- 10 Superfoods Healthier Than Kale
- Romaine Lettuce
- 14 Salad Greens That Are Better For You Than Kale
- 7 Leafy Greens: A Nutritional Comparison
- 1. Kale
- 2. Spinach
- 3. Swiss Chard
- 4. Romaine
- 5. Collard Greens
- 6. Arugula
- 7. Iceberg
- Side-By-Side Comparison
- Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite
- Tailor salad greens to your dietary needs and taste preferences.
- Everything you need to know about arugula
- Arugula vs Spinach – Key Differences
- Nutrition Facts
- Nitrate Content
- Culinary Uses
- More Comparisons of Green Leafy Vegetables
- Kale Vs Lettuce
- Kale Vs Letuce
- The Lettuce Family
- How to Grow Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, and Other Leafy Green Vegetables
- Where and when to plant kale, lettuces and other leafy green vegetables
- Spacing Leafy Greens
- Fertilizing Leafy Green Vegetables
- Which pests bother kale, lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens?
- When to harvest lettuce, spinach, kale, and leafy green vegetables
- How Healthy Is Iceberg Lettuce, Exactly?
- The Verdict
- All Romaine Lettuce Is Unsafe, the CDC Warns. Here’s What You Should Eat Instead
- How to Choose the Healthiest Salad Greens
10 Superfoods Healthier Than Kale
Kale is the ultimate celebrity of the health and fitness world… Weight loss programs everywhere rave about it.
However, Kale is actually not the healthiest veggie around according to the latest research.
The CDC recently performed a study rating the 47 superfood fruits and vegetables based on their nutrient density. Shockingly, the almighty kale only made it to the 15th spot on the list..
Kale’s nutrient density score: 49.07
Nutrition Density Score: 62.49
High in vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C, collard greens are especially supportive for digestive health.
When selecting collard greens from the store, look for plants with a deep vivid green color and avoid the ones with yellow or browning colors. The healthiest way to eat collard greens is in the raw or lightly steamed for 5 minutes.
Nutrition Density Score: 63.48
High in vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate, romaine lettuce is especially helpful for fighting cholesterol.
When selecting, look for crisp clean leaves that have no dark spots or slimy areas. The edges of the leaves should be free from discoloration. To prepare: remove the outer leaves, rinse thoroughly, and eat them raw!
You can learn more about how to shop for healthy food in our article on clean eating.
Nutrition Density Score: 65.59
High in iron, vitamin K, and vitamin C, parsley is also known for its protection against rheumatoid arthritis.
When selecting, always choose fresh parsley over the dried herbs, because it has superior flavor. Choose parsley that has a deep green color, and avoid the lighter leaves. Parsley has a strong flavor and is excellent for adding to warm dishes because the flavor tends to hold up well under heat.
Nutrition Density Score: 70.73
High in vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C, plain old leaf lettuce is especially know for its zea-xanthin cancer-fighting carotenoid.
There are many varieties of leaf lettuce, such as butter-head, crisp head, and loose-leaf, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Lettuce leaves should always be crisp, without any spots of slimy blemishes. Buy, rinse in water, and use to make salads or add to green smoothies.
Nutrition Density Score: 73.36
High in vitamin B6, manganese, and folate, chicory is best known for its aid to the immune system.
When selecting, the darker the green, the better. The best way to make it is to boil it for only a few minutes to tame the bitterness. It should also be mentioned that excess chicory should not be eaten if pregnant, because it can cause menstruation.
Nutrition Density Score: 86.43
High in magnesium, vitamin B2, and vitamin B6, spinach is best known for anti-inflammatory benefits.
When selecting the leaves, they should look fresh and not wilted or bruised. As with most vegetables on this list, the green color should be dark and vibrant.
Nutrition Density Score: 87.08
High in vitamin C, copper, and iron, beet greens are known for having all kinds nourishment.
Choose smaller beets over larger, tougher ones, and avoid any that are bruised, cracked, or shriveled. Beets are ok to boil, because they will free up acids and cause the beets to have a sweeter taste.
Nutrition Density Score: 89.27
High in vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C, swiss chard is best known for its ability to lower blood sugar.
When choosing swiss chard, make sure it is a dark green color and is being displayed in a cool/chilled place. This ensures the chard remains sweet and crunchy.
This is another one of those rare vegetables that is ok to boil but only for around 2-3 minutes to keep from losing too many nutrients.
Nutrition Density Score: 91.99
Coming in at number 2 on the list is Chinese cabbage.
High in fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6, this food is best known for its cancer-fighting glucosinolates. When shopping for them, the cabbage heads should be firm and dense with shiny, colorful leaves.
Eat cabbage raw or steam it for a maximum of 7 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Density Score: 100
All hail the mighty watercress. High in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and beta-carotene, it is best known for protecting the heart from various diseases. When compared to kale, watercress is 2x more nutrient dense…
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14 Salad Greens That Are Better For You Than Kale
Watercress is a leader in the veggie superfood arena. Kale has been hyped as the most nutrient-dense food you can buy in the produce department.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a report called Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables (PFV): A Nutrient Density Approach that ranks it only number 15. It’s still pretty potent, but that means there are 14 other superfoods you can add to your diet for more variety and an even bigger nutritional punch.
“National nutrition guidelines emphasize consumption of powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV), foods most strongly associated with reduced chronic disease risk; yet efforts to define PFV are lacking,” said the study’s introduction. This study developed and validated a classification scheme defining PFV as foods providing, on average, 10% or more daily value per 100 kcal of 17 qualifying nutrients.
Of 47 foods studied, 41 satisfied the powerhouse criterion and were more nutrient-dense than were non-PFV, providing preliminary evidence of the validity of the classification scheme. The proposed classification scheme is offered as a tool for nutrition education and dietary guidance.
The study looks at green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus and cruciferous items as well as berries and alliums (garlic, onions etc.), based on scientific literature and consumer guidelines touting them as reducing the risk of chronic diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, hypertension and inflammation. It found that all but six — raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion and blueberry — satisfied the VFV criterion. The average score was 32.23.
“Items in cruciferous (watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, kale, arugula) and green leafy (chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce) groups were concentrated in the top half of the distribution of scores whereas items belonging to yellow/orange (carrot, tomato, winter squash, sweet potato), allium (scallion, leek), citrus (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit) and berry (strawberry, blackberry) groups were concentrated in the bottom half.”
And the winner is…watercress, with a score of 100 (actually higher but the researcher capped the scores at 100.) It’s not just easy to add a handful to that salad (and you’ll get the most from its nutrients if you eat it raw), it’s easy and quick to grow yourself so you’ve always got some fresh leaves on hand.
A row of colorful swiss chard. Flickr/Alex
That doesn’t mean, however, that those foods scoring lower don’t provide benefits in specific areas, bringing particular nutrients to the mix. What is does mean is that vegetables clustered in the top half of the chart would make a heck of a healthy salad and could bring some variety as well as a mix of health-boosting vitamins and minerals to your salad bowl.
Instead of going straight for the trendy kale — still a nutritious superfood choice — try them all and maybe discover some new favorites.
When it comes to veggies, all we hear is “kale, kale, kale.” But are there green cousins that are even healthier? Last year, the Center for Disease Control released a report that included a ranking of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” based on nutrient density scores. These scores (0-100) are based on the appearance of 17 key nutrients in each superfood. Here are the 14 greens that kicked kale (49.07) to number 15 on the list.
Watercress (100.00): This superfood may be the most nutrient-dense, but you may be more interested in its age-fighting qualities! In a 2012 study, 10 out of 11 female participants saw visible improvements to their skin after adding one bag of raw watercress per day to their diets over a period of four weeks. This is because the green contains a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, all important for repairing damage, reducing age spots and hydrating skin. Watercress is also the richest food source of phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which researchers suggests contains cancer-fighting properties.
Chinese cabbage (91.99): Also called Napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, protecting the body against pro-inflammatory free radicals. A 2013 study of over 1,000 Chinese women concluded that those who ate more cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage) had less inflammation than those who ate less of these greens per day.
Chard (89.27): Swiss chard, most popular in Mediterranean countries, may be the secret to living a long, healthy life. This leafy green is high in vitamin K, which a 2014 study linked to reducing leading causes of death. Over 7,000 people at risk for cardiovascular disease participated in the study and the results showed that those with the highest vitamin K intake were 36 percent less likely to die (from any cause) than those with the lowest intake.
Beet green (87.08): When you buy beets at the grocery, you’ll probably find the leafy greens still attached. Don’t toss them out, though, as beet greens pack a high amount of vitamin K and dietary fiber. High fiber foods keep your digestive system regular and can help you lose weight as you stay fuller longer. If you aren’t sure what to do with these greens, try this bowl by Simply Recipes!
Spinach (86.43): This green has become a salad staple because of its healthy, nutritious qualities. Notably, spinach is an excellent source of magnesium which is necessary to generate energy from nutrients. It also improves blood sugar levels, ultimately lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy heart! This vegetable can be easily incorporated into your diet with recipes like this 5-Ingredient Spinach Parmesan Pasta or by making a perfect green smoothie.
Chicory (73.36): Common chicory is a blue flowering plant commonly found on roadsides, but its leaves belongs to a family with endives and radicchio (the red-leaved shreds often found in salad mixes). Chicory plants are used for salad leaves and their roots are baked, ground and used in popular New Orleans-style coffee. While you probably wouldn’t eat them alone, radicchio is one of the greatest courses of a disease-fighting nutrient, so adding it to your salads may be a wise choice to live healthier! (via Huffington Post)
Leaf lettuce (70.73): You may have considered green leaf lettuce to be the least nutritious, but this salad staple is more nutrient dense than Romaine. Lettuce is a strong source of vitamin A, which supports eye health and improves your immune system. The nutrients in this green help maintain healthy skin and synthesize mucus, defending your body from harmful bacteria that cause illness. If you’re tired of salads, try this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps which stars this healthy veggie.
Parsley (65.59): This green, often found on the side of your plate at a fancy restaurant, is packed with vitamins A, C and K. It is filled with antioxidants that support disease prevention and has been known to prevent tumor formation in animals. The oils in parsley also qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food, which can neutralize some types of harmful carcinogens. (via World’s Healthiest Foods)
Romaine lettuce (63.48): It’s no secret that lettuce is low-calorie and can help you lose weight, but Romaine’s high water content can also can quickly satisfy your hunger and prevent overeating. It also contains high levels of folic acid which boosts male fertility and may prevent issues in pregnant women. To get your daily dose of Romaine, serve this Skinny Greek Salad!
Collard green (62.49): Another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, collard greens are an extremely rich source of vitamin K, A and C. This vegetable may also have qualities that help lower cholesterol. One study found that steamed collard greens improved participants’ cholesterol levels 13 percent more than prescription drug Cholestyramine. (via Huffington Post)
Other vegetables that topped kale on the powerhouse charts were turnip greens, mustard green, endive and chive. Kale’s still got heavy nutritional benefits, but consider these other superfoods for a balanced, healthy diet.
>> Read more: 10 Foods with More Vitamin C Than Oranges
7 Leafy Greens: A Nutritional Comparison
Not all leafy greens are created equal. You’ve probably heard the hype about kale and spinach. Do other greens even come close?
The truth is, although some greens are more nutritionally dense than others, there is not one specific green that beats all others in the level of each individual nutrient. So it’s important to rotate different plant leaves through your diet. A general rule of thumb is the darker the leaf color and the more variety in color and plants, the better off you are.
Here is a general overview of seven of the most common leafy greens, and a side-by-side comparison of the levels of a few of their minerals and vitamins.
Kale has developed a reputation for being one of the most healthy plant foods available, with a high level of nutrients in its leaves. When compared to other plants, it is lower in specific nutrients—for instance, kale contains less calcium than does spinach, collard greens, and arugula—so again, it is important to rotate different plant leaves through your diet. Kale can be a bit difficult to chew when raw, so try rubbing the leaves in olive oil, or lightly steaming before eating them.
Spinach was Popeye’s green of choice for good reason—it is substantially higher than the powerhouse kale in calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate. It also has a mild flavor that makes it easy to pair with a variety of fruits and vegetables or to blend up in smoothies.
3. Swiss Chard
With a rainbow variety of stems, Swiss chard can add color to your plate—and a load of nutrients to boot. While it has a higher level of sodium than other greens (77 mg per cup), it runs close to spinach with the level of nutrients it offers.
Many people choose romaine lettuce for salads because of its mild taste, fresh crunch, and versatility in recipes. It is not the most nutritionally dense leafy green, but it is high in folate and vitamin A, and can easily be mixed with other greens.
5. Collard Greens
Collard greens are frequently eaten in the Southern U.S. regions, but deserve attention everywhere for their health benefits. Collard greens provide nearly twice the amount of calcium as spinach and are high in potassium and magnesium, too.
