How Iceberg Lettuce Really Compares To Other Leafy Greens

Why has iceberg lettuce gotten such a bad rap? In recent years, per NPR, food critics have turned up their noses, comparing it to wax paper, and dieticians have denounced it for having no nutritional value. But iceberg lettuce has long been a staple in American cuisine. In the mid 1950s, Americans were eating 14 pounds of lettuce per capita every year (up from a mere 4 pounds in 1919), and iceberg was the dominant choice (via Food 52). For many decades, its popularity held firm.

If you think back to your younger years, iceberg lettuce probably was on your radar if not on your palate. That crunchy slab of lettuce flattened on your juicy burgers at neighborhood barbecues? Iceberg lettuce. Those piles of shaved lettuce at the salad bar and those restaurant wedge salads of the early aughts? Iceberg lettuce. So many sweet memories. Where did it all go wrong? Does iceberg lettuce really deserve its wilting reputation? 

Is iceberg lettuce as healthy as other leafy greens?

These days, iceberg lettuce has moved out of the limelight and leafy greens have taken its place. Kale, anyone? It's no wonder the most health-conscious among us are piling their plates and blending their smoothies with this leafy, cruciferous vegetable. Kale is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet due to its impressive nutrient content. According to Healthline, one cup of raw kale contains 684% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, over 200% of the DV for vitamin A and 134% of the DV for Vitamin C. Collard greens and spinach are loaded with nutrients and disease-fighting properties, too.

So, does iceberg lettuce hold a candle to its greener counterparts? It's true that darker leaves are more nutritious, but iceberg lettuce has its fair share of health benefits (per Eat Right). It's packed with vitamins C, K, and A, folate, potassium, and calcium. It may not be as high in fiber as kale or spinach, but it has a high water content that makes it refreshing and hydrating during hotter months. Plus, it's low in sugar and calories.

Delicious ways to enjoy iceberg lettuce

Because of its very mild flavor, iceberg lettuce is super versatile. One of the most classic ways to eat iceberg lettuce is in a wedge salad. Typically made with a quarter head of lettuce, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, and bacon, this tasty dish dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt, according to Hitchcock Farms. It's the perfect appetizer before a steak dinner or a satisfying standalone lunch. If blue cheese isn't to your liking, toss up the lettuce with chicken, grapes, and a poppy seed dressing for a light and yummy meal that covers all the nutritional bases. 

Adding some slices of iceberg lettuce to your favorite sandwich gives it a little texture, balances the flavors of the meats, cheeses, or other vegetables, and provides some added nutrition.

So there you have it. If you've been shunning iceberg lettuce, maybe it's time you give it a try.