- Does Romaine Lettuce Have Any Nutritional Benefits?
- 3 Reasons to Include Spring Greens in Your Diet
- 1. They Aid the Body in Natural Detoxification
- 2. They Provide Necessary Micronutrients
- 3. They Are Rich in Phytonutrients
- How to Eat Your Greens
- Preparation Methods
- Raw Preparation
- Cooked Preparation
- Eat Your Greens
- Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Spring Mix
- Romaine Lettuce
- BONUS: Shredded Brussels Sprouts
- The 12 Healthiest Lettuces And Leafy Greens For You, Ranked
- How to Choose the Healthiest Salad Greens
- 10 Superfoods Better Than Kale
- Collard Greens
- Leaf Lettuce
- Beet Greens
- Chinese Cabbage
- All Romaine Lettuce Is Unsafe, the CDC Warns. Here’s What You Should Eat Instead
- Quest For Healthy Eating
- Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite
- Tailor salad greens to your dietary needs and taste preferences.
Does Romaine Lettuce Have Any Nutritional Benefits?
A dieter’s dream, romaine lettuce has about 8 calories and 1 to 2 grams of carbohydrates per cup.
Although it’s low in fiber, it’s high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It’s naturally low in sodium. Plus, romaine lettuce is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It’s a good source of beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A in the body.
|Total fat||0.1 g|
The nutrients in romaine lettuce provide multiple health benefits:
- Vitamin C helps support the immune system, is high in antioxidants, and helps keep bones and teeth strong.
- Calcium is necessary for the building and maintenance of bones, muscle function, nerve function, and blood clotting.
- Vitamin K is also necessary for blood clotting. It works together with calcium to prevent bone mineral loss and fractures due to osteoporosis.
- Vitamin A (from beta carotene) is a vital nutrient, necessary for health. An antioxidant, vitamin A supports cell growth and reproductive health. It also helps to maintain the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Vitamin A also supports the eyes.
- Folate is a B vitamin, which supports cell division, the production of DNA, and genetic material. Folate deficiency in pregnant women can lead to complications with pregnancy, including premature birth, low birth weight, or the birth defect spina bifida.
- Phosphorus works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth.
- Magnesium helps enzymes function and relaxes the muscles in your body. It works with calcium to build tissue.
- Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your heart beat regularly. It supports nerve function and helps your muscles contract normally. Potassium also helps your cells to move, and utilize, nutrients efficiently. It minimizes the negative impact of sodium (salt) on the body.
Romaine and spinach often sit side by side at the salad bar, but one stands taller.
“The darker the green, the more nutrient-dense it’s going to be,” said Heather Mangieri, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
Spinach contains more vitamin C (an antioxidant), iron (helps prevent anemia), magnesium (can help protect against heart disease) and vitamin K (good for bones and blood). Spinach also packs calcium, but there’s a catch.
“We don’t think of spinach being a great source of calcium because it’s high in oxalates, which bind with calcium and make it unavailable,” Mangieri said. Boiling spinach releases the oxalates and many nutrients into the cooking water.
Romaine is on the milder end of the greens spectrum but still nutritious. “It’s definitely a step up from iceberg lettuce,” Mangieri said.
If you’re bored even with spinach, advance to bitter arugula or try trendy kale. Drizzle it with olive oil, dash with pepper and bake, said Mangieri. And forget that it once was relegated to lining the salad bar.
To compare nutritional value of foods, see the USDA’s National Nutrient Database at nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search.
For all those salad lovers out there, I am going to try to help you make that decision between spinach or romaine when you roll up to the Findlay Commons to get a salad. Personally, I love to switch things off but I would like to know the benefits that each of these salad greens brings to the table.
One way to compare these two is by the vitamin benefits each of these gives you. Spinach is a phenomenal source of vitamin k. Vitamin k is known to help blood clotting building strong bones, and preventing heart disease. Spinach is also very high in vitamin a. Vitamin A is very beneficial to your body when it comes to having healthy vision, bone growth, and a well-functioning immune system. Spinach also has an abundance of manganese, folate, and magnesium. Manganese is helps you have a strong bone structure and bone metabolism. Folate plays a large part in DNA synthesis and repair. Magnesium offers high energy, help with the digestive system, muscle aches and spasms, and regulates calcium, potassium, and sodium. These are just the five most abundant sources of nutrients in spinach.
