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Iceberg: Bad for the Titanic and for Your Salad

Iceberg Lettuce
Photo by Geoff604 via Flickr

Salads can be a highly nutritious meal, if you use the right ingredients.  But, if you are choosing iceberg lettuce to put in your salad, you are sinking the nutritional benefits that you would receive from selecting a different leafy green.

Iceberg lettuce may be the most popular lettuce, but it is the least nutritious.  That’s not to say that it’s bad for you.  It’s definitely a lot better than eating a candy bar.  It is low in calories, sodium, has no saturated fat and has some vitamins and minerals.  But, in a world of nutritional heroes, iceberg lettuce comes in dead last.  Any other leafy green that you would find at the store would be a better choice than iceberg lettuce.  Iceberg lettuce is just not as nutritionally packed as other greens, which tend to have much higher amounts of various vitamins and minerals.

How do I choose the right lettuce?
So, iceberg lettuce is out.  What should you pick instead?  Here is a rule of thumb to go by.  The greener the leafy vegetable is in color, the more nutritious it tends to be.  So, if you want to maximize the nutritional content of your salad, go with the greenest greens.  Want some specific options?  Try substituting these other common leafy greens for iceberg lettuce.

  1. Romaine lettuce: Also known as cos lettuce, romaine is a long leafed, dark green lettuce with a crispy texture and a strong taste.  It is the main component in Caesar salads.  It is an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C, folate, manganese and chromium.  It is also a very good source of dietary fiber and six other vitamins and minerals.
  2. Butterhead lettuce: A loose head lettuce with grassy green leaves, butterhead lettuce has a sweet, delicate flavor and a soft texture.  The most well known varieties are Bibb or Boston lettuce.  It is a good source of vitamin A and folate.
  3. Arugula: Also known as rocket or roquette, arugula has small flat leaves with long stems.  Due to its strong, pungent, peppery flavor, it is usually used as an herb in salads.  It is an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C.  It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium & manganese.
  4. Loose leaf: These are greens where the leaves are joined at the stem rather than in a head.  They have a sweet and delicate taste.  Varieties include: oak leaf, red leaf and green leaf.  It is a good source of vitamin A.
  5. Chicory or curly endive: This green is slightly bitter and has dark outer leaves with paler leaves toward the center.  The leaves are ragged edges along thin stems.  It tends to be mixed with milder greens.  There is also a red variety called Radicchio.  Chicory is an excellent source of potassium, vitamins A and C, and folate.  It is also a good source of calcium.
  6. Kale: This highly nutritious leaf has a sweet, mild taste and a tender texture that can be used in salads.  The leaves may be either green, white or purple and its stalks form a loosely knit head.  It is an excellent source of manganese, copper, and vitamins A and C.

So, the next time you are thinking of making a salad, make it as nutritious as you can.  Watch out for that iceberg ahead and steer hard to port for some greener, more nutritious greens.  Make every tasty bite count!

Comments (13)

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  1. cathy says:

    We’re big red leaf lettuce fans here – sweet, tender, and flavorful. I’ve never thought of using kale in a salad. Will give it a try!

  2. Rosy says:

    I love all of them. I still eat Iceberg once in awhile with certain foods. I try to replace bread with Romaine or butterhead lettuce for sandwiches. Thanks, Talli for listing all the info.

  3. I love baby spinach for my salad. It wasn’t mentioned here, but I am sure that it is better than iceberg. My second favorite is romaine. Sadly, when you eat out, most of the time a salad comes with iceberg unless they have a salad bar.

  4. Stephanie says:

    My own favorite is spinach, but I have long since learned to prefer the darker leaf lettuces for salads as a whole. There’s just nothing that interesting flavor-wise with iceberg lettuce.

  5. Wendy Cooper says:

    I now ask for a garden salad with romaine rather than iceberg 🙂 awesome article! Thanks!

  6. Shawno says:

    I enjoy me some Caesar salad so I’m glad to know that Romaine lettuce ain’t all bad.

  7. Maria Isabel says:

    It is interesting that I used to eat iceberg lettuce but I always preferred the red lettuce or other leafy vegetables with wine vinegar, olive oil and garlic powder. I prefer Kale or Swiss Chard on soup (“Caldo Verde” -Portuguese soup).

  8. […] Talli at Being Healthy for Busy People posted an explanation of why iceberg lettuce is bad for you […]

  9. […] in nutrients like vitamin C. In fact, one potato contains more vitamin C than an entire head of iceberg lettuce. Shouldn’t we look at how often potatoes are served — and the ways in which […]

  10. […] water (which isn’t bad), but it doesn’t have the nutrients as other lettuces (click here to read more about choosing lettuce). The goal is to try and get as many different type of greens […]

  11. Daniel Jones says:

    I love Kale in my tossed green salad. It has a fain broccoli flavor to it.

  12. […] 3. Eat your veggies. Instead of devouring a high-calorie, greasy super-size cheeseburger meal for lunch, eat a vitamin-rich salad instead. Green leafy vegetables are packed with tons of essential vitamins and nutrients, and these green beauties have been proven to boost immunity, lower cholesterol, encourage vision health, promote bone health, and prevent colon cancer, to name a few. A big green salad may not be the most desirable item on your lunch list, but your future self will thank you for choosing healthier lunch options over time — you know, because you’ll be alive and healthy, for starters. Remember to not douse your salad/greens with dressing/sauce, and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but iceberg lettuce doesn’t count because, despite its popularity in many salads, it’s the least nutritious. […]

  13. […] 3. Eat your veggies. Instead of devouring a high-calorie, greasy super-size cheeseburger meal for lunch, eat a vitamin-rich salad instead. Green leafy vegetables are packed with tons of essential vitamins and nutrients, and these green beauties have been proven to boost immunity, lower cholesterol, encourage vision health, promote bone health, and prevent colon cancer, to name a few. A big green salad may not be the most desirable item on your lunch list, but your future self will thank you for choosing healthier lunch options over time — you know, because you’ll be alive and healthy, for starters. Remember to not douse your salad/greens with dressing/sauce, and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but iceberg lettuce doesn’t count because, despite its popularity in many salads, it’s the least nutritious. […]

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