Many people consider iceberg lettuce to be nutritionally inferior to other types of lettuce. However, it does still offer nutritional benefits.
Lettuce and other raw vegetables can be a quick and easy addition to sandwiches, wraps, or burgers, or they can form the base of a mixed salad. This versatility makes them a convenient way for people to add more nutrients to their meals.
In this article, we look at the nutritional profile and benefits of iceberg lettuce, as well as how it compares with other lettuces and how to use it.
|Nutrient||Amount per cup (shredded, 72 g)|
As with most plant foods, iceberg lettuce contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. However, its high water content means that the amounts of these can be quite low.
Based on the recommended daily amounts for adults according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and depending on age and biological sex, each 100 g of iceberg lettuce contains:
As part of a healthful diet, iceberg lettuce can increase fiber and water intake. This will improve gut health by ensuring regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.
Research has associated a diet that emphasizes vegetables with better bone health. Leafy green vegetables contain nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K, which are important for healthy bones.
Vegetables also contain substances called phytonutrients, which have antioxidant properties. These substances can help protect the body from a range of diseases and conditions.
The authors of a 2017 review also noted a link between lettuce, along with other vegetables, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cos or romaine lettuce has a better nutritional profile than iceberg lettuce. Even though romaine lettuce still contains a significant amount of water at nearly 95%, the amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals are higher. For example, 100 g of romaine lettuce contains:
- 436 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A (17 times as much as iceberg lettuce)
- 14 milligrams (mg) of magnesium (twice as much)
- 136 mcg of folate (five times as much)
- 33 mg of calcium (nearly twice as much)
However, the amount of these nutrients in all types of lettuce is still relatively small.
- 469 mcg of vitamin A (19 times as much as iceberg lettuce)
- 79 mg of magnesium (11 times as much)
- 194 mcg of folate (seven times as much)
- 99 mg of calcium (six times as much)
- 28 mg of vitamin C (10 times as much)
- 483 mcg of vitamin K (20 times as much)
Iceberg lettuce is suitable as a base ingredient for a healthful salad, either on its own or in combination with other greens. To ensure a wide variety of nutrients and flavors, people can add:
- tomatoes, peppers, carrots, avocado, radish, or broccoli
- sliced apple, pear, watermelon, or raisins
- nuts and seeds
- a healthful dressing, such as olive, hemp, or avocado oil mixed with lemon juice or cider vinegar
Iceberg lettuce is also popular as a filling in sandwiches, burgers, and wraps.
Lettuce can replace bread to make a healthful sandwich or wrap. This replacement may suit people who are aiming to decrease their carbohydrates, such as those who are on a keto diet or are gluten intolerant. Try this recipe here.
Washing and hygiene
A study in Brazil looked at contamination levels in lettuces in supermarkets, food services, and self-service restaurants. The results indicated that E. coli was detectable in 70% of whole fresh lettuces, 6.7% of minimally processed lettuces, and 30% of ready-to-eat lettuces.
A 2018 study looked at different washing methods for both fresh and ready-to-eat, prepackaged iceberg lettuce. The researchers used different washing methods and immersion times, analyzing the number of bacteria present. Although they found small reductions using bicarbonate and vinegar, the only significant result came from using chlorine disinfectant, with a notable reduction in bacteria taking place after 30 minutes.
The ready-to-eat iceberg lettuce had a higher contamination level than the fresh lettuce. The study authors note that consuming ready-to-eat iceberg lettuce within the first few days of packaging may reduce a person’s risk of contamination.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offer advice on how to avoid foodborne illness when eating fresh produce, such as lettuce:
- ensure prepacked lettuce is refrigerated at or below 40°F both in the store and at home
- wash the hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce
- gently rub produce while holding it under plain running water — there is no need to use soap or a produce wash
- dry produce with a clean paper towel to reduce bacteria further
- remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is a healthful addition to a person’s diet. It has fewer nutrients than other types of lettuce, however, so a person should vary the types they eat. Spinach, in particular, has a better nutritional profile, and people can use it along with, or instead of, iceberg lettuce.
A person must ensure good hygiene practices and refrigeration when using iceberg lettuce to avoid food poisoning. A fresh, whole lettuce may be a better choice to avoid contaminants and chlorine residues. A person can wash it under running water and dry it with a paper towel or salad spinner before eating it.
Iceberg lettuce has an appealing crunch and is a good addition to a salad, wrap, burger, or sandwich. Generally, adding more vegetables to the diet can support health and lower the risk of disease.