Now lets look into the the nutrients gained from romaine lettuce. Of the top five most abundant nutrients in romaine lettuce, it shares vitamin k, vitamin a, and folate with spinach. The only difference, romaine does not have amount as spinach. The other nutrients that are found in romaine lettuce are molybdenum and fiber. The purpose of molybdenum is to help break down amino acids and fiber lowers cholesterol, helps regulate bowel movements, and keeps blood sugar at a healthy level.
Both spinach and romaine contain the nutrients that your body needs and helps keep you healthy, but that does not tell us which is more beneficial for your body. According to the Chicago Tribune and Heather Mangieri (spokesperson for American Dietetic Association, “the darker the green, the more nutrient packed it is”. Thus, giving the title of the more nutritious salad base to spinach.
Although spinach may be the more nutritious of the two, I personally find romaine to be the more tasty. Both greatly benefit your body in very similar ways and I would take either of a slice of the terribly greasy pizza alternative offered in the Findlay dining commons.
9 Incredible Health Benefits of Folate
3 Reasons to Include Spring Greens in Your Diet
While winter meals rely mainly on nutrient-dense, shelf-stable dietary staples, spring brings out your inner hunter-gatherer. Fresh and bright fruit and vegetable options are springing up in grocery stores. One of the first available foods, and most important dietary staples, of the springtime Ayurvedic diet is leafy green vegetables.
Here are three reasons to reach for your greens this spring.
1. They Aid the Body in Natural Detoxification
Spring cleaning is important for the body as well as the home. Spring greens help cleanse your gut from byproducts of digestion following a winter diet of heavy foods. Because greens are low in calories yet high in fiber, they are the perfect tool to assist with this natural detoxification process.
Fiber: Leafy greens provide a rich source of dietary fiber. Fiber includes all parts of a plant that are non-digestible. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women eat 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim to consume 38 grams. Adequate fiber intake is linked with a variety of health benefits, including more regular bowel movements, deceased blood cholesterol, and improved satiety levels and weight control.
Fiber is helps to move cellular and digestive byproducts out of the body. This is especially beneficial following the typical seasonal winter diet which is full of high-fat, lower fiber foods.
Eating about one cup of leafy greens such as turnip greens, spinach, and collards will give you 1 to 5 grams of fiber (depending upon preparation style) according to the USDA Food Composition Databases.
2. They Provide Necessary Micronutrients
Spring greens provide a myriad of beneficial micronutrients (essential elements for your body) that are often lacking in the typical American diet.
Folate: The word folate is derived from the Latin word folium, meaning “leaf.” Folate is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it can be destroyed during cooking. Folate deficiency is associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and depression. Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant are also at risk, as insufficient folic acid intake is associated with birth defects. To maximize the folate you receive from leafy greens, eat them raw (see “massaged greens” below) or only lightly steamed.
Iron: Iron is a mineral that helps your cells produce energy. Dark green, leafy vegetables are also a rich, plant-based source. For example, just one cup of cooked spinach provides 6 mg of iron—which ranges from 8 to 18 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and women, respectively.
Plant-based iron is known as non-heme iron (compared to a combination of heme and non-heme iron contained in meat products). Non-heme iron, iron that is not paired with the heme protein, is best absorbed when paired with vitamin C. Luckily, leafy greens are also a rich source of natural vitamin C. Vitamin C contained in the greens helps enhance iron absorption, ensuring that your body can use the iron you eat.
Calcium and Vitamin K: While dairy is frequently associated with calcium recommendations, it is easy to neglect the excellent bioavailability index of plant-based calcium. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, calcium absorption from vegetables is “as good or better” than calcium absorption from milk. Furthermore, a diet heavy in animal-based foods such as meat and dairy creates an acidic bodily environment that can lead to poor bone health. In contrast,, eating a more alkaline diet with plant-based sources of calcium such as leafy greens may prevent bone loss and fracture.
