Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual plant of the daisy family, Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leafy vegetable, but sometimes for its stems and seeds. Lettuce is most often used for salads, although it is also seen in other kinds of food. Lettuce contains high water content, small amounts of fats, carbohydrates, energy, protein, dietary fiber and sugars. Some minerals and vitamins include potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins. There are five basic types of lettuce.
• Romaine, crunchy tall heads. It’s the nutritional champ among lettuces. Just a half cup raw is high in potassium and provides about 10%of our daily needs of vitamins A and C and folic acid.
• Butterhead (Boston or Bibb lettuce) has loose rosettes of leaves with a creamy, yellow-green center and a soft, buttery texture.
• Looseleaf lettuce comes in dozens of varieties – green, reddish and speckled, etc.
• Batavian lettuce is a sturdy type that forms shaggy heads with cream colored centers of fine, sweet flavor and crispy texture.
• Crisphead lettuce are the cabbage-like ball heads often called “iceberg,” although iceberg is just one of many cultivars of this type of lettuce.
Benefits of lettuce includes:
• Anti-inflammatory properties (certain proteins in lettuce (or Romaine lettuce), like lipoxygenase, and vitamins A, E and K help control inflammation).
• Lowers cholesterol levels (lettuce can be beneficial in lowering high cholesterol levels that often lead to cardiovascular diseases and other dangerous conditions).
• Antioxidant agent (lettuce possesses antioxidants with significant free radical-scavenging capabilities).
• Antimicrobial agent (the latex of lettuce possesses antimicrobial properties).
• Protects neuronal cells and helps relieve anxiety (the neurological properties of lettuce has long been suggested as such the unani system. Also lettuce possesses anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties).
• Anti-cancer potential (lettuce leaf extract may help prevent certain types of cancer such as leukemia and breast cells).
• May cut diabetes risk (lettuce captains lactuca xanthin, an anti-diabetic carotenoid that lowers blood glucose levels).
• May promote vision health (lettuce contains zeaxanthin and lutein that boost vision health).
• May induce sleep (lactucarium, a substance in lettuce, sedates the nervous system and promotes sleep. Also another substance called lactucin induces sleep).
• May enhance bone health (lettuce is rich in vitamin K, A and C which are important in collagen production).
Word of caution: lettuce can cause allergies in some people so eating a small amount is wise for the first time.