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5 Health Benefits of Lettuce

Lettuce is a versatile vegetable loaded with antioxidants and good-for-you nutrients

Overhead closeup of various types of lettuce

It’s a side dish, a main meal, a burger topper, a sandwich wrap and so much more. Lettuce doesn’t just add color and crunch to your meals — this green leafy vegetable is also good for you.

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Is lettuce healthy?

Yes, lettuce can be a healthy part of your eating plan. “People often underestimate the nutritional value of lettuce,” says registered dietitian Susan Campbell, RD, LD. “But as a leafy green, it’s just as good for you as kale or spinach.” And because you probably eat lettuce raw, you get most of its nutrients, as raw vegetables keep more nutrients than cooked ones.

Americans typically eat four main types of lettuce. Nutritional values vary depending on which leafy green you choose.

  1. Butterhead lettuce: Boston lettuce and bibb lettuce have thick leaves that have a buttery soft texture and taste. These varieties have a tight cabbage-like shape.
  2. Crisphead lettuce: Iceberg lettuce is a type of crisphead lettuce. It has a round, compact shape with crispy inner leaves.
  3. Loose leaf lettuce: Red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce have thin leaves that branch out loosely from the stalk.
  4. Romaine lettuce: This lettuce variety has tight, crunchy inner leaves and longer, looser outer leaves.

Campbell shares how lettuce can help keep you healthy.

How can lettuce boost your health?

Lettuce has been a healthy part of people’s meals since ancient times. Egyptians from thousands of years ago recognized the health benefits of lettuce and grew it in their gardens. Eating more of this green leafy veggie has several health benefits:

1. A good source of vitamins and nutrients

One cup of shredded lettuce leaves (any type) has approximately:

Nutrient-wise, a cup of lettuce (any type) has up to:

  • 40 micrograms of folate (10% of your daily value, or DV).
  • 205 micrograms of Vitamin A (23% of DV).
  • 56 micrograms of vitamin K (47% of DV).

But it’s also important to know that not all lettuce is created equal. For instance, red and green leaf lettuce outshine iceberg lettuce in terms of nutrition, says Campbell. They can have six to 20 times more vitamin A, vitamin K and lutein. In general, “The darker colors of the lettuce make it more of a rock star,” Campbell adds.

2. Protects your peepers

Lettuce is chock-full of antioxidants. These food chemicals protect you against free radicals, which cause inflammation and may contribute to eye diseases, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

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Lettuce is especially high in:

  • Anthocyanins: This flavonoid destroys free radicals. Anthocyanins are found in red leaf lettuce. It’s the pigment that gives the leaves their red color.
  • Carotenoids: Carotenoids include lutein and beta-carotene. “Your body changes beta-carotene into vitamin A, which you need for good vision and a healthy immune system,” says Campbell.
  • Lutein: This “eye vitamin” protects your eyes from sun damage. It may also prevent or slow macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes vision loss.

3. Aids in weight loss

Research shows that eating a small side salad before your main course can help you feel fuller. As a result, you eat fewer calories during your meal. Findings suggest that starting your meal with a salad can lead to weight loss or help you maintain a healthy weight.

4. Builds strong bones, blood and brains

Most lettuce varieties are excellent sources of vitamin K. “Your body needs vitamin K to build strong bones and clot your blood,” says Campbell.

  • A one-cup serving of butterhead, loose leaf or romaine lettuce has more than 20% of the daily value recommended for adults.
  • Iceberg lettuce provides 10% to 19% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K.

Vitamin K, along with lutein and folate (vitamin B9), may also help prevent memory loss. A 2018 study found that a daily serving of green leafy vegetables improved memory in people as they aged.

5. Keeps you hydrated

As much as 95% of lettuce’s weight comes from water. So, when you eat lettuce, you’re also quenching your thirst. And the high water content fills you up faster, helping curb hunger and prevent overeating.

Let us eat more lettuce

Lettuce is a versatile vegetable that’s affordable and easy to add to dishes. “Lettuce is a great fat-free, low-calorie way to get more leafy greens into your meals,” notes Campbell.

You can make lettuce a regular part of your breakfast, lunch or dinner by trying these recipes:

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