Dark, leafy greens are not only great sources of calcium—they also are high in vitamin K. Vitamin K acts in a complementary way to calcium, serving to help take calcium out of the blood vessels and bind it to the bone matter. This is helpful, as calcium left to accumulate in the blood vessels can lead to calcifications or “hardened” arteries. This condition is associated with heart disease and stroke. However, by consuming greens rich in both calcium and vitamin K, you can assist your body in keeping calcium in your bones while protecting your cardiovascular health.
3. They Are Rich in Phytonutrients
Plants provide nutrients and fiber essential to health. However, plants are also a rich source of other beneficial chemicals, known as phytonutrients. While these compounds require further study, the benefits of phytonutrients, including antioxidants, may be far reaching and beneficial for disease prevention and healthy aging.
Cancer Prevention: The decreased cancer risk associated with veggie intake, including leafy greens, is thought to be due to their fiber and folate as well as antioxidant content. The assumption here is that the body produces free radicals (highly reactive molecules that are associated with the cellular stress response) as a normal result of cell metabolism. It is thought that free radical oxidation is responsible for the negative effects of aging as well as cancer. However, antioxidants found in plant foods, namely carotenoids and flavonoids, may help to prevent the harmful oxidation.
The American Institute for Cancer Research has studied leafy greens and their role in cancer prevention. They reported that intake of foods containing carotenoids (including vegetables and leafy greens) likely helps to prevent cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. Some research has also associated carotenoids in foods with a lower risk of lung cancer and there are initial studies that show some promise regarding breast, skin, and stomach cancers.
One study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry compared the ability of several different plant foods to inhibit cancer growth. This study found that of all the vegetables studied, leafy vegetables spinach and cabbage demonstrated the highest bioinhibitory effect, or ability to halt liver cancer cell growth.
How to Eat Your Greens
Convinced that you should eat your greens? Read on for tips.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends adults consume 1.5 to 2 cups of dark green, leafy vegetables weekly. However, edible greens come in several different varieties—not just lettuce and spinach. Add variety to your leafy green intake by incorporating:
- Bok choy
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Cabbage (Napa or traditional head cabbage)
Consuming raw greens is best for maximum folate and vitamin C preservation. However, cooked greens provide the optimum levels of cancer-preventing antioxidant capacity. Your best bet is to include both raw and cooked greens in your diet.
Raw greens, especially rough-leaf varieties such as kale and Swiss chard, have thick cell walls. These may be hard for the gut to digest, leading to an upset stomach or gas. Try the following methods to incorporate raw greens in your diet; they will help make the greens easier to digest:
1. Massaged greens
- Cut leafy green leaves into thin ribbons.
- Add a small amount of olive oil, lemon juice, or both.
- Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper.
- With clean hands, slowly “massage” your greens. The moisture from the olive oil and abrasion from the salt will help to break down some of the hard cell walls in the greens, enhancing their digestibility.
- Serve as a side with your meal or as the base to a main-dish salad.
2. Add to a smoothie
- Prepare your favorite smoothie using a fruit of your choice and milk (dairy or nondairy).
- Add in one to two handfuls of greens.
- Blend in a high-speed blender. The blending process will naturally break down some of the hard-to-digest cell walls, releasing the beneficial green plant components into your smoothie.
Cooking greens leads to increased antioxidant potential. One study found that “boiled and fried vegetables possessed significantly higher capacity to reduce free radicals than the raw samples.”
Suggested methods for cooking greens:
- Quick-steam with a small amount of water in a covered pot.
- Lightly sauté with small amount of water or olive oil.
- Cook in a soup. While boiling greens typically causes vitamin C and folate to leach into the water, you counteract this loss in soup by also consuming the broth in which the greens are cooked.
Eat Your Greens
Optimize your body’s ability to detox and enhance your vitality by consuming nature’s seasonal bounty. Incorporate leafy greens—both raw and lightly cooked—and enjoy the benefits of seasonal, springtime eating.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Discover Deepak Chopra’s simple practices for using the healing wisdom of nature to stay energetic and balanced all year long with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.
Salad Showdown: Which Greens Are the Healthiest?
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Whenever we chow down on a salad, we tend to think we’re eating healthy; but the health benefits of a salad, like any other meal, depend entirely on the nutritional breakdown of its ingredients. Some provide more performance-fueling vitamins and minerals than others, and you want to squeeze as much athletic performance as you can out of each bite. Here’s a snapshot of a few of those leafy greens, ranked from least to most athlete-friendly (but none of them are bad options).
