Today, I read a disturbing figure from the US:
According to the United Fresh Produce Association, American farmers grew 6.3 million pounds of “head lettuce” — iceberg — in 2007, more than twice as much as the next-most-popular lettuce, romaine. In fact, the iceberg total is more than romaine, green leaf, red leaf, spinach and every type of specialty lettuce combined. [Source]
I must admit, I was shocked, so I decided to see if my assumptions about romaine’s superiority were founded (and indeed they were):
A single serving of Romaine Lettuce (about 3 ounces or a little less than 2 cups) contains:100% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A, 34% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and 2g of fiber. Compare this with a serving of Iceberg Lettuce which has 9% of your required Vitamin A, 4% Vitamin C and 1g of fiber. Romaine’s folic acid content is higher and Romaine Lettuce is a very good source of potassium, which has been shown in numerous studies to be useful in lowering high blood pressure.
I also found spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens are also nutritionally superior to the iceberg variety. It’s not that iceberg is “bad”, but I am also assuming that with it’s bland flavour, that people are likely using heavy (in calories and fat) salad dressings to make it interesting.
On the flip side, I’ve never actually seen organic iceberg lettuce at the market or grocery store. Perhaps, it’s because organic consumers really are trying to maximize their nutritional intakes (there are also studies that have found substantially more trace elements/minerals in organic romaine vs. conventional).
Organic salad greens are also one of the highest in demand food items, which leads me to believe that there is tremendous potential for growth as consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of what they are eating. Never have we had so much variety for what leaf goes on our plates–salads really can be exciting!
Thinking of growing organic? Check out this good resource for growing organic salad greens.
Eat local, eat organic.