Lettuce is a very low calorie vegetable (it only contributes about 16 cal per 100 g), which is due to its high water content 90-95%. It is rich in fiber and antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A (contains provitamin A), C and E. It also contains B vitamins such as folates (B9), B1, B2 and B3 and also vitamin K.
Lettuce contains minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium, and potassium. It also contains magnesium in lesser amounts. The outer leaves, which are a more intense green color, contain more vitamin C and iron. The bioavailability of vegetable calcium and iron is lower than that of other products of animal origin.
Despite being romaine lettuce and iceberg the most common in Spanish cuisine, there are many other varieties that can offer us other colors and textures to prepare our dishes:
- Romana : long bud, lanceolate leaves, firm and crisp.
- Iceberg : round bud, thick, firm and very crisp leaves. Whitish color and cabbage shape. Slight taste.
- Batavia : in the shape of a cabbage and green in color that turns reddish at the ends of the leaves.
- Beluga : tight, cabbage-like bud. Crunchy texture and light flavor.
- French : round bud, thin leaves and buttery texture, also known as Boston, butterhead or buttery.
- Marigold : deep green variety with soft and fleshy leaves.
- Lollo rosso y verde : curly lettuce with a red or green color and a bitter taste. Of Italian origin.
- Buds : they are miniature romaine lettuces, the most popular are the buds from Tudela.
- Oak leaf : green and golden reddish-brown tufted variety and wavy leaves. Actually, the so-called oak leaf lettuce botanically corresponds to another variety of plant specifically: Cichorium intybus, instead of Lactuca sativa as the rest are.
How to take them
Although we all know its use raw as a basic ingredient in many salads, or as part of an accompaniment, there are also options to take them cooked. We can make accompaniments by sautéing them or steaming them, as we would for example with chard. There are also preparations such as cream or lettuce soup or soup.
Its scientific name Lactuca sativa, originates from the Latin word “lactis” (milk) and refers to the milky liquid that the leaves of this plant shed when cut.
For whom is lettuce suitable and who is not?
They are recommended for:
- Weight loss diets : Their high satiating power due to their water and fiber content and their low caloric level make them ideal for low-calorie diets.
- Improved intestinal transit : the amount of fiber gives them laxative properties. Most of the fiber it contains is cellulose, so it is advisable to chew it and salt it well for better digestion and use.
- Promote diuresis : their low sodium content, the amount of water they contain and their high potassium content promote urinary excretion, avoiding fluid retention. This is positive in people with hypertension, kidney stones, etc.
- Pregnancy and childhood : the folate content of lettuce makes it especially interesting in these groups of people since folic acid (vitamin B9) is necessary for the processes of cell multiplication that take place especially in the first months of gestation. In children it contributes to good growth and bone development.
- Other attributes : because of its antioxidant vitamin content, lettuce is considered a protective food against certain pathologies. On the other hand, it seems that its enzyme content favors digestion, although as indicated, it should be chewed and salted well. In addition, it contains substances to which sedative effects are attributed that could induce sleep.
They are not suitable in case:
- Dental problems : it is not a very hard vegetable but it is difficult to chew unless it is cut very finely in julienne or eaten in creams or purees.
- Limitation of potassium : in kidney diseases in which potassium intake must be controlled, we must limit or avoid its consumption.
Buying and conservation advice
When we choose a lettuce we must pay attention to its color and firmness, since it must present a bright green color or different colors depending on the variety, but always bright colors. Iceberg and romaine lettuces are firmer in texture while other varieties will have languid leaves but should not be wilted. We will avoid specimens with dubious colorations and / or with deteriorated or brownish edges of the leaves. They should be kept in a refrigerator and avoid any packaging that could promote rottenness . It is preferable to keep them without cleaning, because if we wash them, by increasing the humidity we will be reducing the conservation time. In refrigeration, a lettuce can remain in good condition for about a week.
It is important that products that are consumed raw, as is often the case with lettuce, should be kept separate from other foods that are to be cooked such as meat and fish to avoid cross contamination. In addition, proper hygiene is essential to avoid the ingestion of harmful organisms.
- 200 grams of romaine lettuce
- Half chives
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 2.5 cups milk
- Oil, salt, parsley, pepper and nutmeg to taste
- Optional : bread croutons and / or diced serrano ham
Sauté the finely chopped chives in a pan with olive oil, when it begins to brown add the washed lettuce, cut into small pieces. Once it wilts, add the broth and cook 3 minutes. Blend and add milk and mix gently, add the minced parsley, nutmeg, etc., and taste the flavor until you achieve the desired touch. Serve in a bowl and optionally present with croutons or diced ham.
- Season : spring is its best time, since its cultivation begins around December and ends in June. We currently find them all year round on the market.
- Benefits : it is rich in fiber, potassium and provides few calories.
- Ideal for : constipation, weight control diets, pregnant women and children.