Arugula has a spicy taste that can add flavor to a variety of salads and dishes. Its overall nutritional value is generally lower than other green leafy vegetables, but it contains more calcium than kale, provides a good source of antioxidants and fiber, and combines well with the more nutrient-dense spinach.
Iceberg lettuce may be the most popular choice for salads, but with a low vitamin and mineral count, its contribution to your health is low. While it’s not actually bad for you, opt for other lettuce types for your salads to help increase your daily nutrient intake.
The following table, created with information from the USDA Food Composition Databases, compares different minerals and vitamins found in these seven leafy greens per 1-cup serving.
*mg = milligrams | *IU=International Units | *ug = micrograms
As you can see, not one of these leafy greens is highest in all nutrients. You’ll get the most out of these greens if you mix them up and maintain a variety of them in your diet. Certain conditions, such as clotting disorders or kidney stones, can be affected by the nutrients and other substances in leafy greens, so if you have a concern, be sure to check with a healthcare professional before changing your diet.
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*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
What do you think? First of all, I know some people may have looked straight at thecarbohydrate values and panicked when they saw that kale has over twice the amount of carbs compared to the other greens. Before you throw your kale out, remember that 8.8g is a tiny amount of carbohydrate and these values are per 100g, which is a lot more than a standard serve. Leafy greens are pretty light, so a serve of kale with other mixed vegetables is more likely to be around 20g, providing less than 2g of carbohydrate, which is practically nothing.
My interest is not so much in the kilojoules or carbs, but the vitamin and mineral content and nutrient density. Looking per 100g (which indicates the % of the nutrient in a food), the nutrient contents for kale look pretty impressive and you can see where the claims arise for ‘high calcium’ and ‘rich in Vitamin C’. But again, because leaves are so light, you need to divide the nutrient by 4 or 5 to get a better idea of actual nutrient content per serve.
The firs thing that really stands out to me when I look at this table is the vast difference in nutrient content between the darker green leafy vegetables and iceberg lettuce. Iceberg just doesn’t compare really, right across the board. This provides a very clear message that for nutrition, stack your salads with darker leaves. Of course iceberg lettuce provides wonderful texture and can be a great base for other flavours within a salad, but for nutrition it really lags behind.
If we then look back to compare kale with spinach and rocket lettuce, for most nutrients there are only small differences. When you compare the differences to the huge gap to the iceberg lettuce, then you realize that kale, spinach and rocket are jostling for first line position, with iceberg a distant last, rather than being spaced out well across the field. Kale and rocket have more calcium than spinach but spinach has more iron (although not terribly well absorbed). Most differences are minimal and although I could analyse every nutrient, when we consider the overall impact on health there is really no point. There are, however, a handful of nutrients for which kale is a standout.
Kale is a far greater source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K compared to spinach and rocket. Kale contains 120mg/100g Vitamin C, so per serve may contain around 25-30mg Vitamin C, making it a useful source when eaten raw. Vitamin C can be damaged with heat/cooking so cooked kale may not provide the same benefits as raw.
Kale is high in Vitamin K, which is particularly important for blood clotting, but not a nutrient that is at a high risk of being low or deficient for most people. So strong is the blood clotting effect, that people need to monitor their intake of Vitamin K if they are taking blood-thinning medication such as warfarin.
Kale and spinach are both able to supply plenty of Vitamin A, an important nutrient for the health of our skin and eyes. The beta-carotene in kale and spinach can also act as an antioxidant.
All other differences in nutrients are either minor, or insignificant or not all that important for overall health. One thing that is missing from the table above is baby spinach leaves. I have found it difficult to find nutrient breakdown info for baby spinach to compare to regular spinach, but have read that the baby leaves may be higher in some nutrients and lower in others. Current data on baby spinach would be welcomed. I have a sneaking suspicion that the baby spinach, such a popular option in salads, may in fact not be quite as nutrient dense as regular spinach, but I would love to compare the figures to be sure.
It is important to remember that the nutrients presented in the table above are those that we can measure readily in food, but this analyss neglects those other phytonutrients which are not routinely tested for.
Nitrate is the other one that is not listed above, but is present in dark green leafy vegetables. Nitrate may have an important role for athletes by reducing the energy cost of exercise – nitrate is taken in concentrated form via beetroot juice for performance effects, but there is potential for green vegetables to contribute to nitrate intake also. For more on nitrate visit Sports Dietitians Australia or read this article by Alan McCubbin Beetroot Juice: Good Science or Great Marketing Hype.
Kale is reported to contain important antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. Kale contains the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin has received some attention for a potential influence on endurance exercise capacity, however published research findings have been mixed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21606866). Antioxidants provide a range of health-related benefits and dark green vegetables, including kale, contain plenty.
So it seems that kale really is good for us, but is the nutrition value worth making the effort for? I recall the first time I tried kale and it was definitely a case of take it or leave it! I continued to revert back to the trusty spinach leaves as my tried and true salad base. But lately I have been experimenting a bit, and recently ordered a kale salad with prawns and haloumi at a local restaurant. When it came out I was actually very concerned about how I was going to manage to eat the amazingly large bowl full of green curly raw leaves, that to be honest looked terribly unappetizing. But here is the thing with kale, and in fact most green vegetables. How you prepare it and what you add to it can make or break your eating experience. On this occasion, the chilli and lemon on the prawns, with the salty haloumi, pinenuts and a yoghurt based spicy dressing made the seemingly throat scratching unchewable bowl full of kale totally edible. In fact it was delicious.
The benefit of adding some healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado and nuts, is that the fat helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A, from the leaves. So dressing your kale with some oils for flavour has the added benefit of boosting the nutrient availability.
The other great thing about kale is that, unlike many other so-called superfoods, kale is not ridiculously expensive when you consider other similar alternatives.
So what’s the verdict, does kale win out over all other green vegetables as the senior member of the superfood brigade? Kale is just one of the wonderful foods that is no doubt super, but certainly not that much more super than spinach, and for some nutrients less super. But well worth including as one of your green vegetable options within different coloured vegetables every week.
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Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite
Tailor salad greens to your dietary needs and taste preferences.
Published: April, 2018
Image: © yulkapopkova/Getty Images
In the quest to follow daily dietary recommendations and eat the right amount of vegetables, salad is your friend. A large salad can check off your veggie requirements for the day in one fell swoop.
But not all salad greens are created equal. “They vary in regard to their nutrient content, nutrient density, flavor, and texture,” says Elisabeth Moore, a registered dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. So it helps to know which salad greens will give you the most bang for the bite.
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Everything you need to know about arugula
Share on PinterestEating arugula may help reduce cancer risk.
