Iceberg lettuce is a favorite green for many people, and despite sometimes earning an undue reputation for being "devoid" of nutrients, it actually offers a wealth of health benefits. Not only does it contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, but it can also help you stay hydrated and maintain or achieve a healthy weight.
With a satisfying crunch in every bite, iceberg lettuce is frequently used in salads or in wraps, burgers and sandwiches. It is the most popular type of lettuce in the United States, per the University of Illinois Extension.
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Incorporating iceberg lettuce into your meals can help you achieve a healthy diet that's rich in produce. This leafy green also easily takes on the flavors of most other ingredients, making it a versatile addition to your dishes.
Iceberg Lettuce Nutrition Facts
Two cups of iceberg lettuce (shredded or chopped) is equal to a single serving. Two cups of shredded iceberg lettuce contain:
- Calories: 20
- Total fat: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 14.4 mg
- Total carbs: 4.3 g
- Dietary fiber: 1.7 g
- Sugar: 2.8 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 1.3 g
Iceberg Lettuce Macros
- Total fat: Two cups of shredded iceberg lettuce has 0.2 grams of total fat, which includes 107 milligrams of polyunsaturated fat, 9 milligrams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
- Carbohydrates: Two cups of shredded iceberg lettuce have 4.3 grams of carbs, which includes 1.7 grams of fiber and 2.8 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
- Protein: Two cups of shredded iceberg lettuce contains 1.3 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Vitamin K: 29% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A, IU: 24% DV
- Folate (B9): 10% DV
- Manganese: 8% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 5% DV
- Vitamin C: 4%
- Potassium: 4% DV
- Vitamin B6: 4% DV
- Copper: 4% DV
- Iron: 3% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 3% DV
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 3% DV
The Health Benefits of Iceberg Lettuce
You'll consume a variety of vitamins and minerals when eating iceberg lettuce — particularly vitamin K, important for bone and blood health. It may also help you manage a healthy weight and keep you hydrated.
1. Iceberg Lettuce Can Help You Manage a Healthy Weight
A 2-cup serving of iceberg lettuce contains just 20 calories, but still adds plenty of volume and some fiber and protein to your plate. "It's a filling and satisfying food with a minimal amount of calories, which is beneficial for weight loss and weight management," says Kasey Hageman, RDN.
That's why eating more vegetables like leafy greens and fruits is a safe and healthy way to lose or maintain weight, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their water and fiber allow you to eat the same volume of food for fewer calories. In addition to being low in calories, iceberg lettuce also has nearly no fat.
Eating more non-starchy vegetables like iceberg lettuce was inversely associated with long-term weight gain in three large prospective cohorts of American adults in a September 2015 meta-analysis in the journal PLOS Medicine. Researchers say this supports the benefits of eating more veg for avoiding long-term weight gain and obesity, a major risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and several other health conditions.
The dietary fiber in iceberg lettuce passes somewhat intact through your body and isn't digested, per the Mayo Clinic. High-fiber meals can help you achieve a healthy weight because they're often more filling than low-fiber ones, and they also tend to take longer to eat. Fiber has also been associated with optimal bowel health, lower cholesterol levels, healthy blood sugar levels and a longer life overall.
2. Iceberg Lettuce Contains Important Vitamins and Minerals
Although it's sometimes thought of as a leafy green with no nutrients, that couldn't be further from the truth. Iceberg lettuce contains several vitamins and minerals that benefit your health — most notably, 29 percent of your daily value of vitamin K.
"The body needs vitamin K to produce prothrombin, which is important for blood clotting and bone health," Hageman says. Vitamin K deficiency can cause bleeding and bruising problems as the blood will take longer to clot, and may also reduce bone strength and increase osteoporosis risk, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Iceberg lettuce also contains vitamin A, which is important for vision, growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity, per the Mayo Clinic. Vitamin A has antioxidant properties, meaning it may protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals, molecules produced during digestion or when your body is exposed to environmental factors like radiation or tobacco smoke. Free radicals might be involved in diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Meanwhile, iceberg lettuce's manganese supports strong bones and blood clotting, like vitamin K. The body also uses it to keep your immune system strong, produce energy and protect cells from damage, per the NIH.
There are several other nutrients in iceberg lettuce, including 10 percent of your daily value of vitamin B9, plus potassium, vitamin C and copper. If you love iceberg lettuce, there's nothing wrong with eating it in place of other leafy greens more commonly heralded for their nutrients, like spinach or kale.
"Using iceberg lettuce as your base for a salad is totally suitable either on its own or mixed with other greens," Hageman says. "A simple way to add more nutrient density to iceberg lettuce would be to add in other vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, cucumbers and peppers."
