Digestion Tip of the Month: A closer look at Lettuce

What do you do when you recieve unsolicited food “tips” while out to eat? Do you (A) smile politely and keep eating? (B) start a dialogue with them about why they are right or wrong? Or (C) Tell them thanks, then go home and look up the facts?

Well if your anything like me- you go home and do the research! So let me share with you what prompted this little survey. While out to dinner recently, our waitress wondered why I was meagerly picking at my colorful salad. She thought I didn’t like it. So I politely told her, not at all! I just wanted to save room for the rather large dinner I knew was coming. This opened an unwanted dialogue on how lettucs/salad actually helps you make room for your meal; almost a digestive cleanse shall we say. Hmmmmm….. Naturally, having never heard this before I decided to look into it a bit more. Here is what I found:

First, not all lettuce is created equal. Different types of lettuce offer different nutrient properties and taste. Crisphead lettuce, better known as Iceberg is green on the outside and whitish on the inside with a crisp texture and watery taste. Butterhead lettuce, also known as Bibb and Boston lettuce features more of a tender leaf that form a loosely arranged head with a sweet flavor. Leaf lettuce, or green and red leaf lettuce, features a borad, curly leaf with a delicate taste and mildly crispy. Then you have Romaine lettuce; with a deep green long leaf and deep robust taste.

Native to eastern Mediterranean regions, along with Western Asia has a long and distinguished history with lettuce. Depictions in ancient Egyptian tombs (based on research) show the cultivation of lettuce, and is thought to date back to 4500 BC. Ancient Greeks and Romans used lettuce as a way to supplement nutrients and for its medicinal properties. Lettuce was first introduced in America shortly after Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the new world; where it was first planted in California.

Adding a salad to your meal will be sure to add not only a variety of textures and greens, but an enormous amount of nutritional value. Romaine lettuce is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. It is especially good for the prevention or alleviation of many common health complaints. Because of its low calorie content and high water volume, romaine lettuce can be overlooked in the nutrition world, but is in fact jam packed with vitamin A, K, C, folate, and is a good source of dietary fiber and 4 minerals. The other thing to keep in mind is that lettuce, especially Romaine, is heart healthy! The vitamin C and beta carotene work together to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized, it becomes sticky and starts to build up in the artery walls forming plaques. If these plaques become too large, they can block off blood flow triggering all sorts of heart problems. The fiber in Romaine lettuce binds the bile salts and removes them from the body. This forces the body to make more bile, which is helpful because it must break down cholesterol to do so.

While I did not find any information about its digestive “making room” properties-  I could go on listing the abundant healthy benefits of lettuce, but I think the safest thing to say is add lettuce to your diet! Not only is it gluten free, it’s lactose friendly as well!

 Add it with craisins, walnuts, or shaved unsalted almonds. Add it with vinegar, dried peaches, or olive oil. Add feta cheese, or raisins and apples. Add whatever you like- just add lettuce to your diet!

Happy eating!

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