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Wilburn: Enjoy the rich flavor of leafy lettuces

POSTED: June 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Green leaves are nutrient rich because they contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants.

Salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium.

Many of the health benefits that leafy greens provide come from phytonutrients, unique compounds that provide protection for plants. These compounds are becoming recognized as part of a nutritious diet that promotes long-term health.

Phytonutrients can act as antioxidants, which help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Lettuce, the most commonly consumed leafy vegetable, provides about seven calories per 1-cup serving. When it comes to satisfying your appetite, it helps to eat foods high in volume but low in calories like lettuce.

But lettuce is not typically a stand-alone vegetable. It is usually served with an array of other vegetables and fruits or used to add a crunch to sandwiches, hold a variety of fillings as a wrap or provide color as a garnish.

Lettuce and other leafy greens are generally cool-season crops with short growing periods.

This means gardeners can get several crops of salad greens in the time it takes other vegetables to reach final maturity.

Because leafy greens can grow in a variety of locations, they are often available at local farmers markets.

Home gardeners can enjoy lettuce and other types of leafy vegetables planted in traditional rows, containers or even as accents in flower gardens.

Types of lettuce

Many types of lettuce are available in the grocery store and may be purchased by the head or as prepackaged salad greens.

Different types have slightly different flavors; some have a mild flavor and crisp texture and others have a slightly bitter or tangy flavor that adds a nice bite to mixed salads.

Salad greens are popular worldwide, so many of the different types have become known by a variety of names.

Adapted from Colorado State University Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.


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