Love it, Like, Avoid It: Salad Greens

Do you find yourself browsing the salad green aisle on your weekly grocery trip, trying to decide which lettuce to purchase for the week? It feels like every time I’m on the aisle, the options and combinations of greens grow. Surely I’m not the only one that feels this way! You may have heard that dark, leafy greens are the best option, but why is that? And, are there ones that are better than others? Today, we are beginning a new series called ‘Love it, Like it, Avoid It’ where we highlight a type of food and provide our recommendations on what to choose! We hope this is a helpful tool for you as you navigate the grocery store.

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LOVE IT:

Kale: This green is just not just a trend with no touted benefit. Kale really is a lettuce you should incorporate as much as possible! It’s full of cancer fighting nutrients called phytochemicals and rich in numerous vitamins and minerals. In fact, it is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat!
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutritional facts: 33 calories, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein; Just one cup of kale exceeds your DAILY requirements for vitamins A, C and K and provides a generous amount of calcium, iron, copper, potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese.
Use: Check out our Superfoods bowl for a great kale recipe {even my husband who is hesitant about kale LOVES this entree!}. Tip: Massage it with olive or avocado oil + a fresh citrus juice for a smoother taste!

Spinach: Spinach is another great lettuce option. Its nutrition profile is expansive, and although it is most famous for its iron content, {think Popeye} it provides a wealth of other nutrients in even higher quantities!
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutritional facts: 7 calories, 1.1 gram carbohydrate, 0.7 gram fiber, 1 gram protein; meets about half of your daily Vitamin A needs and is also a source of Vitamin C, B6, Magnesium, Iron and Calcium.
Use: Because of it’s mild flavor, this green is a great option for all types of eaters. I enjoy using spinach in my smoothie – like in my summer smoothie recipe. You can’t tell at all that there are greens in there!

LIKE IT:

Romaine: Romaine is a popular base for salads due to its texture, but because it is lacking the expanse of minerals that kale and spinach provide, I have to place it on the “like it” part of my list.
Serving size: 6 leaves
Nutritional facts: 30 calories, 5.5 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber, 2 gram protein; meets slightly less than half of your daily Vitamin A needs and is also provides a small amount of Vitamin C, Magnesium and Iron.
Use: Try mixing other lettuce from the ‘love it’ category in with your romaine to provide a greater amount of nutrients. Or, choose an olive or avocado oil and balsamic vinegar as your dressing to provide other nutrients the lettuce may be lacking!

Arugula: Arugula has been a trendier lettuce in recent years, mostly because of its unique, spicy flavor. But, the nutritional facts just don’t stack up like other greens.
Serving size: 1 cup
Nutritional facts: 6 calories, 0.8 gram carbohydrate, 0.4 gram fiber, 0.6 gram protein; Arugula provides a small amount of Vitamin A (8%), as well as a small amount of Calcium, Vitamin C and Magnesium but otherwise, is lacking many of the other nutrients that spinach or kale provide.
Use: Choose arugula in your salad to add flavor, but don’t expect it to contribute much nutritionally!

AVOID IT:

*Although I do not recommend “avoiding” any type of salad lettuce, you should choose other types (as above) to get more nutrition out of what you are eating!

Iceberg Lettuce: Because of the high water content, iceberg lettuce contributes to your daily fluid needs but lacks in many of the other nutrients we have discussed. It is a low calorie option and provides some nutrients, so you are better off choosing a salad with iceberg lettuce than no salad at all (or other sides like french fries). But, if you have the option to choose another type of green, I would recommend doing so.
Serving size: 1 cup, shredded
Nutritional facts: 10 calories, 2 grams total carbohydrate, 0.9 gram fiber, 0.6 gram protein; Iceberg lettuce provides 7% Vitamin A as well as a small amount (1-3%) of Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium and Calcium.
Use: Mix with other types of lettuce to increase the nutrient density of your salad. Or, mix in a variety of colorful vegetables to increase the nutrients you are eating!

Lastly, I try to stick with organic salad greens when possible. For more information, check out our recommendations on what to buy organic, including the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen!

Talk to us! What salad lettuce do you tend to buy at the store?

 

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