3. Iceberg Lettuce Is Hydrating
One of the reasons iceberg lettuce can help you stay full is that it's packed with water — in fact, water makes up 96 percent of this leafy green. "That makes it more filling for a lower calorie content," Hageman says.
Maintaining hydration is important because it supports normal energy levels (so you don't feel sluggish), lowers the risk of kidney stones, prevents constipation, and is linked to a decrease in urinary tract infections, fatal heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Staying hydrated also allows the heart to easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles and helps muscles work efficiently, per the American Heart Association. When you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated, so pay attention to the color of your urine: If it's dark rather than pale and clear, drink more fluids and eat more water-rich foods like iceberg lettuce.
Iceberg Lettuce Health Risks
Lettuce can be a trigger for lipid transfer protein syndrome, in which an individual reacts to a wide variety of unrelated plant foods or pollens. This is due to the large amount of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) cross-reactivity between lipid transfer proteins. Lettuce allergy frequently resulted in severe reactions, including anaphylaxis, and usually had cofactor associations in a small 2017 study of 30 people in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology.
In other words, an allergic reaction to lettuce may only occur when an affected individual eats it in tandem with another factor, such as exercising, drinking alcohol or taking painkillers. Nearly all of the patients in the study had a sensitivity to pollen, and many reported reactions with peaches before developing symptoms with lettuce.
It's worth noting that researchers used commercial extracts of romaine lettuce in this study (not iceberg lettuce specifically).
Lipid transfer protein syndrome has largely been associated with individuals in Mediterranean countries. Although more research is needed, it can cause severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. Speak to an allergist if you suspect you have an allergy to lettuce, as you may need to carry epinephrine with you at all times to avoid a potentially fatal reaction.
If you eat large amounts of iceberg lettuce, its vitamin K may reduce the efficacy of blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin). This could trigger a heart attack or stroke in some individuals with heart disease, so it's important not to overload on leafy greens when you start taking warfarin, per Consumer Reports.
Be sure to discuss any medication and food interactions with your doctor, and precautions you should take if you're on a blood thinner or any other drug.
Eating Raw Iceberg Lettuce
As with other raw vegetables, you face the risk of contamination from harmful bacteria when you eat raw iceberg lettuce. Be sure to follow best vegetable-washing practices when preparing your iceberg lettuce, per the U.S. Food & Drug Administration:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after handling raw iceberg lettuce.
- Gently rub iceberg lettuce while holding it under plain running water.
- To further reduce bacteria, dry the iceberg lettuce with a clean cloth or paper towel.
- Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce before preparing.
Iceberg Lettuce Recipes
Although the following healthy recipes call for various types of lettuce leaves, you can use iceberg lettuce leaves as a replacement in any of them:
Iceberg Lettuce Preparation and Helpful Tips
Iceberg lettuce adds a satisfying crunch and hydrating bite to several dishes. Here's how to buy, store and prepare iceberg lettuce to get the most out of it.
Pick the right lettuce. Because it ships well, iceberg lettuce is widely available in American supermarkets — one reason it's so popular. When choosing iceberg lettuce to buy, keep in mind that fresh lettuce leaves should be crisp and green, and free of wilt, rot and rust, per the University of Illinois Extension.
Store it properly. Store fresh, unwashed lettuce leaves by wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in the refrigerator, per the University of Illinois Extension. A cooler temperature will help keep the lettuce leaves fresh for longer. The first shelf against the back wall is typically the coolest part of most refrigerators.
If possible, try not to store your lettuce leaves with apples, pears or bananas. These fruits release a natural ripening agent called ethylene, which may cause your iceberg lettuce to develop brown spots and decay quickly. Discard your lettuce if it has black spots (typically mold) or slime (residue of bacterial decomposition).
Use it as a replacement. Iceberg lettuce can serve as a fantastic base for other healthy ingredients and can replace higher-calorie staples. Pair it with vegetables and a source of lean protein for a satisfying meal. "One of my favorite ways to use iceberg lettuce is as a wrap or 'bread' with grilled chicken strips and hummus or tuna salad," Hageman says.
Alternatives to Iceberg Lettuce
You can try several varieties of leafy greens in place of iceberg lettuce. "Other types of leafy greens include romaine, kale, spinach, mixed greens, arugula, Bibb lettuce, Batavia lettuce and dandelion greens," Hageman says.
- University of Illinois Extension: "Lettuce"
- My Food Data: "Iceberg Lettuce"
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight"
- PLOS Medicine: "Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin K"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin A"
- National Institutes of Health: "Manganese"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Hydration"
- American Heart Association: "Staying Hydrated - Staying Healthy"
- Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology: "Lettuce Allergy Is a Lipid Transfer Syndrome-Related Food Allergy With a High Risk of Severe Reactions"
- Consumer Reports: "Food and Drug Interactions You Need to Know About"
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: "7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables"