Megan Johnson McCullough
Special to the Village News
Lettuce is used for multiple dishes in our diets. From burger toppings to salads, this green vegetable also comes in many different varieties. There are multiple health benefits to this green substance. Some of these include lowering inflammation, it's full of antioxidants, it can help lower cholesterol, and can help control cancer. The minerals found in lettuce include calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, as well as vitamins B6, A, E, C, and K.
Lettuce originated from the Egyptians who used the seeds to make oil and considered the vegetable to be sacred. Lettuce is scientifically known as Lactuca sativa. Sub-species and cross-pollination lead to the many different types.
There are 14 types of lettuce:
1. Frisee – this is yellow, green, and bitter in taste.
2. Arugala – originated from the Mediterranean.
3. Mizuna – this is deep red and purple.
4. Baby beet greens – these have purple veins.
5. Tatsoi – these have a mustard flavor and come from Asia.
6. Butterhead – the leaves are smooth like butter.
7. Endive – this has an oval shape and tastes bitter.
8. Radicchio – these are deep red and purple with a round shape.
9. Escarole – this is mildly bitter and crisp.
10. Cress – this has a peppery taste.
11. Romaine – known for being stiffer than other types.
12. Mache – the leaves are very tiny and often still have soil on them when sold.
13. Looseleaf – this has a mild flavor and ruffled surface.
14. Oakleaf – the leaves look similar to those off an oak tree.
One cup of lettuce, for most varieties, remarkably only contains about 5 calories. One cup has no fat and maybe one carbohydrate. There is no sugar. No wonder it is recommended to have a lettuce wrap versus a traditional hamburger bun. Lettuce is usually a "free for all" when on a diet or when counting calories. It can start off a meal right by filling space in the stomach with good calories so that you don't eat more later.
There are many types, many uses, and many reasons why lettuce should be part of one's diet. On a side note, it is very important to wash lettuce.
The key is what you have with the lettuce. After all, dousing it in ranch dressing will negate whatever positive intention there was to make a healthy choice. Lettuce is a great tool to find a way to feel full and load the tank with nutrients. Pick your type, have as much as you want, and be sure to wash before consuming.
Megan Johnson McCullough, EdD, recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.