Q: How nutritious is iceberg lettuce?
A: Of all lettuces, this pale green variety (also called head lettuce) is the least nutritious, providing only very small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. On the positive side, like all lettuces, iceberg is very low in calories (8 per cup, chopped)—and its high water content may help fill you up, so if you eat a salad with a meal, you might eat fewer calories overall (just go easy on the dressing). In addition, iceberg lettuce is cheaper and stays fresher longer than many other lettuces.
But if you’re looking for more nutritional bang for your buck and more flavor, darker greens are a better choice. Romaine, spinach, kale, and arugula, for example—along with the less familiar mizuna, mache (lamb’s lettuce), and tatsoi—offer more vitamin C and vitamin K, folate, and other nutrients, and about twice as much fiber. And they’re richer in beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and other potentially beneficial compounds.
You can’t go wrong eating any kind of lettuce, but the best advice is to choose a more colorful variety.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Lettuce, the Salad Staple.