Eating fruits and vegetables of all kinds reduces the risk of many adverse health conditions due to their high levels of antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals.
Research has specifically linked arugula and other cruciferous vegetables with the following health benefits:
1. Reduced cancer risk
While an overall healthful, vegetable-rich diet reduces a person’s cancer risk, studies have shown that certain groups of vegetables can have specific anticancer benefits.
A 2017 meta-analysis linked eating more cruciferous vegetables with reduced total cancer risk, along with a reduction in all-cause mortality.
Cruciferous vegetables are a source of glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing substances. Glucosinolates may be responsible for the plants’ bitter taste and their cancer-fighting power. The body breaks down glucosinolates into a range of beneficial compounds, including sulforaphane.
Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), which is involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make foods that contain sulforaphane a potentially significant part of cancer treatment in the future.
Reports have linked diets high in cruciferous vegetables with a reduced risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and more. However, the research is limited, and scientists need more high-quality evidence before confirming these benefits.
Easily recognized cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and turnips. Less well known types include arugula, bok choy, and watercress.
2. Osteoporosis prevention
Arugula is high in several key nutrients for bone health, including calcium and vitamin K.
The Office of Dietary Statistics state that vitamin K is involved in bone metabolism and that a deficiency can increase the risk of bone fracture. Leafy green vegetables are one of the primary dietary sources of vitamin K.
One cup of arugula provides 21.8 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, which goes towards the adult Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) daily value (DV) recommendation of 80 mcg for adults.
Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health by playing an essential role in bone mineralization and helps to improve how the body absorbs and excretes calcium, which is another crucial nutrient for bone health.
Arugula also contributes to a person’s daily need for calcium, providing 32 milligrams (mg) per cup, going towards the DV of 1,000 mg for adults.
Several review studies have found that eating vegetables reduces a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A review study from 2016 reports that leafy green vegetables are especially beneficial.
One test tube study showed that arugula extract had antidiabetic effects in mouse skeletal muscle cells. They produced this effect by stimulating glucose uptake in the cells.
Plus, arugula and other cruciferous vegetables are a good source of fiber, which helps to regulate blood glucose and may reduce insulin resistance. High fiber foods make people feel fuller for longer, meaning they can help tackle overeating.
4. Heart health
Vegetable intake, specifically cruciferous vegetables, has protective effects on the heart.
A 2017 meta-analysis reports that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, salads, and green leafy vegetables have links with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition, a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that consuming a diet high in cruciferous vegetables could reduce atherosclerosis in older women. Atherosclerosis is a common condition where plaque builds up in the arteries, increasing a person’s risk of cardiovascular problems.
The heart protective effects of these vegetables may be due to their high concentration of beneficial plant compounds, including polyphenols and organosulfur compounds.
Arugula vs Spinach – Key Differences
Published: November 26, 2018
Arugula, also known as rocket or rucola, is a salad green and herb with dark green, heavily serrated leaves. It is a member of the mustard family and therefore related to broccoli and kale. Spinach, by contrast, is a member of the beet family and can have oval or arrow-shaped leaves. Given that arugula and spinach belong to different botanical families, it is not surprising that they are quite different in terms of the nutrition they provide.
Read on to learn how arugula and spinach compare against each other in terms of nutritional value, nitrate content, taste, uses, and more.
The arugula vs spinach chart below shows you the calorie count and nutrient content of each leafy green in its raw, uncooked form. A value highlighted in bold means that a 100-gram serving of the food covers at least 10 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for the nutrient in question. (Source: USDA, see Reference 1)
|Nutrient (per 100 g)||Arugula||Spinach|
|Protein||2.58 g||2.86 g|
|Fat||0.66 g||0.39 g|
|Carbohydrates||3.65 g||3.63 g|
|Fiber||1.6 g||2.2 g|
|Calcium||160 mg||99 mg|
|Iron||1.46 mg||2.71 mg|
|Magnesium||47 mg||79 mg|
|Potassium||369 mg||558 mg|
|Vitamin A||2373 IU||9377 IU|
|Vitamin C||15 mg||28.1 mg|
|Vitamin K||108.6 mcg||482.9 mcg|
|Thiamin||0.044 mg||0.078 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.086 mg||0.189 mg|
|Niacin||0.305 mg||0.724 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.073 mg||0.195 mg|
|Folate (B9)||97 mcg||194 mcg|
Both of these leafy greens are low in calories and loaded with vitamin K, which supports bone and cardiovascular health, and folate, which is used to form red blood cells. Both spinach and arugula also contain significant amounts of magnesium, manganese, vitamin C and beta-carotene, with each providing at least 10 percent of the daily value (DV) for these nutrients. The main difference is that spinach generally contains much higher levels of nutrients than arugula, with one notable exception: arugula contains 60 percent more calcium than spinach. In addition to keeping your bones strong and healthy, calcium enables your blood to clot, your muscles to contract, and your heart to beat.
Not only are arugula and spinach packed with beneficial nutrients, they both also contain exceptionally high levels of nitrates. However, while both are rich in these controversial compounds, arugula clearly beats out spinach in terms of nitrate levels. An analysis based on 2000 samples of arugula and 7000 samples of spinach found that on average, arugula contained 75 mmol of nitrate per kg, whereas spinach contained only 17 mmol of nitrate per kg (2).
The nitrates in arugula and spinach are not thought to be harmful as such, but they can be converted into nitrites and further into carcinogenic nitrosamines, which has raised questions about the safety of diets high in nitrate-rich leafy green vegetables like arugula and spinach. However, a meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nutrients could not find a positive correlation between a high intake of plant-based nitrates and risk of gastric cancer, probably because the health benefits of eating green leafy vegetables outweigh the disadvantages (3, 4).
One of the most striking differences between arugula and spinach is that arugula tastes much stronger than spinach. The flavor of arugula can be described as peppery or mustardy with a hint of nuttiness. The pungent flavor of arugula comes from its high concentration of glucosinolates. These sulfur-containing compounds function as precursors to isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that have been extensively researched for their potential anti-cancer benefits.
Compared with arugula, spinach generally has a mild flavor. The large, more mature leaves tend to have a more bitter flavor than baby spinach because they usually contain higher levels of oxalates, which are bitter-tasting phytochemicals. In addition to contributing to the flavor profile of this leafy green, the oxalates in spinach can also adversely affect the nutritional benefits of spinach by limiting calcium absorption (5).
