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What is the healthiest lettuce: Lettuce: Health benefits, nutrition, calories, vitamins and minerals

Lettuce: Health benefits, nutrition, calories, vitamins and minerals

Leslie Beck

Special to The Globe and Mail


What’s the most nutritious lettuce?


All lettuce is healthy

All types of lettuce are good for you. As a vegetable, lettuce provides fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals for very, very few calories. With respect to vitamins, lettuce is a source of folate, a B vitamin needed to make and repair DNA in cells, and vitamin K, a nutrient linked to healthy bones. You also get potassium, a mineral important for healthy blood pressure, as well as a little calcium in lettuce.

Lettuce is also a good source of two phytochemicals: beta-carotene and lutein. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals. In fact, its antioxidant properties are thought to help prevent certain cancers and other diseases.

Lutein is also an antioxidant that helps preserve our eyesight as we age. Once consumed, lutein makes its way to the eye where it protects the retina and lens from free radical damage. Research shows that people who have high intakes of lutein from foods are less likely to develop cataract and macular degeneration. (Macular degeneration attacks the central part of the retina called the macula, which controls fine, detailed vision. The condition results in progressive loss of visual sharpness and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older adults. )

Recipe: Three ideas for those who love salads full of flavour and texture

Add these 10 nutrient-rich foods to your diet to promote longevity

Green leaf lettuce vs. iceberg vs. romaine: Which is best?

That said, you can’t count on all types of lettuce to be a good source of all vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In general, lettuce that is darker green in colour is a better source of nutrients than lighter coloured lettuce. So, to answer your question, the most nutritious lettuce is Romaine. Compared to red leaf, green leaf, butterhead (Boston and bib types) and iceberg, it delivers more folate, potassium, beta carotene and lutein.

When it comes to getting the most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants per serving, here’s my rating of types of lettuce from most to least nutritious: Romaine, green leaf, butterhead (Boston, bib), red leaf, and finally, iceberg.

The nutritional value of lettuce

Per one cup serving (shredded), Romaine has 2.5 milligrams of beta-carotene, 1.1 milligrams of lutein and one-third of a day’s worth of folate. Compare that to iceberg, the least nutritious type of lettuce: one cup (shredded) contains 0.2 milligrams of beta-carotene, 0.2 milligrams of lutein and only one-third of the folate found in Romaine.

The Healthiest Lettuces and Salad Greens, Ranked Kale and Spinach

The Healthiest Lettuces and Salad Greens, Ranked Kale and Spinach

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When it comes to the leafy greens you put in your salads, not all are created equal.

So which leaves and lettuces should you use in your salad to justify the croutons, bacon, and tasty dressing you add?

We’re here to help you find the most nutritious ones.

In similar rankings published in the past, we’ve relied on  the CDC’s 2014 list of “powerhouse foods”. But this time, we factored in how many nutrients (specifically potassium, fiber, protein, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and B6) the greens pack per calorie. 

Of course, none of the veggies on this list are bad for you, and you won’t necessarily be worse off for picking one over another. 

This article was initially posted in June 2017. 

12. Arugula (sometimes called rocket)

Flickr/thebittenword. com

Arugula’s distinct peppery taste doesn’t quite correlate with a high nutritional content. While it does have some vitamins, it lacks other nutrients that other greens boast.

Calories per cup: 6

11. Iceberg lettuce

William Wei, Business Insider

It’s no surprise that iceberg lettuce is among the least nutritious greens to put in a salad. In fact, Chick-fil-A has even banned the veggie from its stores, allegedly because of its low nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce has about only 7% of your daily vitamin A per cup, and only 3% of daily vitamin C — among the lowest on this list.

Calories per cup: 10

10. Radicchio

Wikimedia Commons

Radicchio is a member of the chicory family. It’s packed with vitamin K, containing more than 100% of your daily value.

Calories per cup: 9

TIE – 8. Watercress


Watercress, with its little round leaves, was considered the top powerhouse food in the CDC study. However, by our metrics, it didn’t pack in as many nutrients as others on the list. It’s high in vitamins A, C, and K and incredibly low in calories.

It’s also linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and is not too hard to grow.

Calories per cup: 4

TIE – 8. Leaf lettuce

Wikimedia Commons

One of the more nutritious of the lettuce family, leaf lettuce is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamins A and K. 

Calories per cup: 5

7. Endive


Endive, also a kind of chicory, is fill of vitamin K, and a cup has 20% of your daily vitamin A intake. The frisée — or curly endive — in salads is also part of this plant.

Calories per cup: 8

6. Chard


With its defining red (or rainbow) stems, chard is among the top powerhouse foods because of its low calorie count and high levels of nutrients. It has the most vitamin K of any leafy green on this list, at nearly 300% of your daily value per cup. Chard also contains a fair amount of magnesium, which is important for things like muscle and nerve function, blood-glucose control, and blood-pressure regulation.

Calories per cup: 7

5. Butter lettuce

Flickr/Anita Hart

Also called Boston or bibb lettuce, butter lettuce is the most nutritious of the lettuces on this list. The leaves are higher in folate, iron, and potassium than iceberg or leaf lettuces.

