Lettuce, also known as Lactuca sativa, was first cultivated thousands of years ago by the Egyptians. It had a cultural and religious significance in Ancient Egypt and was considered as a sacred plant. Lettuce was used as a medicine for several illnesses. It was also considered as a cure for insomnia, loss of appetite, and even stopping sexual urges!
It is an annual plant that can only be harvested in 65-130 days after sowing. There are different types of lettuce: iceberg, romaine, crispreed, and butterhead to name a few. Lettuce has a mild, sweet taste and crunchy texture which makes it appetizing.
Lettuce contains vitamins A, C, E, and K, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc that are essential to the body. It is also one of the most popular leafy vegetables that are included in a vegan diet. Lettuce offers a lot of health benefits that will make you crave for a salad feast.
Curious about the health benefits? Let’s jump right in!
1. Induces sleep
Lettuce has been used in the Ancient Egypt as a cure for insomnia. Lettuce contains lactucarium, a chemical that has the same properties and structure as opium, that enhances sleep quality and relaxes the mind. It is a milky white substance found in leaves. Lactucarium has no harmful side effects than opium which is the most effective alternative for it.
2. Controls anxiety
In ancient Egypt, lettuce is used as a cure for anxiety. It has sedative and anxiolytic properties that control anxiety.
3. Improves digestion
Lettuce is an excellent source of fiber and cellulose that aids in digestion. Cellulose is a substance that can be found in the walls of plant cells that keeps the plant to remain stiff and upright. It is essential in the diet as fiber, though the body cannot digest cellulose. Fiber and cellulose go hand in hand in the movement of food through the gut and secreting waste out of the body.
4. Aids in weight loss
Lettuce is a grich source of fiber. Fiber promotes long-term weight loss as it makes you full and satisfied. A vegan diet often includes lettuce. 1 cup of lettuce (36 grams) contains 5g of calories, 20g sodium, and 0 fat.
5. Protects the body from bacteria and fungi
Lettuce has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that protect your body from harmful microbes. The anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties are from the biochemicals terpenes and cardenolides present in lettuce. The lactucarium present in lettuce kills various types of yeast.
6. Keeps you hydrated
Lettuce contains high water content that keeps you hydrated. Lettuce is rich in potassium that is responsible for the fluid balance in the body.
7. Maintains healthy neurons
Lettuce contains an anti-inflammatory agent that protects the neuron cells. Memory loss is associated with the death of neurons in specific connections or circuits. Potassium relaxes the nerves and improves neuron efficiency. Moreover, lettuce extracts can significantly reduce neuron cell death because of its role in glucose metabolism.
8. Prevents cardiovascular diseases
Lettuce is good for the heart as well. It aids in lowering the cholesterol levels in the body. High LDL cholesterol levels in the body can cause heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only found in fish. In fact, lettuce is a better source of omega-3 fatty acids compared to fish. Lettuce contains a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids that removes and prevents plaque from accumulating in the arteries. It reduces the risk of hypertension and cardiac arrest. Adequate intake of vitamin K reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It prevents mineralization which is a risk factor for heart diseases.
9. Promotes muscle development
Aside from meat and fish, lettuce is also a good source of protein. Protein aids in developing muscle. Athletes are advised to include lettuce in their diet to help in developing and healing muscles and preventing muscle loss. Lettuce contains enzymes that make protein synthesis more efficient. However, lettuce alone can’t grow muscles. You need to eat other protein sources such as meat and fish along with lettuce in developing muscles.
10. Helps maintain healthy skin and hair
You’ve probably heard that water is essential in maintaining healthy skin. As mentioned above, lettuce is a good source of water as well. Aside from that, lettuce contains terpenes, cardenolides, and gluconates which are biochemicals that have anti-bacterial properties that make the skin healthy and clear. Biochemicals reduce acne and other skin infections.
Omega-3 is also responsible for managing the production of sebum and moisturizing the skin. Overproduction of sebum causes skin problems such as acne, dark spots, and whiteheads. Vitamin k also keeps the hair healthy and prevents hair fall.
11. Aids in pregnancy development
Lettuce contains a significant amount of vitamin K that helps in preventing neural defects during gestation and helps prevent hemorrhage during childbirth. It also contains folate that is essential for DNA synthesis during pregnancy. Zinc and iron are also vital in pregnancy development. Zinc is also needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding while the iron is needed to supply oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
12. Reduces inflammation
Lettuce has antioxidants that prevent the cell from getting damaged through the production of free radicals. The antioxidants counteract the production of free radicals that reduces inflammation. It also contains biochemical catalysts, lipoxygenase and carrageenan, which control inflammation in a significant amount. The darker the lettuce, the more antioxidants it contains.
13. Prevents cancer
Studies have shown that 3 kilograms of lettuce can reduce leukemia cells by 50%. Lettuce also contains vitamin E and antioxidant that protects your cells from free radicals. Zinc also reduces the risk of cancer by fighting cancerous cells in the body.
Eating green, leafy vegetables like lettuce isn’t bad after all. Not only that it offers several health benefits but it can also improve one’s appearance. Lettuce is usually eaten raw but you can eat lettuce in any way you want. Lettuce can also be made into smoothies and can be cooked, too. Keep in mind that lettuce requires low temperature to prevent the plant from flowering. Consume lettuce as soon as you cook it since it is immune to any kind of preservation.
- 8 Impressive Benefits of Lettuce. Retrieved from https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-lettuce.html
- 11 Impressive Benefits of Lettuce. Retrieved from https://www.naturalfoodseries.com/11-health-benefits-lettuce/
- What is Cellulose?. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/articles/z2d2gdm
- Ware, M. (January 2018). Everything You Need to Know about Potassium. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287212.php