Because it has less calories per serving than most types of lettuce, many people mistakenly assume there is a lack of nutrition in romaine lettuce. Being low in calories does make romaine lettuce an important part in anyone’s dietary planning if they have weight loss in mind. In addition to a lack of caloric content, this lettuce is also low in sodium and saturated fat, and is very low in cholesterol.
The Italians call this vegetable lattuga romana, and the French call it laitue romaine, both of which translate to ‘Roman lettuce’. Why we don’t call it Roman lettuce in English isn’t quite clear. Perhaps the French ‘romaine’ just sounds nicer in our culinary world,
The Lettuce Of Choice In Caesar Salads
Just looking at the upright stalk, with its shiny green leaves is almost enough to convince almost anyone of the significant nutritional value of romaine lettuce. We’ve been taught that leafy greens are good for us, at least those we grow in our vegetable gardens are, and this particular type of lettuce is no different. Romaine lettuce can be used in almost any salad, but is more often than not the lettuce of choice in a Caesar salad. There are conflicting stories as to how the Caesar salad got its name, but it appears that it was either named after the Roman emperor, after a chef named Caesar, or after a chef’s relative named Caesar. In any event, the salad was invented by an Italian-American chef. The fact that romaine, or ‘Roman’ lettuce was used from the beginning, may just be a coincidence. Romaine lettuce originated in the Mediterranean area, but in Greece, and not Italy.
In any event, more than a fair amount of the nutrition value you’ll get in a serving of Caesar salad is due to the nutrition in romaine lettuce the salad is built around.
Just What Does The Nutrition In Romaine Lettuce Consist Of?
We’ve already mentioned a few things that are not found in romaine lettuce, or are found in insignificant amounts.
- We don’t always equate water with nutrition, but we do need a certain amount of water to stay healthy, and for that matter to stay alive. If you could manage to squeeze all the water from an average-size head of romaine lettuce, you could fill two 8-ounce glasses, and have about half a glass of water left over.
- Vegetarians, and most likely rabbits as well, will be able to satisfy some of their need for protein, as well as for iron, by eating romaine lettuce. This is particularly important news for vegetarians, who need to find at least a few vegetables that will help satisfy their need for protein.
- Those green romaine lettuce leaves may not be quite as dark green as is the case with some other types of lettuce, but its mineral content is nevertheless high. A head of this lettuce provides 20% of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium, and over 30% of our RDA for copper. A head of romaine lettuce also contains manganese, phosphorus, and potassium, all essential minerals, in the amounts of 40%, 25%, and 30% of the RDA, respectively. Selenium and zinc are also present, but in somewhat lesser amounts.
- You can get the just under the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C by eating an orange, but if for some reason you don’t like oranges, you can get one and one-half times the RDA from a head of romaine lettuce. Admittedly, it would be easier for most of us to eat a whole orange than to eat a whole head of lettuce. A head of this lettuce will also provide whopping amounts of vitamins A and K, at 18 times the RDA and 5 times the RDA, respectively. This lettuce is rich in the B vitamins as well, especially in thiamine, riboflavin, and folate, with lesser amounts of niacin and pantothenic acid.
- A mineral not yet mentioned is calcium. A head of romaine lettuce contains roughly 200 milligrams of calcium, which is 20% of the RDA. Also, if you regularly eat Caesar salad, or any salad based on romaine lettuce, you can forget about having to purchase those fish oil supplements. Romaine lettuce is rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids we hear are so important for our health.
How To Get The Nutrition Without Having To Eat A Whole Head Of Lettuce
There is of course a considerable difference in the amount of nutrients you’ll get from a few leaves of romaine lettuce, and what you’ll get from a whole head. If you want to get your nutrients in the amounts given above, one way would be to stick in a head of romaine lettuce the next time you make a fruit smoothie. Don’t worry. The final product won’t taste like a lettuce smoothie. The flavor of romaine lettuce, although slightly bitter, will be overpowered by the flavor of whatever fruits or berries are included in the smoothie. In a sense, when you put in the head of romaine lettuce, you are adding a good deal of water, and a goodly amount to nutrients, to whatever else is in the smoothie.
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