Romaine lettuce is one of the fastest growing vegetables in terms of popularity and that it has the potential to provide significant antioxidants and widespread health benefits to people’s diets. (1)
Many people know that certain lettuces, like iceberg lettuce, tend to be lower in nutrients that other varieties, and sometimes people can confuse romaine lettuce as falling into this low-nutrient category.
However, romaine lettuce nutrition is actually quite impressive due to its high level of antioxidants and other crucial vitamins and minerals including folate, manganese, and more.
Thanks to its durable nature and sturdy “crunch,” romaine lettuce adds not only nutrients to your salads, sandwiches, or other recipes, but also variety in terms of texture and flavor. It’s one of the best loved lettuces for having a mild, non-bitter taste that deters some people from consuming leafy greens regularly.
Because of its great taste, ease of use, versatility in recipes, and high nutrient profile, there’s no reason not to include romaine lettuce in your diet regularly.
Romaine Lettuce Nutrition
A one cup serving of romaine lettuce has, in percent daily values:
- 8 calories
- Almost 0 grams of sugar, protein, and fat
- 5 grams of fiber
- 82% vitamin A
- 60% vitamin K
- 19% vitamin C
- 16% folate
- 4% manganese
- 3% iron
- 3% potassium
9 Romaine Lettuce Nutrition Health Benefits
1. Excellent Source of Antioxidants Vitamin A and Vitamin C
Vitamin A and vitamin C are powerful antioxidant that play a critical role in maintaining the function of many parts of the body. They do this by fighting free radicals which can build up in the body and contribute to the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
Free radicals are made naturally inside your body from everyday actions including eating processed foods to being exposed to toxins, pollutants, or radiation.
There are numerous health benefits of eating plants containing vitamin A and vitamin C, such as romaine lettuce, because the antioxidant vitamin A stops inflammation and oxidative stress, which can cause tissue and cellular damage. Just one 2 cup serving of romaine lettuce provides 164% of your daily vitamin A and 38% of your daily vitamin C needs!
Vitamin A and vitamin C found in romaine lettuce nutrition are partly responsible for gene regulation and cell differentiation and they work to stop free radical damage from overwhelming the body and leading to disease. They are both responsible for aiding healthy eye sight and skin and play a role in maintaining strong bones and boosting immunity.
2. Helps Prevent Bone Loss
Leafy greens are often considered the best natural vegetable source of vitamin K. Romaine lettuce is no exception to this since it’s a great source of bone-building vitamin K. In fact, studies have shown that vitamin K2 can help boost bone density and prevent osteoporosis even better than calcium can.
In addition to building and maintaining a healthy skeletal structure, Vitamin K plays a vital role in blood clotting, healing bruises, aiding in bone calcification, and helping to prevent many diseases. (2)
3. Boosts Heart Health
Romaine lettuce is a great source of folate, also sometimes called folic acid. Folate is a type of B vitamin that is used by the body to convert homocysteine, which when unconverted can lead to heart problems including damaged blood vessels and dangerous plaque build-up.
Romaine lettuce nutrition also supplies vitamin A and vitamin C, two antioxidants which play a role in heart health by oxidizing cholesterol and keeping arteries strong. (3) These antioxidants help prevent build-up in the artery walls that form plaque. They also increase blood flow, and help prevent blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
4. Promotes Healthy Eye Sight
The rich supply of vitamin A and vitamin C found in romaine lettuce helps to protect against eye disorders. Deficiencies in these antioxidants can lead to a thickening of the cornea, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and possibly even blindness as one ages.
Studies have shown that antioxidant beta carotene, the form of vitamin A found in plants including romaine lettuce, plays a big role in preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness. (4)
Research has shown that people who consume vitamin A and vitamin C from a healthy diet or supplementation are less likely to suffer eye damage as they age.
5. Helps Heal Skin & Prevent Signs of Aging
The high amount of vitamin A found in romaine lettuce is essential for skin health. Studies show that a deficiency in this critical vitamin can lead to a poor complexion. (5)
Vitamin C also helps to build collagen in the skin, which is responsible for building firm, healthy skin and preventing loss in elasticity. Both of these antioxidants work together to stop cell damage that can lead to skin cancer.
Additionally romaine lettuce supplies nutrients that help defend against acne and inflammation including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, and more.
