Which salad green is healthiest? We find out.
If you’ve read anything about nutrition, you already know salad is one of the healthiest meals you can eat. When it comes to fibre, vitamins and minerals, raw veggies simply can’t be beat. But believe it or not, the nutritional content in your bowl can vary pretty widely depending on which greens you choose. If you’re looking to get the most out of your salad, here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: the darker the leaves, the more nutritious the green. Why? Darker leaves can absorb more sunlight, which allows them to synthesize more vitamins. Science has spoken!
So now you’re probably wondering…which green reigns supreme? The fact is, no lettuce ranks highest across the board – each one brings something different to the table. To get the most out of your salads, it’s best to use more than one type of green, so you get a mix of health benefits. That’s why our salads almost always use a blend of 2-3 different greens as a base.
So how do different lettuces and greens stack up? Here’s a handy guide to get you started.
Values are for 100 g
One of the most popular salad greens around, we love romaine for its crunchy texture and mild, sweet taste. But it’s bringing more to the table than its culinary benefits – romaine lettuce is also a solid source of vitamin A, vitamin K and folate. Plus, it’s higher in potassium than kale.
Green leaf lettuce
With twice the vitamin C of romaine and next to no calories, green leaf lettuce might not be the most nutritionally dense salad green around, but it will definitely bring benefits to your bowl. And with its grassy flavour and delicate texture, it pairs beautifully with just about any fruit or veggie. We just recommend you mix it up with a darker green every once in a while.
No surprises here…kale is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with nutritional benefits. Just one cup of kale contains more than your daily requirement for vitamins A, C and K – and comes with over 3 grams of protein, making it a super smart choice for people following a plant-based diet. That said, kale is lower in some nutrients than other greens, so it’s still best to mix it up every once in a while.
If there is such a thing as a perfect green, spinach is just about as close as it gets. It’s higher than kale in calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A and K, while staying relatively high in fibre and low in calories. While you get the best of these benefits eating it raw, spinach is also wonderful mixed into just about any warm dish, from scrambled eggs to soups and stews.
With its frilly leaves and peppery flavour, arugula is a fun and tasty option for mixing things up. While it’s not as nutritionally dense as kale or spinach, this zippy green still comes loaded with a healthy dose of calcium, antioxidants and fibre. For a healthier salad, just mix it up with a handful of spinach and you’re good to go.
You’re probably surprised to see this crunchy, watery lettuce on the list. Isn’t iceberg totally devoid of nutritional value? Well, yes and no. This much-maligned green doesn’t come close to the other lettuces on this list, but it’s still far from a nutritional vacuum. Iceberg still contains fibre, potassium, zinc, calcium, folate and vitamins A and K. And with its high water content, it’s actually an awesome hydrating food to eat in hot weather or after a workout. So, it won’t be beating out kale or spinach any time soon…but it’s nothing to feel guilty about.
So, there you have it. You’ve got some serious options when it comes to meeting your daily recommended intake of 2-3 cups per day. Just remember: whether you mix them all together, or just rotate through a few favourites, you’re guaranteed to get the most out of your greens when you mix ‘em up.
Did we miss your favourite salad green? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.