Headed to a hoppin' salad bar for lunch? Chances are there will be handfuls of leafy 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 to 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 leafy greens 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 ample amounts of calcium and iron. Clearly, Popeye was on to something.
Do you 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, fris?e and radicchio) offer, well, a mixed bag of nutritional benefits, depending on the batch.