Calories per cup: 7

4. Romaine

liz west/Flickr

Romaine ranked among the top 10 “powerhouse foods,” by the CDC, which are classified based on their associations with reduced risk for chronic diseases. It’s an especially great source of vitamin A — one cup has 81% of your daily intake — as well as some B vitamins. 

Calories per cup: 8

3. Broccoli leaves


While most folks just eat the heads of broccoli (and maybe the stems) tossing some of the plant’s nutrient-packed leaves into your salad can be a good decision. The leaves are high in protein and have the highest fiber and vitamin A content of the greens on the list. 

Popular chain Sweetgreen even started featuring them in seasonal salads after conversations with farmers.

Calories per cup: 13

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10 Healthiest Leafy Greens

Eating a green salad every day is probably the healthiest habit imaginable. Leafy greens are an excellent source of fiber as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. During the cold season, many people forget about this “summer” food, but it is in winter that we need it more than ever.

How to Green has put together a roundup of the healthiest leafy greens, hoping to motivate you to make positive dietary changes.

1. Spinach

This type of greens is a real nutrient champion. Among the beneficial vitamins and minerals contained in it: potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, C, B3, B12, folic acid, protein, beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants. Over 20 essential elements in total! Eating spinach strengthens the immune system, improves eyesight, and gives radiant skin. Spinach has only 7 calories per cup. It has a very mild and unobtrusive taste, which makes it widely applicable to smoothies, salads, soups, side dishes and other dishes. An interesting fact: the content of nutrients in heat-treated spinach is higher than in fresh. Frozen spinach is inexpensive and easy to use. Fresh or defrosted, you can make a warm salad, smoothie, appetizer, soup, or serve it as a meal on its own.

2. Leaf lettuce

The second name of this most common type of lettuce is green lettuce. Two cups of these greens provide 100% of the daily value of vitamin K, which is essential for bone health. Nutrient lactucin has a calming effect on the nervous system, helps with insomnia. And due to the high content of iron, leaf lettuce is effective for anemia. Among other nutrients contained in this type of greens: vitamins A, C, B1, B2, P, E, folic acid, carotene, mineral salts. To keep your green lettuce salad fresh and appetizing, dress it right before serving.

3. Arugula

Arugula, unlike many types of greens, has a pronounced bitter-pepper taste. It contains vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as iodine, calcium and the antioxidant chlorophyll, which helps fight cancer. The use of arugula activates the immune system, plus it is a natural aphrodisiac. In addition to salads, arugula is great for pizza, pasta, nicely sets off the taste of seafood and pesto. Arugula is also added to savory freshly squeezed juices and smoothies made from vegetables. An interesting fact: this salad began to be actively eaten only from the middle of the twentieth century. Until that time, arugula was considered a weed and did not pay attention to it.

4. Romain

With a nutritional value of just 4 calories per serving, romaine (aka romaine, aka romaine lettuce, aka lettuce) packs an impressive array of nutrients. Among them are folic acid, vitamins of groups A, B, K, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Thanks to them, romaine is effective in combating depression, stimulates the production of hormones, strengthens bone tissue, and is also beneficial for men’s health. Crispy romaine is perfect for Caesar salad.

5. Chinese cabbage

Perhaps one of the most affordable types of leafy greens – inexpensive and presented in almost every store – is Chinese cabbage. Sweet and crunchy, it is used in salads, sandwiches, Asian wok dishes, and the famous Korean kimchi. There are only 13 calories in one cup of cabbage. It contains antioxidants, folic acid, vitamins A, C, K, B2, B5, B6, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, which support the immune system, bone and heart health, good vision, and relieve symptoms of PMS.

6. Korn

The root has a sweetish nutty-spicy taste and small dark green leaves. This type of green is very popular in France, it is used in salads and to set off the taste of complex restaurant dishes. Thanks to vitamins A, E, flavonoids and iron, the root helps in improving the cardiovascular system. According to the content of vitamin C, it is close to lemon. By the way, this nutrient not only helps fight colds, but also promotes the production of collagen in the body. The high content of vitamin A in the root has a positive effect on vision, and vitamin B6 – on metabolism.

7. Iceberg

Iceberg, like romaine, is another type of lettuce. It has, however, less flavor, but it has its own advantage – a head of lettuce is easily stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The main nutrients of the iceberg are vitamins K and A. Two cups of lettuce contain about 30% of the daily value of these elements. Vitamin K promotes blood clotting, and vitamin A is essential for healthy skin and eyesight. And iceberg cores can be grilled – just cut them in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil and cook until slightly golden.

8. Celery greens

Who would have thought that celery leaves contain 5 times more beneficial nutrients than stalks! Among them are calcium, magnesium, iodine, vitamin C, E, useful antioxidants and other important trace elements. So stop throwing celery leaves in the trash and start adding them to salads, smoothies, and fresh juices. Eating celery has an extremely positive effect on the health of bones, joints, ligaments and tendons – which is especially true for those who actively exercise.

