What are the possible health benefits of romaine lettuce?
The vitamins and minerals in romaine lettuce may contribute to some health benefits, and there are many simple ways to add romaine to the diet.
In this article, we look at the nutritional content of romaine lettuce, what possible health benefits it could offer, and how to make use of it in meals.
What is romaine lettuce?
Romaine lettuce is a variation of typical salad lettuce, though they stem from the same plant.
The name romaine suggests the lettuce was discovered in Rome, and the lettuce does well growing in the Mediterranean climate.
Romaine leaves are long and taper towards the root of the lettuce. The upper part of the leaves is a deeper green color and more flimsy than the lower leaves.
Towards the bottom of the lettuce, the leaves become sturdier and have thick, white ribs that are filled with a slightly bitter fluid, giving romaine lettuce its distinctive taste.
The amount of this bitter fluid increases further down the stalk, which is why many people throw away the thickest part of the leaves to avoid this bitterness.
The unique romaine is more than just a great tasting leaf. While some people may think that lettuce has no nutrients, romaine lettuce is full of vitamins and minerals.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, each cup of shredded romaine lettuce has just 8 calories. It also has an extremely high water content. Each cup of romaine lettuce contains around 44 grams of water or about 1.5 ounces.
Romaine lettuce is low in carbohydrates, sugar, and fiber.
Romaine contains a good amount of healthful minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. It is also safe for people looking to control their sodium intake, as it has just 4 milligrams of sodium per cup.
In addition to valuable minerals, romaine lettuce is also packed with vitamins. Romaine lettuce contains high levels of vitamin K and beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. The leafy green also contains good levels of folate, vitamin C, and molybdenum.
Possible health benefits
Eating romaine lettuce is commonly associated with dieting due to its high nutrient density and low calorie content.
In fact, the nutrients and minerals in romaine lettuce may provide benefits to anyone who regularly eats it.
Romaine lettuce is packed with the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A, which play a key role in balancing and maintaining many systems in the body.
They do so partly by fighting damage caused by free radicals in the body. Free radicals are produced by a range of factors, from eating processed foods to breathing environmental toxins. If left unchecked, this damage can build up over time and may contribute to signs of aging and other health conditions.
The vitamins in romaine lettuce may help build up a person’s immune system and protect against these health concerns.
Heart and circulatory health
Due to the high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C found in romaine, the lettuce may also be a great addition to a heart-healthy diet plan. These two antioxidants can help keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries and forming plaque.
The folate in romaine may also help prevent serious heart complications. It does this by breaking down the chemical homocysteine so it can be removed from the body.
As a study published in Nutrition Journal noted, high levels of homocysteine are linked to heart conditions. Folate from foods alone is not enough to keep this chemical in check but works as part of a wider heart-healthy practice.
Romaine lettuce is also rich in the heart-healthy mineral potassium. Potassium helps muscles such as the heart contract regularly. A review posted to the BMJ concluded higher levels of potassium might be helpful in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk for stroke.
Vitamin A is commonly linked to eye health, and food rich in vitamin A such as romaine lettuce may help prevent eye disorders as people age.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that consuming the beta-carotene found in many plants may be a beneficial step to preventing a condition called macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of blindness due to aging.
Along with the antioxidants found in romaine, the leafy green may also protect the body from cancer through its high folate count.
The NIH state that folate found naturally in food may help decrease the risk of several forms of cancer.