Because of its sharp, peppery flavor, arugula can be used both as a herb and as a lettuce in mixed salads that also contain milder greens. As an ingredient, spinach is more versatile because of its mild flavor. The sturdy texture of mature spinach makes it perfect for cooked dishes, such as soup and omelets, whereas the tender, mild-flavored baby spinach can also be used in raw recipes such as salads and smoothies.
In smoothies, baby spinach pairs particularly well with mango (try, for example, this spinach, mango and apple smoothie). If you have a masticating or cold-press juicer which processes greens like spinach or kale with ease, you may also want to try making some nutrient-packed spinach juice, which you can then incorporate into smoothies, or use as a coloring for homemade pasta dough.
Both arugula and spinach, whether it’s regular spinach or baby spinach, are best stored in ziplock bags or plastic containers in the fridge. Storing arugula or spinach out of the fridge will lead to a rapid loss of nutrients and an increase in the nitrate content of the food (6, 7).
Before putting spinach or arugula in the fridge, some people recommend washing and drying the leaves, and then wrapping the leaves in paper towels before transferring them to the bags or containers. The paper towels are supposed to help keep the greens from getting slimy by absorbing excess moisture
If you think you won’t be able to use up all that fresh arugula or spinach in your fridge before its goes bad, you can also freeze the leaves for later use. Just keep in mind that both arugula and spinach lose their texture when frozen and thawed, so you won’t be able to use them for dishes like salads later on. However, they work fine in stir-fries, omelets and as pizza topping.
When freezing arugula or regular spinach, it is best to blanch your greens first in order to protect their nutritional value, color and flavor. To blanch spinach or arugula, boil or steam the leaves for two minutes, then immediately transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water for two minutes to stop the cooking process. Baby spinach can also be frozen without blanching.
More Comparisons of Green Leafy Vegetables
If you liked this arugula vs spinach comparison, you might also like the following articles which look at how different nutrient-dense green foods compare against each other:
- Moringa vs Spirulina
- Kale vs Moringa
- Spinach vs Kale
- Lacinato (Black Kale) vs Regular Kale
- Kale Powder vs Fresh Kale
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 28, released September 2015, slightly revised May 2016). USDA Database.
- D. Hobbs et al (2013). The effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure and endothelial function: a review of human intervention studies. Nutrition Research Reviews, 26: 210-222.
- P. Song et al (2015). Dietary Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines Intake and the Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 7(12): 9872-9895.
- Marina Cavaiuolo and Antonio Ferrante (2014). Nitrates and Glucosinolates as Strong Determinants of the Nutritional Quality in Rocket Leafy Salads. Nutrients, 6(4): 1519-1538.
- S. Noonan and G. Savage (1999). Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 8(1), 64-74.
- S. Pandrangi and L. LaBorde (2004). Retention of Folate, Carotenoids, and Other Quality Characteristics in Commercially Packaged Fresh Spinach. Journal of Food Science, 69(9).
- Chung et al (2004). Changes in nitrate and nitrite content of four vegetables during storage at refrigerated and ambient temperatures. Food Additives and Contaminants, 21(4):317-22.
Kale Vs Lettuce
Kale belongs to the nutritious cruciferous group of vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprout. They are eaten in variety of ways from salads to soups to smoothies.
Kale is Leaf cabbage with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head.
Lettuce is grown as a leaf vegetable which is used in salads.
Lettuce is grown as a green vegetable often used for salads, which is very rich in Vitamin K and Vitamin A.
Both are rich in fiber and low in calories. Excellent food to include on your plate if you are looking for weight loss diet plan.
Steaming Raw Kale reduces the bitterness and makes it more palatable, while steaming lettuce can make it soggy.
For more steps of steaming read here.
Kale Vs Letuce
Nutritional Table of Kale Vs Lettuce
Fibre content of kale can clean the gut like a broom pushing out the waste. The fiber content is around 3.6gms per 100gms.
Lettuce is considerably low in fibre content having providing only 1.2gm/100gm serving.
Kale is 3x richer than lettuce, providing 8gms/100gms. Kale served with other mixed vegetables can just provide 2gms of carbohydrates, which is very low.
Lettuce contains 3gms/100gms which makes the leaf very light and good for health.
Kale contains 120mg/100g Vitamin C, so per serve may contain around 25-30mg Vitamin C, making it a useful source when eaten raw. Vitamin C can be damaged with heat/cooking so cooked kale may not provide the same benefits as raw.
Lettuce contains negligible amount of Vitamic C, around 3mg/100gms of serving. Overall, Lettuce lacks nutritional competition with Kale, however it is eaten as raw salad widely.
Kale is very rich in Calcium, but oxalic acid binds with calcium, making it unavailable for the body. Eating 2 bowl of cooked Kale or 4 cups of raw kale will provide the bioavailable calcium found in 1 glass of milk.
The calcium content of Calcium is comparatively very low, containing 18mg/100gm of lettuce. Lettuce also contains oxalic acid, which makes calcium unavailable for absorption.
Kale is beneficial to people suffering from hypertension, serving about 491mg/100gm.
Lettuce contains moderate levels of potassium about 141mg/100gms.
Important for blood clotting, Kale is rich in Vitamin K.
Very little amount of Vitamin K is present in Lettuce.
Comparsion of Kale and Lettuce
Using oils like olive oil, is known to increase the Vitamin soluble content in the leaves, like Vitamin A, Vitamin K.
Of all the green leafy vegetables, Kale is the nutritious amongst all, Spinach ranking second. For more details click here.
Eat Well! Akansha Dalmia,
Lead Nutritional Writer, Time For Healthy Eating
The Lettuce Family
There must be a ton of movies, books, and plays that rely on the old mistaken identity gimmick to power the plot. You’ve probably seen some where twins are separated at birth and somehow get snarled up in the same situation without anyone figuring out that there are two of them or other ones where some unsuspecting guy or girl gets mistaken for some super spy, jewel thief, or drug runner and has to spend a chunk of time being chased around in cars, trains, planes, helicopters, or whatever, while trying to find someone who can straighten the matter out before he or she runs out of lucky breaks.
Personally, I don’t know how many folks are involved in elaborate, life-threatening chases in exotic locales each year due to looking a bit like someone else. Judging from what people tell me they’ve been watching on TV, I’m guessing it must be dozens. Fortunately, none of these chases seem to take place in my neighborhood, so I only take notice when a friend or neighbor talks about a show they watched or a book they read.
While I might have missed out on my fair share of mistaken identity chases involving international spy consortiums, I’ve seen lots of cases of mistaken identity in gardens. The most frequent victim is the leafy green vegetables. It can be kind of hard to keep your families straight when you’re dealing with the leafy greens because so many of them look so darn similar.
