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Salad: everything you should know!

by Josephine Andrews

Vitamins, fiber, minerals: Lettuce provides important nutrients and is considered the best food for a slim figure. Here you can find out how healthy lettuce really is, what ingredients are in it and how to store it properly!

Is lettuce healthy?

Lettuce is not a botanical term – a concrete definition is therefore difficult. On the one hand, it describes dishes from the cold kitchen. They are made from shredded vegetables or fruit and can be savory or fruity. Carrot, tomato or potato salad, for example, are popular.

On the other hand, lettuce is also a collective term for various vegetables whose leaves are usually eaten raw – lettuce, endive or rocket are just a few examples. Leaf salads in particular are considered to be particularly healthy.

Lettuce contains a lot of water and nutrients, fills you up with its large volume and at the same time provides little energy in the form of calories. Choosing a vinegar and oil dressing instead of dressing the salad with yoghurt, crème fraîche or mayonnaise is doing something good for your figure. This is how healthy salad helps you lose weight: It is a classic part of a diet and is suitable for many types of nutrition, such as low-carb.

Since it is served raw, heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals are also retained. Use the freshest possible lettuce and only wash it briefly.

Lettuce is also high in fiber, which is good for digestion. Dietary fibers increase the digestion time in the stomach and thereby promote the feeling of satiety. They bind water in the intestines, increasing the volume of the stool.

Read more about dietary fiber here .

The metabolism also benefits from lettuce: the high potassium content of most varieties supports cell division, cell growth and energy metabolism. And: Bitter lettuce such as endive and chicory increases the production of saliva and gastric juice, which also promotes digestion. Therefore, when the question is asked: which salad is the healthiest, bitter salads are often the answer.

Even if most varieties are available in stores all year round, it is better to only use those that are grown and harvested in Germany. This is not only environmentally friendly, but also has health and taste benefits: the fresher the lettuce, the more nutrients and flavors it contains.

In the cold season, reach for classic winter varieties such as lamb’s lettuce and radicchio. Batavia and green salad taste particularly good in spring. Lettuce is harvested in Germany from May to November.

Lettuce: These ingredients are in it

But what exactly is in lettuce? The crunchy leaves are 90 to 95 percent water. Most varieties of lettuce also contain it

  • Betacarotin (Provitamin A)
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Vitamin C
  • Minerals such as potassium, phosphorus and magnesium
  • fiber
  • Iron (contained only in endive and lamb’s lettuce in a significant amount)

The exact nutritional values ​​of 100 grams of lettuce

The information varies depending on the variety.

what is lettuce

There are basically two main groups of salads. However, rocket and lamb’s lettuce cannot be assigned to these groups.

Lettuce family (Lactuca group)

Salads in this group contain only a few bitter substances. Typical representatives are:

  • Lettuce does not have a distinct flavor of its own. It can therefore be prepared in many different ways.
  • Eislett (iceberg lettuce) is a Californian breed. It is often used for cold buffets and ready-made salads because the leaves stay crisp for a long time.
  • Batavia lettuce comes from France. Its shape is reminiscent of lettuce, but the taste is more intense. The leaves are as crisp as those of iceberg lettuce.
  • Romaine lettuce has leaves that are thicker, firmer, and juicier than lettuce. It tastes mildly sweet.
  • Cut and plucked lettuce do not have a head, but a heavily leafed, more or less dense, spherical rosette. These include, for example, oak leaf lettuce, lollo rossa or coleslaw

chicory family

They contain more bitter substances, and the vitamin and mineral content is usually higher. This group includes:

  • Endive tastes spicy and slightly bitter, which is why it has an appetizing effect. The high content of flavonoids (secondary plant substances), which have an antioxidant effect, is also significant.
  • Chicory is actually a sprout and grows from chicory roots in so-called forcing plants when there is no light.
  • Radicchio is an Italian breed and contains the most bitter substances.

Other salads

  • Rocket (rucola) contains many mustard oils (glucosinolates), carotene and minerals. The mustard oils are responsible for the piquant, tart, mustard-like and pungent taste.
  • Lamb’s lettuce (also: rapunzel, field lettuce, lamb’s lettuce or lamb’s lettuce) is one of the valerian plants. It has a tangy, slightly nutty flavor and is more nutritious than other lettuce.

lettuce and digestive problems

Digestive problems with flatulence, nausea and diarrhea after eating lettuce and other raw vegetables have various causes.