9. Chicory salad

Chicory leaves have a bright bitter taste. It is added to salads, stewed with other vegetables and baked whole. Chicory contains dozens of nutrients. Among them are vitamins A, B1, B3, B6, C, E, K, folic acid, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorus and many others. Some of the most outstanding benefits of chicory include improving insulin sensitivity, detoxifying the liver and gallbladder, preventing bacterial infections, boosting the immune system, reducing arthritis pain, and many more. And chicory leaves are a natural sedative.

10. White cabbage

And finally, very dear to us – the most common white cabbage. Due to the high content of sulfur and vitamin C, this type of leafy green has incredible power in healing the body and preventing many serious diseases. Regular consumption of white cabbage provides a natural detox, prevents constipation, reduces inflammation, helps in the treatment of peptic ulcers, gout, heart disease and many other ailments. You can cook with it an incredibly diverse number of dishes.

Even if salads aren’t your favorite food, you can still get your daily allowance of leafy greens. They make delicious juices from it, add it to soups, stews and hummus, make sauces, healthy fermented foods, cozy side dishes and even chips. And if in the new year you decide to develop self-love, a serving of leafy greens every day will be a great help in achieving this wonderful goal. We hope we convinced you!

green salad
green smoothie

6 most healthy salads

Specially for Vegan Day, The Challenger prepared a selection of the most healthy salads. Including more greens on the menu will be useful not only for those who follow the principles of a vegan diet, but also for staunch meat eaters: apparently, salads help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and also help to stay sane and sober memory longer.

What’s special about salads

The most nutritious and metabolically active part of most vegetables is the leaves. This means that the leaves contain the most vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. And the darker and richer the greens, the better: dark green leafy vegetables usually have more vitamins B6, A, C, K, E and other nutrients than lighter ones.

In addition, green salads contain large amounts of beta-carotenoids – the precursors of vitamin A, as well as folates – the plant form of vitamin B9.

Beta-carotenoids help reduce inflammation in the body. Together with nitrates and flavonoids, which are also abundant in green vegetables, they help to avoid cardiovascular and age-related diseases associated with brain disorders.

Folates (vegetable form of vitamin B9) are necessary for the creation of DNA, are involved in the synthesis of amino acids – the “building blocks” for proteins – and “involve” other vitamins in the metabolism. Vitamin B9 is especially important for pregnant women and women who are planning a pregnancy – this substance is necessary for the normal growth and intrauterine development of the child.

Although green salads are healthy in principle, different types of salads differ in taste and nutritional content. We decided to talk about those salads in which certain useful substances contain more than other varieties of this product.


What does taste like. Spinach has smooth leaves, a delicate texture and a slightly bitter taste, so spinach is often recommended mixed with other types of salad or supplemented with lemon juice – this will make it less bitter.

What’s special about it . 100 grams of spinach contains 79 mg of magnesium. This is not so much, because the need for magnesium in adults is 400 mg per day. But from spinach and other green salads, magnesium is absorbed in the human body by 40-60%, for comparison: from legumes, grains and nuts, magnesium is absorbed only by 20-30%, and very little is contained in animal food and dairy products. At the same time, magnesium is necessary for the synthesis of proteins, DNA and maintaining healthy pressure.

What does taste like . Lettuce has soft, not crunchy leaves and a delicate, slightly sweet taste – some people note a slight nutty flavor and aroma.

What’s special about it . 100 grams of the root contains 355 micrograms of vitamin A – more than a third of the daily value (900 micrograms) for adults. The vitamin is essential for normal growth, healthy skin, bones, immunity and good vision.

Lollo Rosso

What does taste like . Bright red salad with a nutty flavor. It can be slightly bitter, which is why chefs recommend mixing it with other, less bitter salads or adding it to other dishes to complement their taste.

What’s special about it . The record holder for the content of beta-carotene – 100 grams of Lollo Rosso contains 4495 mcg of this substance. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which has protective properties on its own.


What does taste like. A juicy salad with a spicy flavor – some people note notes of mustard and nuts in it. If arugula seems bitter to you, you can mix it with other salads that have a neutral taste.

What’s special about her . Arugula contains 108.6 micrograms of vitamin K per 100 grams, nearly equal to the daily value of 120 micrograms for adults. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and is important for bone health.

Chard (chard)

What does taste like. Swiss chard is very similar to regular beetroot, but in the form of a salad it is more delicate in taste.

What’s special about her . Swiss chard has more dietary fiber (fiber) than any other lettuce: 100 grams contains 1. 6 grams. Dietary fiber is essential for beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and create butyrate, a substance that protects the gut from inflammation and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is very important, because the human body cannot produce butyrate on its own.

True, to get enough fiber, one salad will not be enough: adults need 20 grams of dietary fiber per day. You will have to connect other healthy plant foods: vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains. They have much more fiber – for example, just one whole apple contains 4.5 grams of dietary fiber.


What does taste like. Romaine has smooth, juicy and crunchy leaves with a rich but not bitter taste. Romaine is the main ingredient in the famous Caesar salad and is often added to sandwiches and other dishes.

What’s special about it . 100 grams of romaine lettuce contains 136 micrograms of folate, more than a third of the daily value (400 micrograms) for adults.