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Is Butter Lettuce Good For You

by Annabel Caldwell
25 comments
Is Butter Lettuce Good For You

Is Butter Lettuce Good For You

The USDA indicates that butter lettuce is low in sodium, a good source of vitamin A (70 percent of your daily requirement), and has small amounts of iron and calcium.

In the springtime, farmers all over the country begin planting their fields with heads of crisp, green butter lettuce. The bright green leaves are used to make salads for sandwiches and hamburgers alike, but many people don’t know that this leaf is also packed with nutrients. According to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture, there are more than 50 different varieties of butter lettuce grown today. Some varieties have been around since ancient times, while newer ones were developed only recently by plant breeders. While some of these plants are eaten raw or lightly steamed, others can be consumed right out of the garden without any preparation at all. But what exactly makes this special vegetable so healthy? And how much do you really need to eat each day if you’re trying to stay fit? Let’s take a closer look.
Lettuce Basics
Despite its name, there isn’t actually anything “buttery” about butter lettuce — it doesn’t even taste like real butter! Instead, when you bite into one, you’ll notice that the flavor is very mild, almost bland. It tastes great on salads, of course, but it’s also delicious as an addition to other dishes such as omelets, stir-fries and Mexican food. Many restaurants serve it fresh off the grill, just sautéed with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want to use it in recipes, try adding it to soups and stews instead of spinach.
Butter lettuce grows in bunches, with individual leaves attached together. These leaves grow along a central stalk called a rachis, which is usually between 3 and 5 inches long. Each head contains anywhere from 20 to 60 leaves, depending on the variety. This particular type of lettuce comes in three forms: smooth-leafed, crinkled and semi-crinkled. Smooth-leafed butter lettuce looks similar to iceberg lettuce, except that it’s slightly less pointed and often displays red veins running through the leaves. Crinkled types have more pronounced wrinkles and folds on the edges, giving them a crumpled appearance. Semi-crinkled butter lettuces display a mix of both smooth and wrinkled characteristics. In terms of nutritional value, they’re not too far behind either group, though they tend to be higher in fiber content.
Health Benefits
One of the most popular uses for butter lettuce is as part of a salad. When it’s served raw, it offers a strong, mildly sweet flavor. However, because it’s not chopped up too finely, it provides a nice crunchy texture that complements many meals. Plus, eating raw butter lettuce prevents the enzymes in our saliva from breaking down the sugars inside the leaves, which means we get the full benefits of vitamins and minerals without the sugar spikes we normally experience after eating a salad. Raw butter lettuce is also high in Vitamin C, B6, K and folate.
Another way to enjoy this leaf is simply to steam it. As opposed to raw butter lettuce, cooked versions offer stronger flavors and a softer texture. They’re particularly tasty added to soups and casseroles, and they work well as sandwich fillings. Like raw lettuce, cooking prevents our body from deactivating the beneficial enzymes found within the lettuce itself. There are two ways to cook butter lettuce. One method involves boiling the leaves until soft; then draining and serving warm or cold. Another option is to wrap the leaves in a thin layer of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the lid during the last half hour of cooking time to let excess moisture evaporate. After letting cool for five minutes, remove the outer leaves and separate the remaining leaves with tongs.
As mentioned earlier, some types of butter lettuce contain larger amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium than others. So, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative to dairy products, consider incorporating this vegetable into your diet. Just 1 cup of cooked butter lettuce delivers approximately 100 calories and 9 grams of protein. That’s enough to fuel your workout routine for days on end.
There are several varieties of lettuce available year round, including dark red, light red, blue/green, purple, pink, orange and white. Different colors result from variations in pigmentation, rather than actual nutrient differences.

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