Crispy green/crimson-red colored lettuce is the most sought after leafy vegetable; be it your crunchy green salad or healthy vegetable sandwiches!
Botanically this marvelous, nutrition rich leafy green belongs to the daisy family of Asteraceae. Scientific name: Lactuca sativa.
The leaves exude milk like fluid when cut. There are about six varieties of cultivars exist based upon head formation and leaf structure.
The leaf varieties with more bitter taste are rather rich in anti-oxidants.
- Here are some popular varieties grown around the globe:
1. Butter-head, with loose heads; it has a buttery texture. Butter head cultivars are most popular and widely grown in Europe.
2. Chinese variety or celtuce, generally have long, tapering, non-head forming, strong flavored leaves unlike its Western counterparts. They are, therefore, used preferred in stir fried dishes and stews.
3. Crisp-head variety forms tight, dense heads that resemble cabbage. They are generally the mildest form, valued more for their crunchy texture than flavor. Cultivars of crisp head are the most familiar type used in the USA.
4. Loose-leaf- with tender, delicate and fully flavored leaves with loose bunch. This group includes green oak leaf, red oak leaf, valeria and lolla-rosa-types.
5. Romaine-lettuce grows in a long head of sturdy leaves with a firm rib almost reaching to the tip of the leaf. Cultivars of Romaine are also the most popular types in the USA.
6. Summer Crisp variety forms moderately dense heads with a crunchy texture; this type is intermediate between crisp-head and loose-leaf types.
- Health benefits of Lettuce
* Lettuce leaves are the store house of many phyto-nutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties.
* Vitamins in lettuce are plentiful. Fresh leaves are an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotenes. Just 100 g of fresh, raw-lettuce provides 247% of daily vitamin A, and 4443 mcg of beta-carotene (Carotenes convert to vitamin A in the body; 2 mcg of carotene is considered equivalent to 1 IU of vitamin A).
These compounds have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision.
Consumption of natural fruits and vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect body from lung and oral cavity cancers.
* Zeaxanthin (1730 mcg per100) an important dietary carotenoid in lettuce is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions, thus it offers some protection against age related macular disese (ARMD) in the elderly.
* It is a rich source of vitamin K, Vitamin K has potential role in the increase of bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone. It also has established role in Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
* Fresh leaves contain good amounts folates and vitamin C. Folates require for DNA synthesis and therefore, vital in prevention of neural tube defects in-utero fetus during pregnancy.
Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant; regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
* It also contains good amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium which are very essential for body metabolism.
Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is essential for red blood cell formation.
* It is rich in B-complex group of vitamins like thiamin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin.
Regular inclusion of lettuce in salads is known to prevent osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases, ARMD, Alzheimer's disease and cancers.
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