RELATED: These Surprising Veggies Fight Inflammation
Iceberg lettuce doesn’t offer much. It’s very low in calories—a chopped cup clocks in at a paltry 8 calories (compared to 28 for arugula and 33 for kale)–but you don’t get much in those calories, since iceberg is mostly water and nutritionally neutral. You’d be better off building your salad with another option on this list.
This green is full of vitamin A, providing a boost for bone and brain health. It’s also rich in iron, which is important for hard-working athletes, since it helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to muscles. Arugula has a distinctly peppery flavor, so keep the additions simple. Opt for a high quality olive oil dressing and a salty Parmesan.
RELATED: Recipes for Healthier Junk Food
Spring mix is a little lighter in texture and flavor than arugula. The exact mixture varies from brand to brand, but most spring mixes contain lettuces, arugula and spinach. Spring mix also tends to include “baby greens,” meaning they are picked just a few weeks after their seeds are planted. Not only are they more tender, they also have a bounty of nutrients, because the plant is still feeding them lots of energy for growth.
Romaine contains vitamins K, C and A, which keep your immune system performing at its peak. Try pairing it with olive oil, green onions, green peppers and some feta cheese.
RELATED: Which Athlete Eats More: an NFL Player or a Endurance Runner?
One of the most common salad bases, spinach is also among the most nutritionally powerful. It’s an outstanding source of iron and manganese, good for bone and skin health, and it also assists in fighting free radicals. Spinach also delivers a strong dose of folate, which supports the production of red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the muscles during games and workouts. Although it’s a little bland by itself, spinach goes great with a fruit-infused vinaigrette, a hearty grain like quinoa, or beans, which also provide protein.
We have a winner! Kale packs the strongest strongest nutritional punch of any green, providing calcium and vitamins A and C. It’s also a good source of potassium, iron and manganese. Unlike other leafy greens, kale does not get soggy or wilt. Instead, it holds its texture and absorbs flavors very well when tossed with other foods. Due to its somewhat bitter taste, kale is best paired with a creamy topping, like a Greek yogurt-based dressing.
BONUS: Shredded Brussels Sprouts
This fibrous option is becoming more popular as a salad base. It has a crunchier texture than the other greens on this list, and it’s high in vitamins C and K. Vitamin K keeps your bones strong and your arteries pliable. Try pairing shredded Brussels sprouts with a lemon-based dressing, toasted walnuts and dried fruit.
RELATED: Powerful Vegetarian Recipes
What To Top Your Greens With
My favorite additions to any of these greens deliver a variety of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Make sure your salad contains these nutrients as well as strong flavor and diverse texture—you don’t want to eat a wimpy salad! To get a complete meal, top off your greens with some of these foods:
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock
Source: Best Health Magazine, May 2011
Build your bones
Spinach, radicchio and watercress may not immediately come to mind as foods for keeping bones strong, but all contain lots of vitamin K. A study at Tufts University in Boston found that low dietary intake of vitamin K in women was associated with low bone mineral density. (The study didn’t find a link in men.) Just one cup (250 mL) of chopped watercress has 100 percent of your daily vitamin K; radicchio, 120 percent; and spinach, 170 percent.
Sharpen your eyesight
Toss together a salad of spinach, romaine and red leaf lettuce: They all contain loads of the carotenoids vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin’key to seeing better. Vitamin A helps eyes adapt from bright light to darkness. Lutein and zeaxanthin can help filter out high-energy light that may cause eye damage from free radicals.
Rev up your muscles
Recent Swedish research found that inorganic nitrate’abundant in spinach‘resulted in muscles using less oxygen. The study, which had healthy participants ride an exercise bike before and after taking a dose of nitrate, found it improved the performance of the mitochondria’which power our cells’in muscles.
Fight breast cancer
A small study done at the University of Southampton, U.K., showed that phen-ethyl isothiocyanate in watercress disrupts the signals from tumours that cause normal tissues to grow new blood vessels to feed cancer cells. Participants, who had all been treated for breast cancer, ate a cereal-bowl-size portion of watercress. The study showed a key protein in the signalling process was affected. Although more research is needed, the study states: ‘Dietary intake of watercress may be sufficient to modulate this potential anti-cancer pathway.’
