomnia
The extracts of many lettuce types have been shown to help promote sleep. The white fluid that you see when you break or cut lettuce leaves is called lactucarium.
Lactucarium has relaxing and sleep-inducing properties similar to that of opium but without the strong side effects. Simply eat a few leaves or drink some lettuce juice. A wonderful health benefit of lettuce!
The minerals in lettuce help to remove toxins and keep your acid/alkaline balance in order. Once you are balanced, on this level there are a host of benefits including greater energy, clearer thinking, deep restful sleep, and youthful skin. Lettuce is a highly alkaline-forming food. An overly acidic condition weakens the body and can become dangerous. Our body requires a slightly alkaline condition to function well.
To read more go to Balance Your Body – With Alkaline Balance.
Low Glycemic Index
Lettuce has an average glycemic index of 15 but because it has so few calories its glycemic load is considered zero.
For anyone watching their blood sugars for medical reasons, this is great. A low glycemic index also is great for weight management.
Helps Lower Risk of Cancer
Chlorophyll which is found in dark leafy greens has been found in studies to lower the risk of some cancer.
Whole live food that Tastes Great
Lettuce is almost always eaten raw which has many micronutrients not found in cooked or processed food. Eating raw food also adds vital energies not isolated or recognized by nutritional science.
The large food corporations have not found a way to package lettuce long-term or stick it in cans or boxes. Let’s hope they never do!
In fact, lettuce is one of the few foods which can be found organic and prewashed already in bins for you to eat immediately.
Even though lettuce has very low calories, many varieties still have a sweet taste.
To get the maximum benefit from your food you should really WANT to eat it with your whole body not just your mind saying it is good for you. If you like the bitter taste you can find that too!
- Is an excellent source of vitamin k, folate, and molybdenum, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids).
- Good source of dietary fiber, manganese, potassium, biotin, vitamin B1, copper, iron, and vitamin C.
- A good source of vitamin B2, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, phosphorus, chromium, magnesium, calcium, and pantothenic acid
To learn what 1 cup of lettuce contains go to Lettuce Nutrients.
Interesting Facts and History
- Lettuce is part of the daisy and thistle family!
- It was served on the tables of the Persian kings – 6th century B.C
- It was revered by the Greeks and Romans for basic food and medicine (sleep induction)
- Emperor Caesar Augustus built a statue praising lettuce as he believed eating it had cured him of an illness!
- The Chinese consider lettuce good luck and make sure to eat it on special occasions.
- It was introduced to North America by none other than Christopher Columbus.
- Wild lettuce is common around the globe.
- Iceberg lettuce got its name at the beginning of the 20th century in California when there were not any refrigerators to transport it. To prevent spoilage, large amounts of ice were used in the trains on their trips to the market.
- Lettuce oozes small amounts of a milky white liquid when its leaves are broken. Its scientific name is Lactuca sativa and Lactuca is derived from the Latin word for milk.
- Lettuce was first called rabbit food in the 1930s.
“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.” ~ Charles Dudley Warner
How to Select the Lettuce To Get the Health Benefits
Any type of lettuce should have crisp unwilted leaves. You want to check the leaves for slimy or dark spots and the edges should not have yellow or brown discoloration.
Unless you buy organic, lettuce can contain a lot of toxins and pesticides. This is because:
- It has a high surface-to-weight ratio.
- Bugs and microorganisms love those tender lettuce leaves just as much as you.
Luckily organic lettuce has become easier to find and can be found in almost any grocery store now.
Lettuce is one of the top 20 fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides according to research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Like all soft green leafy vegetables, it is vulnerable and easily absorbs the pesticides because it does not have a thick protective skin like avocados do which have the least amount of pesticides according to EWG.
When it is commercially grown it is full of lots of chemical pesticides which makes it one of the top Dirty Dozen foods – those foods you SHOULD buy organic. Discover the other 11 foods here: 12 Foods You Must Eat Organic.
Even better is to grow your own lettuce. I love picking some from my garden and making a salad right away. This is the way to get the most health benefit from your lettuce. Sometimes all the seeds are sold like they were in the seed section I was in this week.
Here is where you can get Non-GMO Lettuce Seeds.
How to Store and Keep the Health Benefits of Lettuce
Lettuce is highly perishable; Romaine lettuce being the least perishable. Still to get all the health benefits of lettuce it needs to fresh.
For leaf lettuce or romaine, it should be washed and dried to remove any excess moisture. It will store longer if you tear the leaves away from the stem, wash and dry them well, then, store them in a plastic bag lined with paper towels or cloth to absorb any excess moisture as this will cause it to decompose quicker. You can also use green fabric bags. Store it in the fridge crisper. I find it will last for up to a week this way. If you store wet lettuce in a produce bag, it will likely only last a couple of days.
To avoid browning of the leaves you should always store any type of lettuce away from ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples, bananas, and pears.
A salad spinner is a great way to dry your lettuce without damaging the leaves.
Here Are Some Great Lettuce Recipes For You To Try and Get the Health Benefits
Perfect Vegetable Juice: Juicing is the perfect food for those with poor digestion and significant health challenges. This is my favourite juice to make. It was one of the things that helped to stabilize my health when I was unwell for 15 years. I drank 2 – 16 ounce glasses a day for two years and then went to one per day. To this day it is a favourite of mine. This alkalizing vegetable juice is full of vitamins and minerals in an assimilable form and makes a great start to your day.
Surprisingly Delicious Lettuce Sandwich: I love this sandwich because it is yummy and so easy to make! My father got me into these when I was a child as he would make them for us. With so few ingredients needed it makes a nice quick lunch.
Green Raspberry Smoothie/Pudding: This green raspberry smoothie pudding is so tasty. Also, it’s a very healthy smoothie. It’s a tasty pudding! No… It’s WHATEVER YOU LIKE! Green smoothies are easy to digest as they are blended into very small particles. Also, the fact is digestion begins in your mouth so it is better to eat than drink your smoothie. Green smoothies are full of nutrients and are a complete food with lots of fiber too.
Green Nori Salad: Enjoy the benefits of lettuce plus the nutritional punch from sea vegetables. This salad is simple, nutritious, and filled with flavour. Nori is high in protein, contains carbohydrates and almost no fat. It is rich in vitamins A, B2, niacin, B12, plus C and D.
Green Salad with Pecans and Pears: Here is a way to get lots of greens in with this green salad with pecans and pears. It is naturally sweet and when you add some pecans it becomes incredibly delicious. We know how important it is to get those greens into our bodies every day and sometimes it is easy to get stuck making the same salads, so here is a delicious way to enjoy them in my green salad with pecans.
Learn more about the most nutritious vegetarian foods you will always want to have in your fridge or growing in your garden.
READ: Superfoods – The most nutritious plants on the planet and learn more about the benefits of a plant-based diet.