Lettuce, a common green leafy-vegetable, in salads is crispy, and loaded with essential nutrients. In fact, it is most sought-after for crunchy green salads or healthy sandwiches.
An attempt to cut or squeeze Lettuce leaves will produce milk-like fluid (sap) and 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 size annual plant that flourishes well under sandy, humus soil. According to nutrition-and-you, there are about six varieties of cultivars, based upon their head formation and leaf structure. Leaf varieties with more bitter taste are rather rich in nutrients as well as antioxidants.
Further information from nutrition-and-you reveals that there are several health benefits of Lettuce. They include but not limited to the followings:
- Lettuce leaves are one of the very low calorie green-vegetables. 100g fresh greens provide just 15 calories. Nonetheless, they are the store house of many phyto-nutrients that possess health promoting and disease prevention properties.
- Vitamins in lettuce are plentiful. Its fresh leaves are an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotenes. Just 100 g of fresh, raw-lettuce provides 247% of daily vitamin A, and 4443 µg of beta-carotene (Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body; 2 µg of carotene is considered equivalent to 1 IU of vitamin A). These compounds have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes 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 osteotrophic activity inside the bone cells. It also has established role in 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 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.
- Zea-xanthin (1730 µg 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 falling on the retina. Diet rich in xanthin and carotenes is thought to offer some protection against age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
- It also contains good amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation.
- It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavins.