Varieties of Lettuce

Lettuce Varieties

We love lettuce! There is nothing better than making an awesome salad or a fabulous side dish to enhance any meal. Lettuce is one of the favorite green leafy vegetables. Its crispy, green/crimson-red leaves are one of the incredible sources of essential nutrients that benefit health. There is nothing better than crunchy green salads or healthy sandwiches, and it’s yummy! 

Lettuce leaves exude a milk-like fluid or sap when cut. (Hence its name derived from Latin Lactuca for milk). Botanically, this marvelous, nutrition rich leafy green belongs to the daisy family of Asteraceae. Scientific name: Lactuca sativa,

Lactuca sativa is a small sized annual plant that flourishes well under sandy, humus soil. There are about six cultivars varieties exist based on their head formation and leaf structure. Leaf types with more bitter taste are rather rich in nutrients as well as antioxidants. Here are some traditional varieties, grown around the globe:

Butterhead, with loose leaves; it has a buttery texture. Butterhead cultivars are most popular and widely cultivated in Europe.
Chinese variety or celtuce features long, tapering, non-head forming leaves, and unlike its Western counterparts, it possesses strong-flavored leaves. However, celtuce is grown for its long stem which used as a vegetable. They are, therefore, preferred in stir-fries and stews.

Loose-leaf variety; features tender, delicate and flavorful leaves with a loose bunch. This group includes green oak leaf, red oak leaf, valeria, and lolla-rosa-types.

Romaine lettuce; grows to a long head of sturdy leaves with a stout rib almost reaching to the tip of the leaf-blade. Cultivars of Romaine are also the most popular types employed in the USA.

Summer Crisp variety; forms moderately dense heads with a crunchy texture; this type is intermediate between crisp-head and loose-leaf types.

Crisp-head or Iceberg lettuce variety; forms tight, dense heads that resemble cabbage. They are the mildest form and valued more for their crunchy texture than flavor. Cultivars of the crisp head are the most familiar type used in the USA.

Endive; is a leaf vegetable belonging to the Cichorium genus, which includes several similar bitter leafed vegetables. Also called wild endive or Common Chicory. Contrary to what many people think, endive is NOT a part of the lettuce family!  It is, however, rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fiber. Endive is really good for you!

Did You Know? Iceberg lettuce does have some nutritional value! While it has a bad reputation of being low in nutrients, that’s not exactly true — it’s just lower in nutrients than some other types of lettuce. Iceberg lettuce serves as a good source of some essential nutrients, and at just 20 calories per serving, it fits into a calorie-conscious diet. You shouldn’t rely on iceberg lettuce as your sole source of leafy greens, but it’s OK to include it in your diet on a regular basis.

   Vitamin K
Iceberg lettuce serves as a good source of vitamin K. Each 2-cup serving contains 35 micrograms of vitamin K — 28 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 39 percent for women. This vitamin supports skeletal health and helps you form blood clots — blood cell aggregations that physically cut off bleeding after you’ve suffered tissue damage. Getting enough vitamin K in your diet might help preserve bone health as you age by reducing your osteoporosis risk, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center.

   Vitamin A
Add iceberg lettuce to your diet, and you’ll also boost your intake of vitamin A. Like vitamin K, vitamin A contributes to the health of your skeleton — it regulates bone growth. Consuming enough vitamin A also supports the health of your skin, eyes and blood. A 2-cup serving of iceberg lettuce boasts 722 international units of vitamin A. This contributes 31 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 24 percent for men.

Nutrition Basics

Most of iceberg lettuce’s calories come from its carbohydrate content. Each 2-cup serving — the serving size that counts as 1 cup of veggies, according to the Harvard School of Public Health — provides you with 4 grams of total carbohydrates, including 1.8 grams of dietary fiber. Carbs serve as fuel to keep your nervous system functioning and support muscle contraction, while dietary fiber helps you feel satisfied after your meal and fights constipation.

Health Benefits of Lettuce

Lettuce is super low-cal! 100 grams (about 2-4 ounces) of fresh greens is only about 15 calories. But the great thing is they are the storehouse of many phytonutrients, which possess health-promotion and disease prevention!

Vitamins in lettuce are plentiful. Its fresh leaves are an excellent source of several Vitamin-A and B-carotenes. Just 100 g of fresh, raw-lettuce provides 247% of daily vitamin A, and 4443 mg of B-carotene (Carotenes convert into vitamin-A in the body; 2 mg of carotene is considered equivalent to 1 IU of vitamin-A). These compounds have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural fruits and vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers!

It is a rich source of vitamin-K. Vitamin-K has a potential role in the bone metabolism where it thought to increase bone mass by promoting osteoblastic activity in the bone cells. It also has an established role in the Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.

Fresh leaves contain good amounts folates and vitamin C. Folates are part of co-factors in the enzyme metabolism required for DNA synthesis and therefore, play a vital role in the prevention of the neural tube defects in the baby (fetus) during pregnancy.
Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant; regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.

Zeaxanthin (1730 mg per 100 g), an important dietary carotenoid in lettuce, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant and filter UV rays damaging the retina. Diet rich in xanthin and carotenes is believed to offer some protection against age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the older adults.

It also contains healthy amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are very much essential for body metabolism. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. The body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation.

It is rich in the B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavins.  Regular inclusion of lettuce in salads is known to prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases, ARMD, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers.

Lettuce Nutrition

Energy 15 Kcal 1 %
Carbohydrates 2.87 g 2%
Protein 1.36 g 2%
Total Fat 0.15 g 0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.3 g 3%

Folates 38 µg 9.5%
Niacin 0.375 mg 2%
Pantothenic acid 0.134 mg   2.5%
Pyridoxine 0.090 mg 7%
Riboflavin 0.080 mg 6 %
Thiamin 0.070 mg 6%
Vitamin A 7405 IU 247%
Vitamin C 9.2 mg 15%
Vitamin E-a 0.29 mg 2%
Vitamin K 126.3 mg 105%

Sodium 28 mg 2%
Potassium 194 mg 4%

Calcium 36 mg 3.5%
Copper 0.029 mg 3%
Iron 0.86 mg 10%
Magnesium 13 mg 3%
Manganese 0.250 mg 11%
Phosphorus 29 mg 4%
Zinc 0.18 mg 1.5%

Carotene-ß 4443 mg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 mg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 1730 mg

*Contains moderate levels of oxalic acid, 0.33 mg per 100 g of fresh leaves

How to Buy and Store Lettuce

In the store, choose leaves that feature crispy outlook, bright in color. Avoid sunken leaves with spots or discoloration.
Each variety of lettuce features a unique keeping quality; hence, different methods should be applied while its storing. Wash Romaine and loose-leaf lettuces and drain any excess water before storing in the refrigerator. On the other hand, Butterhead need not have to be cleaned before storing.

Pack them in a plastic bag or keep inside the refrigerator. Romaine will stay fresh for up to seven days whereas, butterhead and loose-leaf-types for two to three days.

Preparation and serving methods

Remove any discolored outer leaves. Then trim off their bitter tips. Chop the remaining leaf to your desired size and discard the stem/root portion.

Soak in a lemon or salt water mix. Wash very thoroughly because there are all sorts of things that can be living in or on the leaves! Remove all the dirt and debris.  After that, run the leaves in clean running water. Pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove the excess water, depending on your personal desire.

Regardless of the type, all lettuces should feature crispy, fresh leaves that are free of dark or slimy spots. Varieties such as romaine and butterhead should have compact heads with no brown stems.


Pesticides commonly applied on lettuce crops. The most common pesticides found in the leaves are organophosphorus, Permethrin, etc. Wash them thoroughly in cold water before consumption. However, the organic produce believed to be free of these toxins and can be safely used in cooking.

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