Romaine lettuce nutrition can help to get rid of acne since it has a low score on the glycemic index; whereas a diet filled with foods high on the glycemic index, including a lot of sugar, has been shown to be related to acne flair ups.
6. Boosts Immunity
Vitamin C and vitamin A, two of romaine lettuce nutrition’s stars, are both known as powerful immune boosters.
Vitamin A is involved in several immune system functions including regulating the genes involved in auto-immune responses. (6) The vitamin A found in romaine lettuce helps to fight infections, heal skin, and to nourish the digestive system so it can properly absorb nutrients from food and defend against harmful bacteria overgrowth.
Vitamin C can help benefit your immune system by reducing inflammation, aiding in digestive health, and helping nutrients to be absorbed and used properly. It also plays a large role in your body’s ability to fight off common colds, the flu and viruses. (7)
Your body does not make powerful vitamin C on its own naturally and relies on foods high in vitamin C. The body also does not store vitamin C, so it is important that you get this essential vitamin frequently from whole food sources including leafy greens like romaine lettuce.
7. Can Help Fight Cancer
Studies have shown that the chlorophyll pigment in dark leafy greens, such as Romaine lettuce, may reduce the risk of developing certain cancers including colon and liver cancers. (8, 9) And studies show that diets low in green leafy vegetables are associated with an increase of cancer risk.
A diet high in antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C found in romaine lettuce has been correlated with a decreased risk for lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral, and skin cancers.
8. Helps Maintain a Healthy Pregnancy
Consuming enough folate, like the type found in romaine lettuce, has been shown to help prevent several birth defects and promote a safe and vibrant pregnancy.
Folate does this through contributing to an adequate birth weight of the fetus, healthy neural tube formation, and the proper development of the fetus’s face and heart. For pregnant women a deficiency in folate (also called vitamin B9) can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida. (12) (13)
There is actually a difference between folate, the natural form of multiple B vitamins, and folic acid in terms of health benefits. While many people think that they are interchangeable and both are important for a healthy pregnancy, folate is the preferred source naturally found in foods.
When people consume large amounts of folic acid through vitamins and synthetically fortified foods, the body cannot break it down then elevated levels of un-metabolized folic acid remain. This is problematic for all people, especially pregnant women, and has been linked with an increased risk for developing cancer and other illnesses.
A folate deficiency can also contribute to the formation of anemia (poorly formed red blood cells), poor immune function, and poor digestion in those who are not pregnant. To combat these illnesses, get folate naturally from whole food sources including leafy greens like romaine lettuce.
9. Can Help with Weight Loss
Romaine lettuce is extremely low in calories, carbs, sugar and fat, yet high in nutrients and water content. Because of its low calorie density but high nutrient content, you can eat as much romaine as you want even when trying to lose weight.
The water and fiber found in romaine lettuces makes it filling and helps the body to shed itself of bloat and excess water weight while you begin practicing a healthier diet in order to reach your desired healthy weight.
10. Helps Digestion & Intestine Health
Romaine lettuce is one of the bitter herbs that is talked about in the Bible. But it is praised as one of the “bitter herbs” that is still a little sweet, which is why it pairs so well with so many different savory and sweet foods.
Romaine lettuce nutrition has long been known to not only ease digestion but also used as a wonderful fiber source. Easy to add into your diet, its high water, mineral and high fiber content help keep things moving along as you digest and also helps get any toxins out of your body.
History of Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce, which is often called “cos lettuce” is other areas of the world, is a variety of lettuce from the Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia plant family. Romaine lettuce grows in a tall head of sturdy leaves and has signature firm ribs down the center.
Many sources trace the emergence of romaine lettuce back to Greek island hundreds of years ago, where it first got its name from the island of Cos where the lettuce was first introduced. Romaine lettuce spread to Rome where it was given its Italian name “romaine”, in regards to coming from Rome.
It is still commonly consumed in the Mediterranean region of the world today and has become popular in other areas of the world, especially as the primary ingredient in “caesar salad”.
Romaine lettuce has long been used in traditional Passover Seders as a type of bitter herb. It is used to symbolize the “bitterness” that the Israelites felt when they were kept as slaves in Egypt thousands of years ago. Romaine lettuce is also popular in parts of the Middle East and across North America.
Purchasing Romaine Lettuce
In the U.S, the vast majority of harvested romaine lettuce and other salad greens comes from California. It can usually be found year round in most markets and during the spring and summer months in the Northern regions where it’s cooler. There are a variety of romaine lettuces in existence, all with deep green, long leaves and a crisp texture.
When purchasing romaine, look for leaves that are sturdy and not yet browning. Avoid buying leaves that have slimy spots or brown and yellow patches. The leaves should also have a milky fluid which gives the romaine the typically fine-bitter herb taste.
Look for romaine greens that are sold with their roots attached, which helps them to stay fresh for longer. You can keep romaine for 5-7 days in your refrigerator and may want to wrap the roots in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag where they will stay hydrated and fresh longer.
Whenever possible, look to buy organic romaine lettuce. Like all leafy greens, romaine lettuce can easily absorb pesticides and chemicals that are sprayed on conventional, non-organic crops. Salad greens are usually highly sprayed since they grow close to the ground and are susceptible for bugs and rodents.
Romaine Lettuce Recipes
The taste of romaine lettuce is described as mild by some, but deep in taste by others. Depending on the specific kind you buy, you may notice a slight sweetness or bitterness as well.
Unlike many other types of leafy greens, romaine is durable and can stand up well to high heat. Aside from adding it to sandwiches, this makes it a great leafy green to try grilling on the BBQ or roasting in your oven, in order to give it a char and to bring out it natural flavors.
Romaine lettuce is also a great vegetable to try juicing, adding nutrients and subtle flavor to your juice or smoothie without it becoming too bitter. And because it retains its shape and folds easily without breaking, it makes a great “wrap” substitute.
Try making one of these recipes to add romaine lettuce to your diet more often:
Total Time: 5-10 minutes
- romaine lettuce, chopped
- 2 grilled skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 mango, peeled and chopped
- 1 avocado, seeded, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium apple, chopped
- ½ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
- 2 pieces of organic turkey bacon, cooked and chopped
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- Combine ingredients and serve with favorite dressing.
Photo: Cobb Salad Recipe / Dr. Axe
Total Time: 15 minutes
- 1 lb ground organic turkey
- ½ head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 C spring mix lettuce
- ½ C chopped cilantro
- 1 C cubed raw cheese
- 1 C organic, non GMO corn kernels
- 1 15 oz can of black beans, drained
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- ¼ C organic ketchup
- ¼ C honey
- ¼ C red wine vinegar
- ¼ C onion, chopped
- ½ tsp paprike
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ C coconut oil
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Brown the ground turkey in a skillet with salt and pepper until cooked. Drain excess grease
- Combine last 8 ingredients together in a food processer until smooth and refrigerate.
- Toss all salad ingredients together with the cooled meat and serve.
Photo: Taco Salad Recipe / Dr. Axe
Total Time: 5 minutes
- 2 avocados, cubed
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 Tbsp red onions , diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 6-8 romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl
- Scoop out approx. 1/2 cup into gluten free wrap and roll.
Photo: Avocado Salad Wrap Recipe / Dr. Axe
Potential Concerns with Romaine Lettuce
Unfortunately romaine lettuce has been linked to outbreaks of food-born illnesses including E Coli and salmonemalla over the past several decades. According to reports, there have been 34 food-borne illness outbreaks involving leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach in the past 15 years.Lettuce is susceptible to bacteria because it retains moisture, grows close to the ground, and is commonly eaten raw.
Leafy greens are also eaten from salad bars which in general have the potential for lots pf contact with people’s hands, which can result in them carrying bacteria and germs.
It’s very difficult for consumers to know one way or the other if greens like romaine lettuce are ever contaminated, and there is only a slight chance of this occurring on any given day.
Leafy green vegetables are vital to health and an overall good diet, so if you are worried about consuming food-born illnesses, you may wish to cook your greens rather than eating them raw which can help prevent bacteria from remaining alive.
You may also feel safer buying romaine lettuce from bigger grocery chains with more accountability and required testing. Buying organic greens also helps to ensure that they were harvested in a more sterile environment free of chemicals, which is another concern for consumers.
READ NEXT: Vitamin A: Benefits, Sources & Side Effects
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