Protect your heart
Whip up a Caesar salad to benefit from romaine’s high levels of two heart-healthy nutrients: Two cups (500 mL) of shredded romaine contain 40 percent of your daily needs of folate and 10 percent of fibre. A study done at Tulane University in New Orleans showed that the higher the level of folate in a person’s diet, the lower the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Soluble fibre has been shown to reduce the level of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Reduce risk of diabetes
Chronic magnesium deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and the development of insulin resistance. Two cups (500 mL) of spinach contain 16 percent of your daily magnesium needs; arugula has six percent.
This article was originally titled “Fresh & pretty” in the May 2011 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health
Question: What’s the most nutritious lettuce?
Answer: All types of lettuce are good for you. As a vegetable, lettuce provides fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals for very, very few calories. With respect to vitamins, lettuce is a source of folate, a B vitamin needed to make and repair DNA in cells, and vitamin K, a nutrient linked to healthy bones. You also get potassium, a mineral important for healthy blood pressure, as well as a little calcium in lettuce.
Lettuce is also a good source of two phytochemicals: beta-carotene and lutein. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals. In fact, its antioxidant properties are thought to help prevent certain cancers and other diseases.
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Lutein is also an antioxidant that helps preserve our eyesight as we age. Once consumed, lutein makes its way to the eye where it protects the retina and lens from free radical damage. Research shows that people who have high intakes of lutein from foods are less likely to develop cataract and macular degeneration. (Macular degeneration attacks the central part of the retina called the macula, which controls fine, detailed vision. The condition results in progressive loss of visual sharpness and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older adults. )
That said, you can’t count on all types of lettuce to be a good source of all vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In general, lettuce that is darker green in colour is a better source of nutrients than lighter coloured lettuce. So, to answer your question, the most nutritious lettuce is Romaine. Compared to red leaf, green leaf, butterhead (Boston and bib types) and iceberg, it delivers more folate, potassium, beta carotene and lutein.
Per one cup serving (shredded), Romaine has 2.5 milligrams of beta-carotene, 1.1 milligrams of lutein and one-third of a day’s worth of folate. Compare that to iceberg, the least nutritious type of lettuce: one cup (shredded) contains 0.2 milligrams of beta-carotene, 0.2 milligrams of lutein and only one-third of the folate found in Romaine.
When it comes to getting the most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants per serving, here’s my rating of types of lettuce from most to least nutritious: Romaine, green leaf, butterhead (Boston, bib), red leaf, and finally, iceberg.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at [email protected] She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on the Globe website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
The 12 Healthiest Lettuces And Leafy Greens For You, Ranked
When it comes to the leafy greens you put in your salads, not all are created equal.
So which leaves and lettuces should you use in your salad to justify the croutons, bacon, and tasty dressing you add?
We’re here to help you find the most nutritious ones.
In similar rankings published in the past, we’ve relied on the CDC’s 2014 list of “powerhouse foods”. But this time, we factored in how many nutrients (specifically potassium, fiber, protein, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and B6) the greens pack per calorie.
Of course, none of the veggies on this list are bad for you, and you won’t necessarily be worse off for picking one over another.
12. Arugula (sometimes called rocket)
Arugula’s distinct peppery taste doesn’t quite correlate with a high nutritional content. While it does have some vitamins, it lacks other nutrients that other greens boast.
Calories per cup: 6
11. Iceberg Lettuce
William Wel, Business Insider
It’s no surprise that iceberg lettuce is among the least nutritious greens to put in a salad. In fact, Chick-fil-A has even banned the veggie from its stores, allegedly because of its low nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce has about only 7% of your daily vitamin A per cup, and only 3% of daily vitamin C — among the lowest on this list.
Calories per cup: 10
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family. It’s packed with vitamin K, containing more than 100% of your daily value.
Calories per cup:
TIE 8. Watercress
Watercress, with its little round leaves, was considered the top powerhouse food in the CDC study. However, by our metrics, it didn’t pack in as many nutrients as others on the list. It’s high in vitamins A, C, and K and incredibly low in calories.
