Guideline for Lettuce Nutrition
Almost every restaurant meal begins with a delicious salad; healthy with fresh vegetables and some type of lettuce; nutrition, for those who are diet conscious, varies between lettuce types, with certain types offering a better value for health than others.
Lettuce is a rather generic term for a large group of leafy vegetables. Hundred of lettuce types are narrowed down to be grouped under and included within 6 cultivars. These cultivars are:
- Crisp head
- Loose leaf
- Summer crisp
While each cultivar is considered “lettuce”, nutrition varies with each type. When these leafy vegetables are used in a diet, it can be beneficial to know which provide the greatest nutrition in order to obtain the nutrient values you need.
Crisp head lettuce is one of the most common lettuces. It is better known among consumers as iceberg lettuce. Crisp in texture and light in flavor, iceberg or head lettuce is used as the main ingredient in many salads, as a sandwich addition and can be shredded as a topping for tacos or tostados. It has great value as a dietary food, as it is extremely low in calories, absolutely no fat or cholesterol, yet containing vitamin K, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and a good source of dietary fiber.
Lettuce types termed as loose leaf is that which grows in bunches of individual leaves instead of forming a head. Many varieties fall under this category, with a diverse range of colors, sizes and textures. Containing vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, vitamin C and calcium, loose leaf lettuces can provide a gardener with a long harvesting season of delicious leaves as the plant regenerates with frequent picking. The texture of loose leaf varieties is rather limper than that of crisp head, while still maintaining a good bite. Calories are still very low with this cultivar.
A different type of lettuce that is best eaten cooked rather than raw is Asian lettuces. With a bitter flavor and often a bulky stem, these varieties can be stir fried along with other vegetables. In some types, it is only the stem which is eaten, boiled and eaten as a side dish. Though it may be prepared differently, it is still low in calories on its own; only 11 calories per serving.
Butterhead lettuce has a very unique texture, with its name descriptive of that consistency. Smooth and buttery, the flavor is still very light with this lettuce; nutrition details include 2 grams of fiber per serving, no cholesterol, scant sodium, excellent source for both vitamin K and A as well as both Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Dark leafy greens have long been touted as a health benefit, and romaine lettuce fits squarely into that category. Vitamins A and K, folate and potassium top the list of nutrition in this food that is extremely low in calories. It offers more in the way of flavor than many of the other lettuces, enabling the lettuce leaf to have merit on its own as food. Leaves, which are long and wide, can be used as a wrapping for meats or other vegetables and eaten as a sandwich.
Between the mild mannered iceberg and the slightly sharp romaine is the summer crisp. More alike in texture to the iceberg, this variety has more flavors to it, yet with a sweeter finish. With curly tips to the leaves, the summer crisp is as attractive as it delicious. It shares the same nutritional value as romaine.
Whether salads are eaten as dietary considerations or simply for enjoyment, knowing the types of lettuce that offer the best nutritional value may aid in choosing which salad accompanies your next meal.