I love, love, love lettuce! There are so many ways to use it to create innovative meals, food presentation, and enjoy it. There are so many varieties of lettuce to try and experiment. And, it’s easy to grow and delicious. You can grow it in your garden or even pots like my friend Linda does so you can put them in places to keep the not so funny bunnies out. Not only that, but lettuce is great for you!
Lettuce is rich in antioxidants like vitamin C. It also contains other nutrients like vitamins A and K and potassium. Nutrient value varies among lettuce types and the darker varieties are denser in nutrients. Iceberg lettuce, for example, has the least nutrient value. Here’s a list of potential benefits of including lettuce in your diet:
- Protects against Aging-Helps protect against inflammation as it contains vitamins A, E, and K.[i] It supports skin and heart health and prevent diseases of aging other diseases of aging such as Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
- May Help Prevent Anemia-Contains folate and may prevent anemias related to folate deficiency.[ii]
- Fights Inflammation-Contains proteins such as lipoxygenase that control inflammation. Used in folk medicine to relieve inflammation and bone pain.[iii]
- Contributes Nutrients for Bone Health– Contains vitamins K, A, and C which are important in collagen production and bone formation.[iv] Has the highest source of Vitamin K compared to all vegetables.
- Improves Brain Health-Lettuce supports endothelial function which is damaged in presence of cognitive decline due to being rich in nitrate as well as the role of lettuce extracts in preventing neuronal cell death.[v]
- Helps Prevent Cancer-Diets low in cancer show higher cancer risk. Vitamins A and C protect against cancer. Lettuce may have a protective affect against mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach cancers.[vi] Studies show that the dark leafy greens contains chlorophyll which may decrease risk of colon and liver cancer. Eating Romaine lettuce has been linked to a lowered risk of lung, breast, bladder, skin, oral and prostate cancers.
- Reduces Constipation-It’s high in fiber and water content. Contains 2 G. of fiber per serving.
- May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk-Low in calories, low glycemic index and contains lactucaxanthin, an anti-diabetic carotenoid that lowers blood glucose levels.[vii]
- Supports Digestion-May help with digestion and reducing bloating, gas, and constipation.
- Strengthens Your Heart-Good source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium. These contribute to good heart health, reduced plaque formation, reduced arterial stiffness, reduced blood sugar. Also supports HDL cholesterol and lowers LDL cholesterol. Inorganic nitrite consumption such as found in lettuce can support cardiovascular function given that low levels of nitric oxide contributes to cardiovascular disease.[viii]
- Helps to Hydrate You-Contains a significant amount of water. Contains approximately 95% water.[ix]
- Supports Immune Function-Being rich in antioxidants may help immune function.
- Used Historically for Insomnia-Lettuce sedates the nervous system and promotes sleep due to it containing a substance known as Lactucarium.[x] Lettuce was used even in medieval times to relieve insomnia.
- Contributes to Skin and Hair Health– Vitamin A supports skin cell turnover and Vitamin C protects skin from UV radiation, both of which are in lettuce. People with poor skin are often deficient in vitamin A. Vitamin C supports collagen formation. Fiber also helps with detoxification and promoting skin health. Some people even wash their hair and face with lettuce juice or extract. The alkaline minerals contained in lettuce also support detoxification.
- Support vision- Lettuce contains zeaxanthin and lutein, antioxidants that boosts vision health.[xi] These beta-caroteins in lettuce have been found to prevent age-related macular degeneration.[xii]
- Helps with Weight loss-It’s low in calories and high in fiber being a great addition to diet to control weight and support weight loss.
So, there you have it. There are so many great reasons to eat lettuce. Get creative as there are so many ways to enjoy it. Now is a great time to find great fresh lettuce greens and experiment.
[i] Ismail, Hammad, and Bushra Mirza. “Evaluation of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant and anti-coagulant properties of Lactuca sativa (CV. Grand Rapids) plant tissues and cell suspension in rats.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine15.1 (2015): 199.
[iii] Sayyah, Mohammad, Naghmeh Hadidi, and Mohammad Kamalinejad. “Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of Lactuca sativa seed extract in rats.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology92.2-3 (2004): 325-329.
[iv] “FoodData Central Search Results.” FoodData Central.
[v] Ghorbani, Ahmad, Hamid Reza Sadeghnia, and Elham Asadpour. “Mechanism of protective effect of lettuce against glucose/serum deprivation-induced neurotoxicity.” Nutritional neuroscience18.3 (2015): 103-109.
[vi] Parkin, D. M., and L. Boyd. “4. Cancers attributable to dietary factors in the UK in 2010.” British journal of cancer105.2 (2011): S19-S23.
[vii] Gopal, Sowmya Shree, et al. “Lactucaxanthin–a potential anti-diabetic carotenoid from lettuce (Lactuca sativa) inhibits α-amylase and α-glucosidase activity in vitro and in diabetic rats.” Food & function8.3 (2017): 1124-1131.
[viii] Jackson JK, Patterson AJ, MacDonald-Wicks LK, Oldmeadow C, McEvoy MA. The role of inorganic nitrate and nitrite in cardiovascular disease risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of human evidence. Nutr Rev. 2018 May 1 ;76(5):348-371. PMID: 29506204.
[ix] “FoodData Central Search Results.” FoodData Central.
[x] Kim, Hae Dun, et al. “Sleep-inducing effect of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) varieties on pentobarbital-induced sleep.” Food science and biotechnology26.3 (2017): 807-814.
[xi] Abdel-Aal, El-Sayed M., et al. “Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health.” Nutrients5.4 (2013): 1169-1185.
[xii] Khoo HE, Ng HS, Yap WS, Goh HJH, Yim HS. Nutrients for Prevention of Macular Degeneration and Eye-Related Diseases. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(4):85. Published 2019 Apr 2. doi:10.3390/antiox8040085