It’s also linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and is not too hard to grow.
Calories per cup: 4
TIE 8. Leaf lettuce
One of the more nutritious of the lettuce family, leaf lettuce is low in calories and high in potassium and vitamins A and K.
Calories per cup: 5
Endive, also a kind of chicory, is fill of vitamin K, and a cup has 20% of your daily vitamin A intake. The frisée — or curly endive — in salads is also part of this plant.
Calories per cup: 8
How to Choose the Healthiest Salad Greens
Headed to a hoppin’ salad bar for lunch? Chances are there will be handfuls of fresh greens up for grabs, from romaine and iceberg to spinach and red leaf lettuce. But when it comes to choosing the healthiest salad base, which types of lettuce pack the biggest nutritional punch?
Seeing Green—The Need-to-Know
Sorry sandwich lovers, but a few shreds of lettuce on a bun won’t add up to the USDA’s daily recommended intake (2-3 cups for most adults). Instead, a big, healthy salad is one of the smartest ways to go green. Coming in at under 10 calories per cup, a big bowl of leaves can be a stellar source of vitamins A, C, K, and folate, among other essential nutrients.
But not all leafy greens will build a super-nutritious salad. In fact, America’s favorite lettuce, iceberg, ranks the lowest in nutritional value across the board (96 percent water content will do that!). Turbo-charged spinach, on the other hand, boasts nearly twice the recommended daily value of vitamin K, half the recommended value of vitamin A, and ampleamounts of calcium and iron. Clearly, Popeye was on to something.
Prefer a crunchier base? A cup of romaine is a tasty alternative, with a huge dose of vitamin A and a variety of other nutrients. Or, for a mild but textured bed, red leaf lettuce clocks in at just 4 calories per cup, with nearly half of the daily recommended dose of vitamins A and K. Arugula (technically a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, and cabbage) also packs a healthy dose of nutrients and phytochemicals, which may inhibit the development of certain cancers. And for the non-committal types, mixed greens (typically a mix of romaine, oak leaf lettuce, arugula, frisée, and radicchio) offer, well, a mixed bag of nutritional benefits, depending on the batch.
Salad for Salad—Your Guide to Greens
Which greens are the best bet? Check out the infographic below for the nutritional low-down.
Winning the Toss—Your Action Plan
Consider visiting the salad bar a free pass to join the dark side. Research shows that darker “loose” or “open leaf” lettuces (such as romaine, red leaf, and butterhead) contain more antioxidants and nutrients than the typically lighter-colored, more tightly-packed heads (such as iceberg). The reason? The darker leaves are able to absorb more light and, in turn, synthesize more vitaminsImpact of light variation on development of photoprotection, antioxidants, and nutritional value in Lactuca sativa L Zhou, Y.H., Zhang, Y.Y., Zhao, X., et al. Department of Horticulture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009, Jun 24; 57(12): 5494-500.. And while there’s no good way to pick and choose a store-bought salad leaf for leaf, at home, opting for the tops and outer leaves can guarantee a more nutritious base.
Ready to go darker (and healthier) still? While they’re not stocked at most salad bars, check the produce aisle for tougher roughage like Swiss chard and kale, which beat out even spinach in the antioxidant game. Be sure to give the leaves a good cold rinse before serving raw, boiled, or steamed, as the folds in these greens tend to accumulate dirt more easily than other veggies. Also keep in mind that high heat can strip veggies of their natural vitamin contentPotential of commonly consumed green leafy vegetables for their antioxidant capacity and its linkage with the micronutrient profile.Tarwadi, K., Agte, V. Biometry and Nutrition Group, Agharkar Research Institute, Maharashtra, India. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2003 Nov; 54(6): 417-25.. The final key to becoming a lean, green fighting machine? Dress for success. Hold off on the creamy dressings, croutons, bacon bits, and layers of shredded cheese. Instead, opt for a lighter vinaigrette and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds for added crunch and protein.
This article originally posted June 2012. Updated May 2013.
10 Superfoods Better Than Kale
In the world of superfoods, the biggest celebrity of all might be kale—the Shakira of salads, the Lady Gaga of leafy greens. And yes, it really does have plenty of benefits—including high levels of folate and more calcium, gram for gram, than a cup of milk. But it’s actually not the healthiest green on the block.