At first glance, kale, romaine, and spinach seem to be brothers and sisters but, in reality, they’re not even in the same family. Kale is a proud member of the Brassica family and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Spinach, on the other hand, is in the same family with beets and the chards. We’ll cover the Chenopodiaceae, or goosefoot, family in a future column. That just leaves us with romaine. Romaine is a very popular lettuce and a healthy addition to your survival garden. This nutritionally packed leafy green powerhouse is part of the Asteraceae family—one of the largest and most diverse families in the plant world.
The Asteraceae clan includes asters, daisies, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and a bunch of other popular flowers and less-popular weeds. Since this is primarily a column about survival gardening, I’m going to concentrate on the edible veggies in that diverse group. Popular Asteraceae veggies include chicory, endive, cardoon, Jerusalem artichoke, globe artichoke, and a wide variety of lettuce. For the sake of simplicity, we’re just going to call this the Lettuce family. Those of you who like to sound like you have more education than sense are free to keep calling it the Asteraceae family just to confuse other gardeners who are just trying to get some work done.
All members of the Lettuce family prefer well-drained soil with a decent amount of moisture. Cardoons and globe artichokes require a fair amount of space, while endive and some varieties of lettuce will grow well in containers. Jerusalem artichokes can make a good windbreak when used as a border plant.
When it comes to planting members of this family, the first one most people try is a form of lettuce. This can often be a disappointing experience. Lettuce is among the most pest- and disease-prone veggies you can grow in your survival garden. Most forms of lettuce require cool temperatures (between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit), so summer crops tend to wilt before they are ready to harvest. In my experience down here in the sunny South, romaine seems to be the sturdiest of the bunch. This is a pretty good deal because romaine is also one of the healthiest lettuces you can grow. It has less sugar and more fiber than its crisper cousins and packs 10 times more beta carotene than iceberg lettuce. Romaine is also an excellent source of vitamin C and delivers a decent amount of folates, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. If you’re growing lettuce for the first time or just want to grow a healthier lettuce with fewer frustrations, I strongly recommend romaine.
Whatever variety of lettuce you choose to grow, you’ve got to be really careful when it comes to fertilizer. Choosing a nitrogen-rich chemical fertilizer will lead to rapid, leafy growth which might look very pretty at first but actually creates an unhealthy plant which attracts diseases and garden pests. A balanced, organic fertilizer like Protogrow will promote more natural growth and lead to a whole lot less problems in the long run. Lettuce attracts enough problems just by its nature; you want to make sure you use the right fertilizer to give it a fighting chance.
One of the most persistent problems you’ll bump into when growing lettuce is slugs. Those ugly looking critters just love to feed on lettuce and, if you get a big enough slug problem, they’ll demolish your entire crop in pretty short order. If you go to the Archives section of Off the Grid News and click on June 2011, you’ll find a whole column I wrote up on Garden Bugs. In there, I give a few tips for controlling slugs without poisoning your entire garden and, potentially, your entire neighborhood. As far as slug control goes, a little bit of manual labor (picking them off and destroying them) is a lot better for your soil and your health than spreading around a whole lot of nasty chemicals that can harm the health of you and your family.
With the right soil, the proper fertilizer, decent conditions, and a bit of work, you can produce some tasty lettuce that will help create some delicious salads. Don’t get too discouraged if your first batch of lettuce doesn’t turn out exactly as planned. Lettuce can be a tender plant but is often a tough customer to grow. Learn from your mistakes and you’ll soon be growing lettuce that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
Well, a few personal matters have me a bit on the run this week, so I’ll wrap things up right about here. Drop by about two weeks from now when I’ll talk about some of the advantages of growing other members of the lettuce family in your survival garden. Until then, this is Jerry, wishing you and yours a healthy, happy time in your survival garden.
How to Grow Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, and Other Leafy Green Vegetables
One of the first crops I harvest from my garden every year are leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, arugula, young leaves of Bok Choy and domesticated dandelion (along with asparagus, of course). Together, that’s one great spring salad or stir fry.
Early season kale, spinach, arugula and leaf lettuces in my vegetable garden. They can be harvested at any point in their development.
I typically begin the seeds for these leafy green vegetables indoors in March under grow lights. Then, around the time of my last frost date (mid-May), I transplant the seedlings into my garden. Many gardeners transplant leafy green vegetables 30 days before their last frost, but in my garden, that never seems to work out. Sometimes the soil is too cool, which slows growth, or a surprise killing frost appears. And then, of course, the rabbits… those damn rabbits. Because these tender vegetables are a glorious buffet for Bugs and his buddies trying to fatten themselves up after a long winter when there is little else to nourish them. If I wait until May to set out the plants, the rabbits are a little kinder, because there is so much more to eat. Better safe than sorry.
Leafy greens and small, fast-growing brassicas like Bok Choy can also be grown easily by seed sown directly in your garden (or in containers). But wait until your last frost date has passed, because if the soil is too cold, the seed will be slow to germinate. And watch out for birds – most leafy green vegetable seeds are broadcast on the soil surface or covered with only a dusting of soil – I’ve actually noticed Robins watching me plant and then swoop in and pick through the soil once I’ve left the plot.
Where and when to plant kale, lettuces and other leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens benefit from late afternoon shade to protect them from intense afternoon summer sun and heat. Intense sunlight may cause sunscald; high heat, especially prolonged heat, can slow their growth and inhibit their development. Shade can be provided by other tall-growing plants like corn and tomatoes, fruiting shrubs, trees, a garden shed, just about anything.
By far, you’ll achieve the best flavor from leafy green vegetables during the cooler times of the growing season – spring and fall. That’s why I try and get my seedlings in the ground as early as possible in spring (keep an eye on weather forecasts) and then plant seed again mid to late summer for a fall harvest. However, there are a number of varieties of kale which can be enjoyed all season – they’re very hardy plants and one of the ultimate sources of nutrition (kale/spinach/carrot/mango smoothies rock!).
Spacing Leafy Greens
This will vary according to the mature size of each variety, or the size at which you plan on harvesting. If you prefer young greens as I do (they’re much sweeter and more tender), plant them close together to get the benefit of shading one another from excessive sun and heat. And as they mature, gently pull them out by the root and pop them in your mouth – greens can be eaten at any stage of development, even as sprouts.
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Fertilizing Leafy Green Vegetables
Lettuces and small brassicas do well with just a compost feeding, but work this in before planting seed, as the compost, even a thin layer on top of the seed, may smother it. When the plants have germinated, or after you transplant seedlings, add compost around the plants (but not against them). If your soil has been depleted by a heavy feeder like corn the year before, you may want to add organic fertilizer with significant nitrogen (like guano) a week or so before planting or transplanting.
