What is your favorite type of lettuce?
What would a tossed salad be without lettuce? This week's blog post will highlight some of the different types of greens that can be used in a salad with regards to varities and health benefits. I recognize there are many, many more varities of lettuce, but we will discuss some of the more common, popular type greens.
Romaine According to the website, Food Facts, "Romaine lettuce is a head-forming lettuce. It has deep green and long leaves with a crisp texture and distinct taste. It’s one of four popular lettuce varieties, alongside crisphead, butterhead and leaf lettuce. Just like most lettuce, once romaine lettuce leaves are broken, a white and milky liquid is excreted that’s responsible for its slightly bitter flavor." Romaine lettuce contains vitamins A, C and K, several of the B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium, chromium, calcium, copper, potassium, iron and phosphorus. 1 I personally use it most of the time because it's so versatile, and I like the flavor, and the texture. It is one of the most popular variety's of lettuce in the United States.
Iceberg This is the lettuce that has the least nutritional value, but is one of the most used greens in the US. Iceberg lettuce is an excellent source of potassium, manganese, as well as a very good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. It also contains traces of copper, sodium, and zinc. 2,3
Arugula is described as having an almost "peppery" taste. It is widely used in Mediterranean cooking, and is packed full of nutrients which come from it's cruciferous roots (cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts to name a few). It is loaded with fiber, vitamins A, C, K and B9 (aka folate), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. Its health benefits include lowering blood pressure, improving blood vessel function, raising good (HDL) cholesterol levels while lowering the bad, as well as playing a role in bone health (as do most green leafy vegetables do). 4 Here's a fun fact about arugula: the Ancient Romans are thought to have believed it was a powerful aphrodisiac in combination with other plants including chicory, dill, and lavender. 4 I personally love it with Trixie's Vinnie, some grape tomatoes, and mini, fresh (wet) mozzarella balls.
Spinach is one of my personal favorite types of lettuce for a salad as it is not only full of nutrients, but has a mild taste. My boys love the Asian Lemon Ginger dressing with a bowl of raw spinach, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, pea pods and scallions. Spinach is another of the green leafy vegetables that is high in vitamins A, C, K and B9 (aka folate), contains non heme iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. 5, 6 Health benefits from this lettuce include lowering blood pressure, maintain brain function, benefits to bone health, skin, and hair, as well as thought to help prevent macular degeneration of the eye, lowering the risk of cancer (in particular colon), and improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes. 5 6 This long list of health benefits is partially due to the flavonoids (a type of phytochemicals found in the plant) that act as antioxidants. Spinach varieties come in savoy, semi savoy, and flat leafed types.
Kale has been gaining popularity as a salad green in the last several years. Another one of the green leafy vegetables, and a part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, kale is closely related to cabbage (like arugula). It is also full of vitamins K, A, C and B vitamins as well as fiber, calcium, and potassium. 7,8 It is thought to play a role in the prevention of cancer, the prevention of the spread of cancer (metastasis), lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure, and has antiviral and antibacterial properties. 7,8 For more information on the many health benefits of kale, please visit sources 7 and 8, but there is plenty of information on this particular type salad green and it's health benefits. There are several varieties including curly kale, lacinato (aka dino kale), redbor kale, and Siberian kale, just to name a few. 9 I perosnally like to make my salad with the lacinato kale, yellow grape tomatoes, and the Zippy Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
No matter what green you choose to use for your salad, you can feel confident that you are making a wise decision regarding a food that is low in calories, high in nutritional value, and high in fiber. I encourage you to try mixing up your lettuce- either by using a different type than you are used to, or mixing a few different varieties.