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Can You Eat Too Much Lettuce?

author image Joe Smyser
Writing since 2004, Joe Smyser has contributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the "European Journal of Public Health" and the "Journal of Biolaw and Business," among other publications and organizations. Smyser is a Ph.D. student in public health at UC San Diego and holds a Master of Public Health from San Diego State University.
Can You Eat Too Much Lettuce?
Lettuce is safe for nearly everyone to consume, up to reasonably large quantities.

Eat your vegetables. You've probably heard that your entire life, and if you're like most Americans, you still have trouble eating as many "greens" as you're supposed to. With that in mind, it may be hard to imagine eating so much of a vegetable, like lettuce, that you worry about the equivalent of a lettuce overdose. However, as always, too much of a good thing can be bad. Though there are different types of lettuce, their basic composition is the same and if consumed in excess, they can exacerbate certain health conditions.

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Types of Lettuce

There are six main types of lettuce grown for human consumption: butterhead, iceberg, romaine, looseleaf, summer crisp and Chinese lettuce. All lettuce is almost entirely made of water, has few calories and is a source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, which is a source of vitamin A itself. Lettuce also has other vitamins and minerals, but these are in relatively small amounts. Lettuce has been cultivated for centuries, back to the ancient Egyptians.

Possible Side Effects of Lettuce

Because lettuce is mostly made of water, you would have to eat a lot of it for it to have any negative effect on your body. Because lettuce has beta-carotene, it is possible to consume so much of it that you acquire carotenodermia. Carotenodermia manifests as a yellowish tint to the skin but goes away quickly if you lower the amount of beta-carotene you consume.

Eating a Lot of Lettuce Quickly

Competitive World Eating Champion Joey Chestnut.
Competitive World Eating Champion Joey Chestnut.

Competitive eaters reportedly eat massive amounts of lettuce to prepare for their events. Because lettuce is low in fat, sugar and calories, these individuals use it as a "healthy" means to expand their stomach over time. Once the lettuce has done its job, the competitive eater is ready to fill his newly enlarged stomach for the sport.

Let Us Eat Lettuce

For the vast majority of people, lettuce is healthy and can be consumed as part of a well-balanced diet. A large salad will leave you full, but it takes a significant amount of lettuce, eaten over time, to offer any risk to the average person. If you have problems digesting lettuce or have a condition that you think eating lettuce may affect, consult your doctor.

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