Composition and Health Benefits of the Lettuce

closeup photo of lettuce on gray surface

A Nutritious Salad with Preventive Properties and Culinary Uses

The lettuce is said to have originated in India and Central Asia. According to the historian Herodotus, it was served to Persian kings in the 6th century BC. It was grown in China as early as the 5th century BC.

There are six types of lettuce. The looseleaf, Chinese and iceberg are the most common. The leaf lettuce is richer in iron and also has more vitamins A and C than the stem variety, as it is more exposed to the sun. The greener the leaf, the more chlorophyll and vitamins it has. The other types are butterhead, romaine and summer crisp. However, all the varieties are rich in content and have many health benefits.

Composition of the Lettuce

Lettuce is rich in vitamins, minerals, alkaloids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and water. The vitamins in lettuce are A, K, C, riboflavin and folate. Minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Most varieties have a good balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

Health Benefits of the Lettuce

The lettuce has many preventive properties, including the following:

  • The fiber boosts digestion and prevents constipation.
  • Lettuce is good for the liver. Moreover, its alkaline nature helps in blood purification.
  • Lettuce reduces chances of a stroke and prevents heart disease, as it prevents oxidation of cholesterol.
  • It has anti-cancer properties.
  • Lettuce prevents iron deficiency and is thus beneficial in treatment of anemia.
  • Lectucarium, a sleep inducing substance in lettuce helps to control nervous insomnia.
  • The magnesium also helps to soothe the nerves, and is good for the brain and muscular tissues.
  • Due to its low calories, lettuce is good for weight watchers. Since there is less than 3% carbohydrates, it is also recommended for diabetics.
  • The juice helps to strengthen bones, as the phosphorus helps in absorption of calcium.
  • The presence of folic acid makes it a valuable food during pregnancy and lactation.

Culinary Uses of the Lettuce

Lettuce is consumed raw and cold, so it is commonly used in salads, burgers and tacos. Lettuce juice is very nutritious, especially when combined with carrot and spinach juices. The lighter green variety is better for juicing, as the juice of the dark green one has a bitter taste. It is also easier to juice the crisp leaves rather than the soft ones.

The different types of lettuce are nutritious and tasty, easily available and easy to consume. No wonder then that it is the most popular of the salad vegetables.

Tip: Lettuce leaves should be washed thoroughly, dried before use and consumed quickly. Cut surfaces exposed to air lose their crispness and nutrition.

Sources:

Foods that heal: H.K.Bakhru, Orient paperbacks.