Lettuce is such a commonplace ingredient that it’s often only thought of for its crunchiness in salads or as a sandwich filler, but are all lettuces equal? Is one lettuce healthier than another? Here we look at the different types of lettuce commonly found on our grocery shelves and their health benefits.
Creamy butter lettuce, crunchy cos lettuce, basic iceberg – we all have a preference, right? And sometimes this is based on texture and sometimes this is based on the purpose of the lettuce, but is one any better – for our health – than another? Does one contain more nutrients than another?
All lettuces are a great addition to salads, sandwiches, wraps, side dishes or as a little snack (think of tuna mayo on a little crunchy cos lettuce leaf) and we have a huge variety readily available.
The Nutrients In Lettuce
– Lettuce is full of fibre, vitamins and minerals, while containing very few calories.
– Lettuce contains beta-carotene (an antioxidant that helps fight free-radical damage) and lutein (an antioxidant that helps to preserve our eyesight as we age).
– In general, lettuce that is darker green in colour is a better source of nutrients than lighter coloured lettuce.
– Eating lettuce also adds to your daily fluid count as they contain a fair bit of water.
Romaine Lettuce has been touted as one the more nutrient-dense lettuces. Here’s what cup of shredded Romaine Lettuce contains: 8 calories, 1.6g carbohydrates, 1g fibre, 0.6g protein, 0g fat
8mg sodium, 64mcg folate, 205mcg vitamin A, 48mcg vitamin K (40% DV).
But why is it said to be the best in terms of nutritional value? One head of romaine lettuce contains nearly 45% of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of omega-3s, 20% of your RDA of calcium, 10% of your RDA of Vitamin C, 213% of your RDA of folate and 535% of your RDA of vitamin K.
Red-leaf varieties of lettuce, compared to romaine, provide more vitamin K, slightly more iron and slightly fewer calories — while romaine offers more fibre and vitamins A and C.
Iceberg lettuce only contains about 1 calorie per leaf, so it’s the lowest in calories and has a higher water content than other lettuces, but it does not contain as many nutrients.
So which lettuce should you choose? They’re all great as an addition to our meals, but we cannot survive on lettuce alone. Make your meals work harder for you by mixing up your lettuce with other nutritious dark-green leaves, such as kale and spinach.
Contact a dietician or your GP for a tailor-made meal plan or nutritional advice to help you meet your health and weight-loss / management goals.