Contaminated salads

Gastrointestinal complaints after eating lettuce can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. They get to the vegetables, for example, via the soil, fertilization or through transport. It is therefore important to store the leaves in a cool place and wash them before consumption.

Too much fiber

A certain amount of dietary fiber in food is good for your health. Too many can also overwhelm the intestines. This can lead to fermentation processes and the formation of gases in the intestine. The result: flatulence, nausea and diarrhea

allergies and intolerances

Certain allergies and intolerances are also a possible reason for digestive problems after eating salad. This can be due to certain vegetables or fruits, but the dressing can also trigger the symptoms. Be sure to have this checked out by your doctor.

Salad: You have to pay attention to this when preparing it!

You should prepare the salad accordingly before preparing it.

Wash lettuce properly

Remove outer leaves or leaf tips, coarse stems, and tough midribs. You should also always remove the stalk. Wash the whole leaves briefly and thoroughly in a large bowl. A salad spinner helps to shake off excess water.

Do not overload the slingshot to avoid crushing the leaves. Gently rotate the drum.

Then cut the lettuce into bite-sized pieces, pluck the lettuce and cut the iceberg lettuce into strips with a kitchen knife. The harder the leaves are, the smaller the sections should be.

turn on the salad

After washing and chopping lettuce, lettuce should only be dressed shortly before eating so that the leaves are still crisp. On the other hand, you can leave more robust varieties such as iceberg lettuce, endive and chicory in the dressing. Make sure the salad is cool and covered.

Nitrate in the salad

When growing lettuce, the plants are supported in their growth with nitrogen fertilizer. They absorb most of the nitrogen in the form of nitrate. Especially lettuce and other leafy vegetables such as spinach can accumulate nitrate from the soil.

The human body converts nitrate to nitrite through the action of bacteria in the saliva. Nitrite can bind to the red blood pigment hemoglobin and thereby limit the transport of oxygen in the blood. This poses a risk for infants and small children because their bodies cannot yet prevent or reverse this reaction. In extreme cases, there is a risk of suffocation.

Incorrect and too long storage as well as poor hygiene can also convert the nitrate in the food into nitrite.

How high the content is depends on the respective varieties, the season, the type of cultivation and origin. The following applies: the less sun and daylight a plant gets, the higher its nitrate content.

There are EU-wide maximum values ​​for the nitrate content of lettuce, spinach and rocket. However, you can also make sure that you take in as little nitrate as possible during preparation:

  • Buy organic products.
  • Remove the outer leaves and stalk.
  • Prepared salads should be eaten soon and should only be kept cool and for a short time.

Salad during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Expectant mothers and women after childbirth should definitely not do without salad. The green leaves are very healthy and provide important nutrients and vitamins.

Pay more attention to the quality of the goods and the hygiene during preparation. You should consume lettuce or ready-to-eat lettuce mixes with care. They can contain many bacteria.

Store lettuce properly

Fresh lettuce is crisp, has no wilted leaves and does not smell musty. It is best to process it on the day of purchase or at least promptly. It stays fresh for a few days in the fridge. Keep a few basic things in mind:

  • Protect the lettuce from drying out. Wrap it with a damp cloth or kitchen roll.
  • Open foil packaging beforehand so that no moisture accumulates in it.
  • Remove brown and rotten spots on the lettuce to keep them from spreading.
  • Store lettuce in the vegetable drawer. It should have enough space and not be crushed by other foods.
  • Store lettuce separately from fruits that contain the ripening hormone ethylene. These include, for example, tomatoes, apples or pears. Otherwise it will wither faster.
  • You should never freeze lettuce. This causes the leaves to wilt.

How long does lettuce keep?

The firmer the leaves of the lettuce, the longer it will keep. Varieties such as Romana have a longer shelf life, radicchio even stays fresh for up to a week when wrapped in a paper towel. Lettuce, rocket or lamb’s lettuce will keep for about two to three days.

Shelf life and storage of salad mixes

The whole thing is different with ready-cut salad mixes: thanks to their large surface, they provide a good breeding ground for bacteria. It is therefore essential to pay attention to the use-by date on the packaging and to adhere to the storage conditions.

Wash the salad before preparing it. Pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system are better off avoiding such salad mixes.

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