25—The throw-away vegetable?

Iceberg Lettuce


It's not just the tip of the iceberg

One thing that really peeves me is the ‘outer lettuce leaf’ bin at the Supermarket. You know what I’m talking about, right? The bin they stick next to the iceberg lettuce stand. Assuming they haven’t already plucked, stuffed & suffocated the heads in pre-packed plastic bags.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with bins as such. I think they perform a perfectly noble service. I just have a problem when they contain the fresh nutritious stuff — and leave the rubbish behind!

Why do people chuck the outer leaves of the iceberg lettuce into the bin? Is it because the leaves are dirty, or appear scraggly1? Is it because they don’t like the bitter taste of them2? Or is it simply because they think they’re covered in pesticides?

Conventionally sprayed lettuce doesn’t tend to feature on the Dirty Dozen, which is a list of fruits & vegetables with the most pesticides. (Nor does it feature on The Clean 15 — a list of fruits & vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residues.) So, it would appear there are worse things you could eat than outer lettuce leaves! And while ‘organic’ is always best, it obviously comes at a greater cost. Conventionally grown Iceberg lettuce is currently around $1.80 while its organic counterpart is around $4.30!

Note: It’s interesting that bread (grain) is featured on NZ’s Dirty Dozen. Olive oil and muesli follow closely behind (Organic NZ).

Ensure you buy the organic version of these veges & fruit in NZ. Or better yet — grow them yourself!

Bok/Pak Choi
Spring Onion


Getting into the details

Lettuce  provides us with valuable nutrients (primarily Chlorophyll, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Potassium, Folate, and Vitamin C)

The darker the leaves the higher the nutrient levels it contains.

Lettuce has a high water content. Therefore the increased consumption of this vegetable is a helpful way to boost your H20 intake.

“Ah-la peanut butter sandwiches”
I’ve got two ingredients on my sandwich — a generous spread of Huckleberry’s smooth peanut butter, and two outer leaves of a non-organic Iceberg lettuce (from a produce store). The bread I’m using is my favourite: Connon’s Wholemeal. It has just five ingredients: wholemeal flour, yeast, salt, molasses, and water!

Rummage through the bin!

You could fossick through the ‘outer lettuce leaf’ bin (and risk looking suspect). Or, you could simply resist the compulsion to ‘bin’ the leaves in the first place. Regardless of the means, the end should be the same: to obtain a wee bit of peace & enlightenment… Because Iceberg lettuce has some surprising health characteristics to share with us:

Iceberg lettuce contains Choline
Choline (a type of B vitamin) helps to increase alertness and concentration. It improves memory and some aspects of human intelligence and mental function. (You can also find choline in: lecithin, beans, egg yolk, liver, milk, peanuts, wholegrains, and yeast.)

And better yet…

Iceberg Lettuce contains Lettuce Opium!
The dark outer leaves of the Iceberg lettuce contain mild doses of Lactucin — a natural sedative and analgesic2. This active ingredient has been reported to promote a mild sensation of euphoria. It is therefore fabulous for people that suffer from anxiety, and minor pain disorders (and the resulting sleep problems that can occur due to these issues).

Lisa says:

"Ah-la peanut butter sandwiches!"

By eating an iceberg lettuce + peanut butter sandwich for your lunch you could magically maintain your cool for the rest of the afternoon. The combo of Iceberg lettuce and protein should reduce your anxiety, increase your concentration, and stabilise your blood sugar levels3.

If you don’t care for peanut butter, any other protein would make a nice accompaniment: egg, tuna, miso paste, or another variety of nut butter (almond or cashew).

Remember to ‘Keep it simple, Sweetie’ when it comes preparing meals. Check out my article on: Less is more

Lettuce isn't just for salads or sammies

You could easily place a filling (or a couple of fillings) inside 1–2 lettuce leaves. Wrap it up, and carefully munch away on that. Or you could add these dark green leafies to your Green Smoothies, or juices — if you still insist on drinking your veges!

FYI: Check out what I have to say about Green Smoothies:
Green Smoothies – part one
Green Smoothies – part two

Don't like iceberg lettuce?

Dandelion coffee is another source of Lactucin.

In order to calm and focus their customers, 'outer lettuce leaves' bins should be strategically placed around the supermarket, instead of playing annoying elevator music!

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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