Which pests bother kale, lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens?
Greens are very tender vegetables and are subject to all kinds of pests, especially if the plants are stressed by frost or heat. Even more deadly are rabbits, birds, and squirrels. You can’t do much about the birds, but a good layer of Liquid Fence delivered every week or so keeps the rabbits and squirrels at bay. But if you’re in Deer country, you better build a fenced-in area, with a top – basically a cage. I have a gardening friend who can’t get past a few weeks without the local deer population cleaning him out.
As far as disease, the biggest problem with leafy green vegetables is forms of mold such as downy mildew. If the early season is very wet, mildew spores coat the plants quickly, multiply, and overtake them. There are some organic solutions to combat mildew, but they must be applied before the mold infects the plant.
Once infected, don’t bother trying to save the plants – they become inedible. If your season’s rainfall and humidity are relatively normal or dry, mildews and disease shouldn’t be a problem. But you should always exercise caution and thin your plants as they grow, to ensure good air circulation around each plant. Compost is one of the most efficient barriers to mold spores.
As far as insect pests, that largely depends on where you live. In more moderate areas like the mid-Atlantic, insect pests are few. But in warmer regions, you might be wise to use netting over your greens. Stress on the plants is a big determinant as to their susceptibility to pests. Poor transplanting, slow seed germination, too much water, too much heat, over-fertilization, etc., weaken the plant and make it an easy target. I never recommend using insecticide of any kind on your greens – in many cases, blasting your plants with a hard stream of water is sufficient to knock pests off, or they can be picked off by hand. I also recommend developing a bird habitat in your backyard – birds eat an enormous amount of insect pests and can be a gardener’s best friend. The University of Connecticut has a decent pest identification guide for greens.
When to harvest lettuce, spinach, kale, and leafy green vegetables
As mentioned earlier, leafy greens can be harvested at any stage of development, but young greens are by far the tastiest. Most are cut-and-come-again, meaning you can harvest leaves whenever you like and leave the plants in place. How deep into the season you can harvest depends entirely on your local weather conditions and the hardiness of the variety. In my area of Pennsylvania, I can still harvest Kale well into October and sometimes November. Bon Appetit!
How Healthy Is Iceberg Lettuce, Exactly?
Iceberg lettuce often gets a bad rap—while the classic leafy green is a staple in wedge salads, it gets a lot of flak from fiber-conscious kale fans.
Some call it tasteless, watery, even completely devoid of nutrients. Given the choice, most health conscious individuals tend to pick other types of lettuce. But why? Is iceberg lettuce really that bad for you?
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Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition of this common salad green, and see how it stacks up against other lettuces, as well as leafy greens like spinach and kale.
First off, iceberg lettuce is composed of 96% water—similar to celery and cucumbers. This makes it great for getting in extra hydration during hot days. Iceberg lettuce has a crisp texture and cooling effect, both of which are good indicators of its higher water content, according to nutritionist Carolyn Williams, PhD, RDN. “However, because iceberg lettuce is mostly water, this doesn’t leave much room for even minimal nutrients,” says Williams.
To give you a comparison point, kale is only 84% water and spinach is 95%. Both have a thicker, leafier texture than lettuces like iceberg, Romaine, and bibb. “Lettuce in general has a high water content and doesn’t consist of much—especially when compared to spinach or kale,” Williams says.
So, how exactly does iceberg lettuce stack up against two of our favorite leafy greens—spinach and kale? Here’s a breakdown of key nutrients and vitamins in each one (per 100 gram or 3 ½ ounce serving).
- Calories: 14
- Protein: 0.9 g
- Fiber: 1.1 g (4% dv)
- Vitamin A: 10% dv
- Vitamin C: 3% dv
- Vitamin K: 20% dv
- Folate: 7% dv
- Calcium: 1% dv
- Magnesium: 2% dv
- Calories: 23
- Protein: 2.9 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g (9% dv)
- Vitamin A: 187% dv
- Vitamin C: 3% dv
- Vitamin K: 20% dv
- Folate: 49% dv
- Calcium: 1% dv
- Magnesium: 19% dv
Iceberg lettuce is lower in calories per serving, but it doesn’t deliver nearly as powerful of a dose of nutrients as spinach or kale. In fact, it doesn’t even come close.
But sometimes a recipe calls for something other than kale or spinach. Whether it’s lettuce wraps, fish tacos, a BLT, or a classic cheeseburger, some foods are just better with lettuce. But here’s the ultimate question—is there a healthier lettuce to use instead of iceberg? How does the nutrition of iceberg lettuce compare to other lettuces like Romaine, bibb, or green leaf?
To find out, we compared the nutrition of seven types of lettuces (per 100 gram or 3 ½ ounce serving):
- Calories: 14
- Protein: 0.9 g
- Fiber: 1.1 g (4.4% dv)
- Vitamin A: 10% dv
- Vitamin C: 3% dv
- Vitamin K: 20% dv
- Folate: 7% dv
- Magnesium: 1% dv
- Calcium: 2% dv
- Calories: 17
- Protein: 1.4 g
- Fiber: 2.1 g (8% dv)
- Vitamin A: 174% dv
- Vitamin C: 4% dv
- Vitamin K: 85% dv
- Folate: 34% dv
- Magnesium: 3% dv
- Calcium: 3% dv
Green Leaf Lettuce
Red Leaf Lettuce
- Calories: 16
- Protein: 1.3 g
- Fiber: 0.9 g (4% dv)
- Vitamin A: 150% dv
- Vitamin C: 4% dv
- Vitamin K: 116% dv
- Folate: 10% dv
- Magnesium: 3% dv
- Calcium: 3% dv
- Calories: 13
- Protein: 1.4 g
- Fiber: 1.1 g (4% dv)
- Vitamin A: 66% dv
- Vitamin C: 4% dv
- Vitamin K: 85% dv
- Folate: 18% dv
- Magnesium: 3% dv
- Calcium: 3% dv
- Calories: 13
- Protein: 1.4 g
- Fiber: 1.1 g (4% dv)
- Vitamin A: 66% dv
- Vitamin C: 4% dv
- Vitamin K: 85% dv
- Folate: 18% dv
- Magnesium: 3% dv
- Calcium: 3% dv
While the difference isn’t quite as dramatic as spinach or kale, iceberg lettuce is still lower in nutrients than other types of lettuces. While calories, protein, and fiber are relatively similar, the biggest difference between iceberg lettuce and other lettuces lies in the amount of vitamins and minerals. Compared to iceberg lettuce, Romaine lettuce contains nearly twice as much Vitamin A and four times the amount of Vitamin K. So, if you’re making a recipe that calls for lettuce—and if it makes sense to substitute in a different variety, you may want to consider doing so.
