THE FOOD SERIES: Lettuce
When one thinks of salad they think of lettuce. Lettuce is probably by far one of the most popular greens out there!
There are four main types of lettuce: Butterhead, Crisphead, Loose Leaf and Romaine.
BUTTERHEAD – This type have large, tender, grassy green leaves that are arranged loosely. The texture is (as the name suggests) buttery and soft with a mild but sweet flavor. Examples include Boston lettuce, which looks like a blooming rose, and Bibb lettuce that has a small cup-shaped appearance.
CRISPHEAD – Out of all the types, Crisphead lettuce is the least nutritious of the bunch. It is known for its pale green colour, with it being more green on the outside and white on the inside. It is found to be very tightly packed together with a very crispy texture and mild flavour. An example includes Iceberg lettuce.
LOOSELEAF – This type offers very broad, curly leaves that do not grow to form lettuce heads but the leaves simply join together at the stem. Loose leaf lettuces has a mild but crispy texture and a quite delicate taste. Some examples include: oak leaf, red leaf and green leaf.
ROMAINE OR COS – A very popular variety as it is a main ingredient in the famous Caesar salads. Romaine/cos lettuces has a loaf-like shape with darker green leaves on the outside. It features long leaves with a crisp texture.
Regardless of the variety, it is important to select lettuces that look crisp, are unwilted, are free of any dark, slimy or brown or yellow discoloured spots.
It is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region and Western Asia. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans prized lettuce for both a food and its therapeutic medicinal properties. In China, lettuce represents good luck and are served on many special occasions, such as on birthdays and New Years Day. Today, China is the top lettuce-producing country, followed by the United States and India.
1 cup of chopped mixed greens lettuce:
1.8 g Carbs
1.1 g Fiber
0.1 g Fat
0.8 g Protein
3098.1 μg Vitamin A
106.4 μg Vitamin K
59.3 μg Folate
0.2 mg Manganese
Although the nutritional values differ slightly between varieties, the nutrients themselves are similar. All varieties are extremely low in calories and high in water volume. However this does not mean it lacks nutritionally.
When one thinks of vitamin A, lettuce is definitely not the first food to come to mind. However lettuce is an excellent source of not just vitamin A, but vitamin K, and folate. Something we have yet to discuss that is found in ALL fruits and vegetables is fiber! Dietary fiber is indigestible by the body, but plays a large role in helping move waste out of our intestines and keeping our bowels healthy. Fiber holds water thus making our stools soft to prevent constipation. Fiber adds bulk into our diet, making meals more filling and also slows down the digestion of foods.
Being high in fiber is super beneficial for heart and cardiovascular health. In the colon, fiber binds to bile salts and removes them from the body. This results in the production of more bile which during the process breaks down cholesterol. Vitamin A also plays an important role in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol. Vitamin K is crucial for normal blood clotting, and folate has found to lower cardiovascular risk as well.
Other health benefits include reducing risk of cancer, protection of neurons, sleep induction, reduce anxiety, as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
WAYS TO ENJOY
I mean this was an obvious one. I personally could just eat lettuce on its own with some lemon or lime juice squeezed on top. People think salads are boring, but salads are probably one of the most versatile dishes ever. You literally could add anything to it. I love playing with different colours and texture, making it as colourful as possible and adding as many types of textures as I can. (For example, adding the crunch of lettuce, with the sourness of lemon or lime juice, with the sweetness of a fruit such as blueberries or mango, the juiciness of tomato… I think you get the point…)
For those who want something lighter than the usual high carbohydrate wrap or shell such as a tortilla. Lettuce is a great alternative and offers it that extra crunch and texture. I recommend using more of the leafy varieties such as Butterhead or Loose Leaf, as these are easier to wrap with. Experiment with fully raw tacos or wraps, or cook a mean stir fry and make some lettuce rolls. Below are a few recipes you may get inspired from.
Growing up eating Chinese food, it is common to simply eat lettuce that has been steamed or poached in water. It’s delicious with a little bit of pink salt and a few drops of oil, such as coconut or olive oil. It makes for a good appetizer or a supplement to a main dish.. although if you want to just eat lettuce for dinner be my guest! It is definitely good for the heart! 😉
- Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family.
- Lettuce is about 95% water.
- The darker the leaves, the more nutritious.
- Lettuce is not easily preserved, it cannot be frozen, canned, dried, nor pickled.
- Iceberg lettuce got its name from covering the lettuce in large amounts of ice to prevent spoilage during transport.
- Most of the fiber is found in the stem, while the nutrients are concentrated in the leaves.
- Most varieties exude small amounts of a white, milky liquid when their leaves are broken which gives slightly bitter flavour
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES