Iceberg lettuce has been surrounded by various criticisms saying that it is one of the most “useless” vegetables in the culinary world. People have even claimed that eating iceberg lettuce is as nutritious as eating cardboard.1
This is probably because, compared to other varieties of lettuce, iceberg lettuce has a lower nutritional content. But to believe that it’s as useless as eating cardboard simply robs you of the nutritional benefits that it can actually offer you.
The iceberg lettuce was first introduced in the market in 1945 and was the first variety of lettuce that survived travel without wilting. It was first called the crisphead lettuce because of its texture and shape. Its name, “iceberg,” came from the fact that this vegetable was often sent to other states and areas in trucks filled with large amounts of ice to preserve it and slow down its decay.2
The decline in iceberg lettuce sales, however, started when people started shifting their focus to other varieties that have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals. But although it has fewer vitamins and minerals than other lettuce varieties, iceberg lettuce is not at all useless, and it actually can have a place in your diet – here’s why.
Iceberg Lettuce Health Benefits: Not as Useless as You Think
If you find yourself asking, “Is iceberg lettuce good for you?” the clear answer is yes. Here are some of the health benefits that you can get when you incorporate this lettuce variety into your diet:3
- May aid in weight loss. Iceberg lettuce has low caloric content, with only 75 calories per medium-sized head.
- Aids in the prevention of birth defects. This vegetable contains a considerable amount of folate, a mineral that is essential for preventing birth defects and other prenatal conditions.
- Contains vitamin A and vitamin C. Even though it has the lowest percentage of vitamins A and C among all lettuce varieties, iceberg contains good amounts of these vitamins. Vitamin A has been commonly linked to eye maintenance and the prevention of macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness, while vitamin C has been observed to assist the body and the immune system through its antioxidant properties.
Note: While lettuce can potentially provide you with the benefits mentioned above, remember that they contain less nutrients than other leafy greens. Hence, it’s advisable not to rely solely on lettuce as your nutrient source and to instead mix them up with other vegetables, such as microgreens or sprouts. Swapping lettuce for sprouts and/or microgreens will dramatically improve your nutrition and add more interesting flavors to your meal.
How Is Iceberg Lettuce Used in the Culinary World?
In the 1950s, iceberg lettuce was the sole choice for salads. In those days, when you order a salad at a high-end restaurant, it was certain that iceberg lettuce would be the main ingredient. Up until the advent of the other lettuce varieties, iceberg lettuce has been a mainstay in the majority of dishes that contain greens. Its demand, on the other hand, has since waned in favor of Romaine lettuce and other kinds of leafy vegetables.
But in recent years, iceberg lettuce has been making a comeback in the market. In American cuisine, this vegetable is now being used as a main ingredient in soups, appetizers and even main dishes. It has also been used as an alternative to shredded cabbage, offering a sweeter and milder flavor.4
Try These Healthy and Tasty Lettuce Recipes
Iceberg lettuce is most commonly found in salads because of its ability to complement other ingredients without overpowering or even masking the flavors. Chefs also note that iceberg lettuce add additional crisp to a dish without compromising the dish’s overall taste.5
Here are some iceberg lettuce recipes that you can try out if you’re craving for that healthy and refreshing crunch: 6, 7
Iceberg Lettuce Recipes:
Iceberg, Lemon and Mint Slaw
|1 iceberg lettuce, coarsely shredded
||5 green onions, thinly sliced
||1 celery heart with leaves, thinly sliced
||1 bunch mint leaves, coarsely chopped
|1 lemon, juice and thinly sliced rind
||1/4 cup coconut oil
||1 teaspoon raw honey
- Combine lettuce, onions, celery heart and mint in a plastic container with a lid. Refrigerate for about 6 hours.
- For the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a screw-top jar. Season with Himalayan salt and pepper to taste. Seal and refrigerate the dressing. Shake and pour over salad.
(Adapted from Notebook, Taste.co.au)
Iceberg Lettuce Recipes:
Iceberg Wedges with Blue Cheese Dressing
|2 garlic cloves, crushed
||150 ml sour cream
||2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise
||1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
|2 tablespoons coconut oil
||1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
||1 tablespoon lemon juice
||40 grams blue cheese
|1 firm iceberg lettuce, cut into 6 wedges
||2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Place the garlic, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and blue cheese in a food processor.
- Process for a few seconds until combined.
- Place a lettuce wedge on each serving plate. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the chopped chives. Serve as a starter or a side dish.
(Adapted from Delicious, Taste.com.au)
Here’s How You Can Grow Your Own Iceberg Lettuce
If you’re planning on growing your own lettuce, you must first ensure that you live in a place with a cool climate. Iceberg lettuce and other varieties of this vegetable are usually grown in areas where the temperature does not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes any higher, lettuce plants will not form heads.
Here’s a guide on planting and harvesting your own iceberg lettuce supply:8, 9
- Prepare the area where you’re going to plant lettuce by providing irrigation and organic matter. Because lettuce plants have a shallow root system, it is crucial that the planting and maintenance of these vegetables are carried out in a gentle manner. The nutrients and water should be available on the top 12 inches of the plant bed.
- The seed beds should be properly elevated to promote drainage. Lettuce seeds are usually planted at a depth of 0.5 inches. After the first plant emergence, wait for 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting lettuce sprouts and providing a larger space for each plant.
- Frequent watering is crucial for the development of lettuce. However, overhead sprinkler systems should be avoided when the plants start producing flowers because it may reduce the chances of pollination. Make sure that the leaves of the lettuce plant do not get wet when you’re watering these plants.
- During harvest time, make sure that the lettuce heads are still firm. Cut the head from the main stalk by slicing off the stem. The outer leaves of the lettuce head may be removed if needed. Lettuce harvesting should be done in the morning because this is when the vegetable is at its freshest.
- Wash the lettuce heads with cold water. Refrigerate.
Iceberg Lettuce Nutritional Facts
Considering that iceberg lettuce is usually found in salads – the staple food for people who are trying to lose weight – it comes as no surprise that the calories in iceberg lettuce are relatively low. It contains about 10 calories per serving. This is usually attributed to the fact that about 96 percent of it is water.
To help you determine other nutritional facts of iceberg lettuce, here’s a breakdown of its nutritional values: 10
Iceberg Lettuce Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 100 grams
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.