Are there any benefits to eating iceberg lettuce? Potentially. While iceberg lettuce lacks the nutrient density of spinach, kale, and even Romaine, it’s the lowest in calories. This may be beneficial to those who are trying to lose weight—since you can’t really put a cap on the amount you can consume.
Additionally, the high water content of iceberg lettuce makes it a naturally hydrating food. While this shouldn’t take the place of your normal water intake, adding several leaves to your sandwich when it’s hot outside may not be the worst idea.
Iceberg lettuce isn’t as bad for you as you may think. It’s actually a perfectly healthy food, and if you like the taste, you should include it in your meals.
But there’s not a whole lot of substance to it. However, due to its high water content, iceberg lettuce is less nutritionally dense than dark leafy greens like spinach or kale. It is very low in calories, but keep in mind that there are healthier lettuces out there (such as Romaine lettuce) that are relatively similar in calories.
If you’re going to eat iceberg lettuce, that’s fine—but just avoid tossing it with creamy dressings packed with fat and make sure you’re pairing it with other nutrient-rich foods.
All Romaine Lettuce Is Unsafe, the CDC Warns. Here’s What You Should Eat Instead
All romaine lettuce in the U.S. is unsafe to eat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said in a warning that may alter some Thanksgiving menus across the country.
The CDC has asked people to discard the leafy green as it investigates an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that has so far infected 32 people. As the agency investigates the outbreak, it’s asked people to throw out any romaine lettuce they have and requested restaurants stop serving it to customers. The warning includes all forms of romaine, including whole heads, hearts and lettuce pieces that are added to salad mixes.
The romaine warning, however, shouldn’t mean a moratorium on all leafy greens, says Allison Knott, a New York City-based registered dietitian.
“There are so many leafy greens that are available and are just as good, if not better, for you than romaine,” Knott says. “All leafy greens are good, so however you can get them in, the better.”
Leafy greens are a nutritious option because they contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as nutrients such as folate, potassium and calcium. And though “there’s really no leafy green that’s bad for you,” Knott says the darker the veggie, the more nutrient-dense it typically is.
For that reason, she says, kale is a great choice. If you’re used to eating romaine, however, you may not love the plant’s strong, bitter flavor. If that’s the case, Knott recommends arugula, spinach or butter lettuce — the last of which has large leaves that can even be used in place of wraps and breads. She also suggests branching out to lesser-known mustard or collard greens while you’re looking for new greens.
As soon as the E. coli investigation is over, Knott says, there’s no reason not to go back to the old standby, romaine.
“This whole romaine scare is definitely not ideal for anyone, and it maybe scares people away from eating leafy greens in general, which is frustrating,” Knott says. “The key message is just that eating leafy greens.”
Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]
How to Choose the Healthiest Salad Greens
Headed to a hoppin’ salad bar for lunch? Chances are there will be handfuls of fresh greens up for grabs, from romaine and iceberg to spinach and red leaf lettuce. But when it comes to choosing the healthiest salad base, which types of lettuce pack the biggest nutritional punch?
Seeing Green—The Need-to-Know
Sorry sandwich lovers, but a few shreds of lettuce on a bun won’t add up to the USDA’s daily recommended intake (2-3 cups for most adults). Instead, a big, healthy salad is one of the smartest ways to go green. Coming in at under 10 calories per cup, a big bowl of leaves can be a stellar source of vitamins A, C, K, and folate, among other essential nutrients.
But not all leafy greens will build a super-nutritious salad. In fact, America’s favorite lettuce, iceberg, ranks the lowest in nutritional value across the board (96 percent water content will do that!). Turbo-charged spinach, on the other hand, boasts nearly twice the recommended daily value of vitamin K, half the recommended value of vitamin A, and ampleamounts of calcium and iron. Clearly, Popeye was on to something.
Prefer a crunchier base? A cup of romaine is a tasty alternative, with a huge dose of vitamin A and a variety of other nutrients. Or, for a mild but textured bed, red leaf lettuce clocks in at just 4 calories per cup, with nearly half of the daily recommended dose of vitamins A and K. Arugula (technically a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, and cabbage) also packs a healthy dose of nutrients and phytochemicals, which may inhibit the development of certain cancers. And for the non-committal types, mixed greens (typically a mix of romaine, oak leaf lettuce, arugula, frisée, and radicchio) offer, well, a mixed bag of nutritional benefits, depending on the batch.
Salad for Salad—Your Guide to Greens
Which greens are the best bet? Check out the infographic below for the nutritional low-down.
Winning the Toss—Your Action Plan
Consider visiting the salad bar a free pass to join the dark side. Research shows that darker “loose” or “open leaf” lettuces (such as romaine, red leaf, and butterhead) contain more antioxidants and nutrients than the typically lighter-colored, more tightly-packed heads (such as iceberg). The reason? The darker leaves are able to absorb more light and, in turn, synthesize more vitaminsImpact of light variation on development of photoprotection, antioxidants, and nutritional value in Lactuca sativa L Zhou, Y.H., Zhang, Y.Y., Zhao, X., et al. Department of Horticulture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009, Jun 24; 57(12): 5494-500.. And while there’s no good way to pick and choose a store-bought salad leaf for leaf, at home, opting for the tops and outer leaves can guarantee a more nutritious base.
Ready to go darker (and healthier) still? While they’re not stocked at most salad bars, check the produce aisle for tougher roughage like Swiss chard and kale, which beat out even spinach in the antioxidant game. Be sure to give the leaves a good cold rinse before serving raw, boiled, or steamed, as the folds in these greens tend to accumulate dirt more easily than other veggies. Also keep in mind that high heat can strip veggies of their natural vitamin contentPotential of commonly consumed green leafy vegetables for their antioxidant capacity and its linkage with the micronutrient profile.Tarwadi, K., Agte, V. Biometry and Nutrition Group, Agharkar Research Institute, Maharashtra, India. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2003 Nov; 54(6): 417-25.. The final key to becoming a lean, green fighting machine? Dress for success. Hold off on the creamy dressings, croutons, bacon bits, and layers of shredded cheese. Instead, opt for a lighter vinaigrette and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds for added crunch and protein.
This article originally posted June 2012. Updated May 2013.