Butterhead lettuce (or butter lettuce) is one of five types of lettuce that grace salad plates. If you're tired of iceberg or romaine, expand your salad game and include butter lettuce for variety in nutrition, flavor and texture.
There are two butterhead lettuce varieties: Bibb and Boston. They have tender, soft leaves with a delicately sweet flavor, which makes them stand out from the other varieties, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
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Butter Lettuce Nutrition Facts
A 1-cup portion is equal to a single serving. One cup of butter lettuce contains:
- Calories: 7
- Total fat: 0.1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 2.8 mg
- Total carbs: 1.2 g
- Dietary fiber: 0.6 g
- Sugar: 0.5 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 0.7 g
- Total fat: A cup of butter lettuce contains 0.1 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4 milligrams of monounsaturated fats and 64 milligrams of polyunsaturated fats.
- Carbohydrates: A cup of butter lettuce contain 1.2 grams of carbohydrates, 0.6 grams of fiber and 0.5 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
- Protein: A cup of butter lettuce contains 0.7 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Vitamin K: 47% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 10% DV
- Folate (B9): 10% DV
Health Benefits of Butter Lettuce
It's recommended that adults eat 2 to 3 cups of dark green vegetables each week, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines For Americans. Eating a serving or two of butterhead lettuce can help you reach this goal and reap the benefits.
1. Butter Lettuce May Support Bone Health
When it comes to bone health, vitamin D or calcium usually hog the spotlight, but vitamin K deserves a place here too. Vitamin K activates proteins involved in bones' formation and strength, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
In a classic January 1999 comparative study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, over 70,000 women were followed for 10 years starting in 1984. Researchers observed that those who had the lowest intake of vitamin K (from leafy greens) had the highest risk of hip fracture. While the study itself may be decades old, the information is still widely referenced today due to the large volume of people included.
People assigned female at birth have a higher risk of declining bone health as they age, says Elizabeth Barnes, RDN, a dietitian and lifestyle coach. Butter lettuce can help you get the vitamin K you need for healthy bones, as just 1 cup has 47 percent DV of vitamin K. Other foods high in vitamin K include broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
2. It Contains Folate for Healthy Reproduction
Folate is an essential nutrient for everyone, but especially for people with ovaries during the age of possible reproduction.
Eating foods with folate and taking a supplement with 400 micrograms is recommended to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
For those who are already pregnant, eating foods high in folate can help prevent folate-deficiency anemia. Folate-deficiency anemia is most common during pregnancy and can include symptoms such as fatigue, headache, sore mouth and pale skin, according to the Office on Women's Health.
Other foods that contain folate include spinach, edamame, lentils and mango.
Like other leafy greens, butter lettuce contains a high amount of vitamin K, which can interact with certain medications.
The most common drug interaction with leafy greens high in vitamin K is warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication.
Increasing or decreasing the amount of vitamin K in your diet could increase or reduce the effectiveness of blood-thinning medications, per the National Institutes of Health. It's important to keep a stable amount of vitamin K foods in your diet to avoid interactions and tell your doctor when your intake changes.
When it comes to food recalls, lettuce is no stranger. From 2014 to 2018, there were 51 foodborne disease outbreaks linked to leafy greens, according to the CDC. There were likely many more cases caused by leafy greens that were not even reported.
It's not just butter lettuce. "Any leafy green could be contaminated with bacteria like E. coli and salmonella," Barnes says. Considering leafy greens are rarely eaten cooked and most often eaten raw, it can be challenging to get rid of the bacteria — but proper washing can help.
The best way to wash lettuce is to remove the outer leaves and any that are damaged, then rinse under running water while gently rubbing the surface of the leaves, according to the CDC.
Ways to use Butter Lettuce
The "butter" in butter lettuce refers to the texture, not the flavor. So it won't give you the same crunch that romaine or iceberg will. Instead, its silky smooth texture has a subtle crunch when layered and more of a "melt-in-your-mouth" feel.
Bibb and Boston lettuce leaves are fantastic options for lettuce "wraps" as a low-carb alternative to flour tortillas, bread or buns. The mild flavor pairs well with most other foods, making it a great addition to sandwiches and salads.
Don't limit yourself to raw lettuce, either. Barnes recommends grilling your butter lettuce: "Simply cut the head of lettuce down the middle and grill, cut side down, for a few minutes. Give it enough char that it has added flavor while still keeping the crisp texture, then dress with your favorite dressing."
Recipes With Lettuce
How to Store Butter Lettuce
Keeping the lettuce fresh once you get home from the grocery store can be a challenge if you aren't using it right away.
To keep your butter lettuce fresh, leave the head intact and remove any wilted leaves and store them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer, according to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.
Once ready to serve, gently remove from the stem, wash, dry and serve whole or chopped, depending on your recipe.
- University of Illinois Extension: "Watch Your Garden Grow"
- My Food Data: "Butterhead Lettuce"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Clevland Clinic: "Do You Need Vitamin K Supplements For Bone Health?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: " Vitamin K intake and hip fractures in women: a prospective study"
- CDC: "Folic Acid"
- The Office on Women's Health: "Folic Acid"
- National Institute of Health: "Vitamin K"
- CDC: Lettuce, Other Leafy Greens and Food Safety"
- Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: "How to keep salad greens greener, longer"