The Health Benefits of Iceberg Lettuce vs. Dark Leafy Greens
Iceberg lettuce has been the traditional salad base in the West for decades. Although it is very low in calories and high in water content, it is lacking in significant nutritional value, particularly those leaves that are yellow, even whitish, and pale green. This salad green is crunchy, refreshing, and cleansing, but, unless your iceberg lettuce salad is mixed with some of the most nutritious salad greens, it provides only a minimal amount of nutrients. The health benefits of iceberg lettuce come down to being a great weight loss food and a source of hydration.
Making wiser salad green choices can literally revolutionize the quality of your diet. Dark leafy greens, calorie for calorie, are the world’s healthiest foods. They are concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting antioxidants, not to mention energizing chlorophyll and other beneficial phytonutrients, with only a handful of calories per serving. Some of the most nutritious salad greens, such as spinach, kale, and watercress, are good sources of potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, folate, vitamins A, C, E, K, and B-complex vitamins. When consumed on a regular basis, they are known to reduce the chances of contracting many forms of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. They are vital for glowing skin, immune health, and longevity.
Healthy Salad Greens Choices
Arugula This green is a dark jade green, with a slightly bitter, almost mustardy tone. Because of its strong flavor, arugula is sometimes blended with other salad greens. It is also known as rocket. Baby arugula is more tender and milder than the mature leaves, and is often used on its own.
Swiss Chard Chard is closely related to spinach. The medium dark green leaves surround a mild, crunchy white stalk.
Dandelion Greens Dandelion leaves are tender and flavorful. They are bitter, and even slightly salty. There are a number of health benefits to eating dandelion greens – they increase blood circulation and are good for congestion or any fluid swelling.
Frisee A member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, frisee is rich in anti-cancer phytonutrients. The leaves are curly and pale green in color, while the stalks are white to yellow. This salad green is very bitter and intense.
Spinach Spinach leaves can be either crinkly or flat, and a dark, rich green. They are sweeter and more mild than other salad green choices. Like baby arugula, baby spinach is more tender.
Kale This green is a deep jade, with ruffled leaves, and a strong, bitter flavor which works well in soups and sautes.
Oak Leaf Lettuce In the butter lettuce family, this salad green ranges from green to reddish green. It has a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
Watercress Watercress is related to cabbage. Its leaves are small and bright green, with a slightly peppery flavor.
Mache With small, delicate, clover-like leaves, mache has a mild, sweet, and fresh flavor. It is a wonderful addition to tone down some of the more intensely flavored salad greens.
Mizuna With sharp-edged, tender leaves, and a tangy, slightly peppery flavor, mizuna is another flavorful addition to mixed greens salads.
What are the most nutritious salad greens? Often the dark, bitter, richer lettuces are a much better choice than iceberg lettuce if you are looking for health benefits and nutritional value. Experiement with different types. Make salad blends, healthy soups, stews, and even stir-frys.
photo credit: Sonic Walker
This post is part of the series: What’s in Your Salad?
- Beyond Lettuce: A Guide to Healthy Salad Greens
- Health Benefits of Arugula
- Different Types of Salad Greens: Frisee Lettuce and Nutrition
- Health Benefits of Spinach