In fact, in a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control that ranked 47 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables,” the green darling only placed 15th (with 49.07 points out of 100 for nutrient density)! Here’s a roundup of the 10 leafy green cousins that researchers say pack a greater nutritional wallop. Read em, eat em, and reap the benefits.
Nutrition Score: 62.49
A staple vegetable of Southern U.S. cuisine, collard greens also boast incredible cholesterol-lowering benefits—especially when steamed. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the effectiveness of the prescription drug Cholestyramine to steamed collards. Incredibly, the collards improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13 percent more than the drug! Of course, that won’t do you any good if you insist on serving them with ham hocks….
Nutrition Score: 63.48
Even more so than its cousin kale, the humble Romaine lettuce packs high levels of folic acid, a water-soluble form of Vitamin B that’s proven to boost male fertility. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found supplemental folic acid to significantly increase sperm counts. Get the man in your life to start craving Caesar salads, and you may soon have a baby Julius on board. (Ladies, this green packs health benefits for you, too! Folate also plays a role in battling depression, so change out your kale for Romaine.
Nutrition Score: 65.59
Yes, that leafy garnish that sits on the side of your plate—the one they throw away after you eat the rest of your meal—is a quiet superfood, so packed with nutrients that even that one sprig can go a long way toward meeting your daily requirement for vitamin K. Moreover, research suggests the summer-y aroma and flavor of chopped parsley may help control your appetite. A study in the journal Flavour found participants ate significantly less of a dish that smelled strongly of spice than a mildly scented version of the same food. Adding herbs, like parsley, creates the sensory illusion that you’re indulging in something rich—without adding any fat or calories to your plate.
Nutrition Score: 70.73
The nutritional Clark Kent of the salad bar, this common and unsuspecting leafy green is ready to take its place among the superfoods for weight loss. Two generous cups of lettuce provides 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement for strong, healthy bones. A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who eat a serving of lettuce every day cut the risk of hip fracture by 30 percent than when compared with eating just one serving a week.
Nutrition Score: 73.36
Chicory is a family of bitter greens, but its most well-known member is radicchio, the small red or purple leaf that comes in a head about the size of a softball. It’s one of the best dietary sources of polyphenols—powerful micronutrients that serve a role in preventing disease. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consume 650 mg a day of polyphenols have a 30 percent chance at living longer than those who consume less than that. A cup of chicory leaves clocks in at about 235 mg, so consider adding a little leafy red into your leafy greens.
Nutrition Score: 86.43
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 180-gram serving of boiled spinach provides 6.43 mg of iron, the muscle mineral—that’s more than a 6-ounce hamburger patty! Recent research also suggest compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. A long-term study at Lund University in Sweden found that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast could significantly reduce hunger (by 95 percent!) and promote weight loss. On average, the women who took the extract lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group over the course of three months.
Nutrition Score: 87.08
Yes, the stuff they cut off and throw in the garbage before charging you an arm and a leg for “beet salad.” A scant cup of the bitter green serves up nearly 5 grams of fiber—that’s more than you’ll find in a bowl of Quaker oats! Researchers at the University of Leeds found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed. Try them in stir frys and eat to your heart’s content!
Nutrition Score: 89.27
Chard. Sounds like “burnt.” It’s not as fun a name to drop as, say, “broccolini,” but it might be your best defense against diabetes. Recent research has shown that these powerhouse leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins—anti-inflammatory compounds that could offer protection from type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of East Anglia analyzed questionnaires and blood samples of about 2,000 people and found that those with the highest dietary intakes of anthocyanins had lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.
Nutrition Score: 91.99
Taking the silver medal in the powerfood Olympics is Chinese cabbage, also called Napa or celery cabbage. Rich sources of highly-available calcium and iron, cruciferous vegetables like the cabbage have the powerful ability to “turn off” inflammation markers thought to promote heart disease. In a study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (about 1.5 cups per day) had 13 percent less inflammation than those who ate the least.
