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All About Iceberg Lettuce: History, Nutrition, and Salad Ideas

Mother of 2 daughters and grandmother of 7, I strive daily to achieve an optimum level of health and happiness. Life is all about balance.

Salads come in wide variety of healthy options.

Salads come in wide variety of healthy options.

Iceberg lettuce acquired its name from the method by which it was shipped. This crispy pale coloured leafy green was packed in ice for shipping and thus acquired the name iceberg lettuce.

A century ago there was a distinct reason why iceberg was the popular choice in leafy vegetables. In the past consumers did not have much choice in the leafy vegetables available to them. Unless they grew their own vegetables or lived close to a farm, food choices were limited to those products which local supermarket carried. Without modern refrigeration methods, transportation of vegetables from the farm to the city was difficult and only the hardiest of lettuce could be safely shipped. Iceberg lettuce was just such a hardy lettuce.

Iceberg was the lettuce of choice for shipping because it could be packed in ice yet remain fresh and crisp until it arrived at its destination. Generally shipped by train from California to destinations around the country, it was able to reach grocery store shelves in relatively good condition. Other lettuces and green leafy vegetables were not quite so hardy and would instead reach their destination in unsaleable condition. Consumers did not have much choice in the lettuce they could select.

A century ago it was piled high on produce aisle shelves and consumers could not get enough of this crispy moist green lettuce. Today, however, the production of iceberg lettuce is dropping. Consumers now have a variety of choices and are choosing the darker leaf varieties instead. So what are the nutritional facts of iceberg lettuce that give this green such a bad rap in today's health-conscious society?


Nutritional Information

Iceberg lettuce has zero fat, zero cholesterol, and only 15 calories per serving. In this regard it is a dieter's delight.

However, when it comes to nutrition this lettuce is sadly lacking. Per average serving it contains only two percent of our daily Iron requirement, six percent of our vitamin C requirement, four percent of our daily requirement of vitamin A, two percent of our daily calcium requirement, and one gram of protein.

Not as Nutritious as Other Leafy Vegetables

Consumers are switching to other dark green leafy vegetables to acquire the additional vitamins and minerals per serving that iceberg does not offer. Now that consumers have a choice they are choosing nutrition over texture and purchasing more spinach, chard, romaine lettuce, as well as other dark red leaf and green leaf vegetables.

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To meet the changing needs of consumers, farmers are reducing iceberg production and increasing their crops of spinach, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, and other darker red and green leafy vegetables.

Of course iceberg does also have its own unique attributes when it comes to lettuce varieties. It has a nice crisp snap when you bite into it which cannot be replicated by other leafy vegetables. In giving up iceberg lettuce consumers are also giving up the wonderful crispy texture experience which only this salad green seems capable of offering.

Serve up a summer time favourite any time of year.

Serve up a summer time favourite any time of year.

Are We Really Eating Healthier?

Despite the fact that obesity rates are at an all-time high, society as a whole is taking a healthier view on the foods that they consume. It turns out that people are making healthier food choices to offset the not so healthy ones. So does it make sense that people are switching from iceberg to more nutritious leafy vegetables when they are still chowing down on fatty take-out food? Apparently it does.

There is the added benefit of knowing that by choosing highly nutritious ingredients in your salads you can feel a little less guilty about consuming your other not so healthy foods. Consumers are more than happy to add a few additional health benefits in one area of their diet if they are then able to relax a little in another.

Fortunately salads are never made from just one vegetable, and adding iceberg lettuce into the mix will give a crisp texture to a salad that only it can give. The moist crispness of an iceberg salad is delightful for picnics in the summer. In the fall and winter an iceberg salad adds a touch of class to the dining room table that just cannot be replicated by other side dishes. Its texture is irreplaceable.

Which is Your Favorite Green?

Iceberg Is All About Texture

With a few well chosen ingredients a crisp garden salad can add an attractive touch of class and romance to an otherwise basic meal. A salad served with a variety of vegetables can be a decorative addition to any table setting. No one has ever said that one lettuce is all that is allowed, so choose two or three to provide a variety of colours and textures to your salad.

For additional customization there are many vegetables, nuts, and seeds that pair well with greens.

  • Tomato
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Diced ham or turkey
  • Bacon bits
  • Boiled eggs
  • Cheese curds or chunks
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds

The number of available salad options is unlimited so be creative. Having one salad or 3 on the table is perfectly acceptable. You can also choose to set each ingredient out in separate bowls and allow family or guests to design their own.

© 2009 Lorelei Cohen

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