What is Iceberg lettuce, really?

Lettuce in a bowl

Don’t know about your area, but in grocery stores in Canada, Iceberg lettuce is the most commonly purchased. Yet there are a huge variety of lettuces and with differing nutrient profiles.

Iceberg lettuce has a higher water content and therefore less nutrients like vitamins minerals, fiber, etc.

Lets look at lettuce in general first.  There are 4 basic categories: looseleaf, (ie., arugula, grand rapids, prizehead, coral) butterhead, crispheads (i.e., iceberg, igloo, webbs, hanson), and romaine (ie., cimarron, little Caesar, Parris island).

Butterhead lettuce has more protein, more calcium, more Vitamin A & K, B1 & B9, and less sugar.

Darker leafy greens contain more nutrients like magnesium, but also fiber, iron and folate (B9).

Romaine lettuce has about 5 times the Vitamin K and three times the Vitamin C. Red romaine has even more magnesium and iron.

Kale has more than 3 times the fiber and more than 10 times the Vitamin C, calcium and Vitamin K.

Swiss chard has more Vitamin C, E & K, copper, Magnesium, iron, and potassium whereas general lettuce has more Vitamin A, B9.

Other leafy green vegetables in the family like spinach, watercress escarole and radicchio are much higher in potassium, Vitamins A & C, B9 and iron.

So what to grow in your healthy food garden?  That of course, is a personal choice. I grow romaine lettuce – Monte Carlo (tolerates heat better, Parris, red romaine), red oakleaf, butterhead lettuce, a variety of Swiss chard (its actually a member of the beet family, but I use it as a lettuce, the different varieties are very colorful) and a variety of spinach (both low growing and vine – there’s over 100s of types of spinach). Your weather will determine much of what you decide to grow.  There are some that are more cold tolerant and some that are more heat tolerant…do your research.

Besides providing water, fiber and nutrients, lettuce can be good for your health because:

  • Water of course for hydration
  • Vitamin A for the eyes (prevents cataracts and macular degeneration), supports immune system and bone health
  • Vitamin C for bones, immune system, helps to absorb iron, production of 29 types of collagen, protein metabolism and its an antioxidant
  • Vitamin K is great for regulating blood clotting, preventing bone deterioration
  • Iron for the blood, energy, GI tract, immune system and regulating the body temperature

There are 1001 recipes for salads.  So, grow, harvest and enjoy in a variety of ways.