Does Iceberg Lettuce Actually Have Nutritional Value?

Lettuce is a healthy food that's popular among dieters. It easily takes on the flavors of anything you're eating it with, while providing you with a satisfying crunch in every bite. Iceberg lettuce is very low in calories, sugars and carbohydrates and is a particularly good source of vitamin K.

Iceberg lettuce is a good source of manganese and vitamins A, B9 and K.
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Tip

Despite its reputation, iceberg lettuce does have nutritional value. It's also low in calories and a good source of vitamin K.

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Iceberg Lettuce Nutrition Facts

Many types of lettuce are consumed, including romaine, butter and iceberg lettuce. Iceberg lettuce, which is also called crisphead lettuce, is known for being crunchy, pale green and shaped roughly like a ball. This type of lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce consumed in the United States.

There are actually several different types of iceberg lettuce. These include variants such as Equinos, Ice Castle or Metalia. A full head of iceberg lettuce can range anywhere from 485 to 800 grams in size. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the serving size for lettuce is about 3.2 ounces (or 89 grams). This means that you may get anywhere from five and a half to 10 servings from a head of iceberg lettuce.

Each serving of iceberg lettuce has several nutrients, which may surprise you, given that there are only 12.5 calories in lettuce per serving, which is 1 percent of the daily value (DV) for calories for a 2,000-calorie diet. In each serving, you can also find:

  • Vitamin A: 9 percent of your recommended DV. Vitamin A is beneficial to many different organs, including your eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys and reproductive organs.
  • Vitamin B9 (also known as folate): 6 percent of your DV. Folate is essential for your body's cells, as it helps them make DNA and genetic material.
  • Vitamin K: 27 percent of your DV. Vitamin K is particularly important for your blood, heart and bones.
  • Manganese: 6 percent of your DV. Manganese is important for your nervous system, immune system and various organ functions.

Every serving of iceberg lettuce also has small amounts (between 1 to 4 percent) of fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals. This includes B-complex vitamins and vitamins C and E, as well as minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Lettuce is also known to have beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, cholesterol-reducing properties. The nutrients in this vegetable make it useful as a healthy component of a low-calorie or low-carb diet.

Iceberg Lettuce in Your Diet

You'll probably be familiar with many ways to eat this healthy, low-calorie food. Iceberg lettuce is frequently used in salads or in wraps, burgers and sandwiches. It gives you that gratifying crispiness that you can only get from fresh fruits and vegetables without adding a lot of calories or carbs.

Lettuce is a popular choice for people who are consuming fewer calories than average or trying to reduce their consumption of carbohydrates. Since it's so crunchy, lettuce is often swapped out for bread. This way, people following low-carbohydrate diets, like the ketogenic diet or Atkins diet, can still have something to eat with their dips. Traditional vegetables, like carrots, are often too high in carbohydrates, while foods like lettuce, cucumber and celery are much better suited to such diets.

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Iceberg Lettuce vs. Other Lettuce

Even though iceberg lettuce is so popular, it's not necessarily the best where nutrition is concerned. Lettuce nutrition varies between types, and iceberg is the type with some of the lowest amounts of vitamins and minerals. From a nutritional perspective, in fact, you may want to opt for other variants of lettuce, like red lettuce or baby green romaine.

In general, lettuce has few calories, but each type supplies different amounts of nutrients. For instance, romaine lettuce, which is often used in Caesar salad, has much more folate (29 percent of the DV) and vitamin C (34 percent of the DV) per serving. In fact, a single serving provides you with more than your DV of vitamin A (148 percent) and vitamin K (109 percent). And it only has two more calories per serving than iceberg lettuce.

Meanwhile, red leaf lettuce is comparable to romaine, while butterhead is more like iceberg. Red leaf lettuce has equivalently high levels of vitamins A and K, while certain minerals, like iron and potassium, are also higher. In contrast, butterhead lettuce, which you may also know as Boston lettuce or bibb lettuce, is more comparable to iceberg lettuce. Although butterhead lettuce has high levels of vitamins A, B9 and K, it has fairly low values of other nutrients.

Downsides to Eating Lettuce

Most people like to eat lettuce raw. This means that, like all uncooked vegetables, lettuce has an increased chance of carrying harmful bacteria. This includes a range of different pathogens, like Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella and Yersinia enterocolitica. These harmful microbes often cause food poisoning, regardless of how well you wash your vegetables.

Most of these bacteria can be killed by cooking, although it's actually possible to cook vegetables through alternative methods such as using acids. Certain kinds of vinegar, like balsamic vinegar, may help reduce the amount of food-borne pathogens, like Listeria monocytogenes. A 2014 study in the Journal of Food Control showed that balsamic vinegar was better than white wine vinegar and acetic acid, while all three were far better than water at removing such bacteria.

Lettuce can be cooked, but this is unusual in Western cultures. Despite this, you may find lettuce in stir-fries, braised alongside other vegetables or steamed. An interesting way to cook it is to use it as a wrap. Put an ingredient like fish or meat inside lettuce and then steam it until cooked. Steaming lettuce in this way should remove most of the bacteria and simultaneously allow this vegetable to absorb the flavor of the protein you've used.

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