Nutrition Score: 100
The top dog, the unrivaled champion, the chairman of the cutting board, watercress may also be the closest thing yet to a true anti-aging food. Gram for gram this mild-tasting and flowery-looking green contains four times more beta carotene than an apple, and a whopping 238 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K per 100 grams—two compounds that keep skin dewy and youthful. The beauty food is also the richest dietary source of PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate), which research suggests can fight cancer. Results from an eight-week trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest daily supplementation of 85 grams of raw watercress (that’s about two cups) could reduce DNA damage linked to cancer by 17 percent. Exposure to heat may inactivate PEITC, so it’s best to enjoy watercress raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches.
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All Romaine Lettuce Is Unsafe, the CDC Warns. Here’s What You Should Eat Instead
All romaine lettuce in the U.S. is unsafe to eat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said in a warning that may alter some Thanksgiving menus across the country.
The CDC has asked people to discard the leafy green as it investigates an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that has so far infected 32 people. As the agency investigates the outbreak, it’s asked people to throw out any romaine lettuce they have and requested restaurants stop serving it to customers. The warning includes all forms of romaine, including whole heads, hearts and lettuce pieces that are added to salad mixes.
The romaine warning, however, shouldn’t mean a moratorium on all leafy greens, says Allison Knott, a New York City-based registered dietitian.
“There are so many leafy greens that are available and are just as good, if not better, for you than romaine,” Knott says. “All leafy greens are good, so however you can get them in, the better.”
Leafy greens are a nutritious option because they contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as nutrients such as folate, potassium and calcium. And though “there’s really no leafy green that’s bad for you,” Knott says the darker the veggie, the more nutrient-dense it typically is.
For that reason, she says, kale is a great choice. If you’re used to eating romaine, however, you may not love the plant’s strong, bitter flavor. If that’s the case, Knott recommends arugula, spinach or butter lettuce — the last of which has large leaves that can even be used in place of wraps and breads. She also suggests branching out to lesser-known mustard or collard greens while you’re looking for new greens.
As soon as the E. coli investigation is over, Knott says, there’s no reason not to go back to the old standby, romaine.
“This whole romaine scare is definitely not ideal for anyone, and it maybe scares people away from eating leafy greens in general, which is frustrating,” Knott says. “The key message is just that eating leafy greens.”
Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]
Quest For Healthy Eating
When I was growing up, our salads were always made from iceberg lettuce. I didn’t even know there was an alternative lettuce until I was 15. My aunt and uncle took me to a restaurant where I had a Caesar salad. Romaine lettuce? What?
When the waiter brought me that salad, I fell in love with it. I didn’t know how good lettuce could be. I was used to the bitterness of iceberg lettuce.
Since November, I’ve been introduced to a new ingredient in our salads. Kale. It’s considered a cooking green, not a lettuce, but can be used in salads in place of lettuce.
What’s the big deal? Why not stick with iceberg? If you’re like me, I hated salad. I would cover it with thick, fattening dressings to forget the horrible taste. I promise that I love salads now, and I don’t have to drown them in ranch or french dressings.
There are three reasons that I love my darker greens. Flavor, texture, and nutrition. Of the three, kale has my favorite texture. It’s hearty. When I eat it, I feel that I am eating substantial food. When it comes to flavor, I like romaine and kale in different circumstances. Kale is great for steaming and for salads. Romaine makes for a great salad. When it comes to nutrition, kale is the winner.
Here’s the breakdown:
As you can see, Kale is high in a lot of essential vitamins and minerals. Iceberg lettuce is better for you than potato chips, so I wouldn’t say don’t eat it. But I would say, try romaine, and try kale. They’re both readily available in your supermarket. You might like the taste even more than iceberg and more thoroughly enjoy your salads. I know I did, and I found other ways to put more kale in my diet.
Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite
Tailor salad greens to your dietary needs and taste preferences.
Published: April, 2018
Image: © yulkapopkova/Getty Images
In the quest to follow daily dietary recommendations and eat the right amount of vegetables, salad is your friend. A large salad can check off your veggie requirements for the day in one fell swoop.
But not all salad greens are created equal. “They vary in regard to their nutrient content, nutrient density, flavor, and texture,” says Elisabeth Moore, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. So it helps to know which salad greens will give you the most bang for the bite.
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