Cabbage and certain types of lettuce may look alike, but these vegetables have major differences.
To start, cabbage and lettuce are entirely different vegetables. They also have distinct nutritional profiles, flavors, textures, and culinary uses.
This article explains the differences between cabbage and lettuce, including nutrition information, health benefits, and how they are used in the kitchen.
There are many types of cabbage and lettuce. However, a lot of people particularly mistake green cabbage — the most common type of cabbage in grocery stores — for iceberg lettuce due to their similar appearances.
Though green cabbage and iceberg lettuce may look alike, they have completely different nutritional profiles.
|Green cabbage||Iceberg lettuce|
|Protein||1 gram||1 gram|
|Carbs||6 grams||3 grams|
|Fat||Less than 1 gram||Less than 1 gram|
|Fiber||3 grams||1 gram|
|Vitamin A||2% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)||10% of the RDI|
|Vitamin C||61% of the RDI||5% of the RDI|
|Vitamin K||96% of the RDI||30% of the RDI|
|Vitamin B6||6% of the RDI||2% of the RDI|
|Folate||11% of the RDI||7% of the RDI|
As you can see, both cabbage and iceberg lettuce are low in calories and deliver minimal protein, fat, and carbs. Meanwhile, green cabbage is higher in most nutrients — except vitamin A.
Cabbage is also higher in minerals than iceberg lettuce. It contains more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. It also contains more fiber, a nutrient essential to digestive health (
Keep in mind that the table above compares only two varieties of cabbage and lettuce. Different types of lettuce and cabbage contain varying amounts of nutrients.
Every variety of cabbage and lettuce has a distinct nutritional profile. Two of the most common varieties are green cabbage and iceberg lettuce. They may look similar, but green cabbage is higher in fiber and most vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce.
Health benefits of cabbage and lettuce
Eating any type of vegetable, including cabbage or lettuce, can benefit your health.
However, cabbage and lettuce may have different effects on health due to their differing levels of nutrients and plant compounds.
Both are rich in fiber
Cabbage beats iceberg lettuce in fiber content. That said, including either cabbage or various forms of leafy green lettuce in your diet can significantly boost your fiber intake.
Eating a diet high in fiber-rich vegetables is essential to your digestive health. Fiber — plant material that you can’t digest — helps keep your bowel movements regular and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut (
Additionally, eating a high-fiber diet can help you lose excess body fat and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber slows digestion, which may increase feelings of fullness after meals, leading to reduced food intake (
A review of 3 studies including over 133,000 participants looked at how fiber intake affected body weight over 4 years.
It found that people with the highest intake of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables lost significantly more weight than those who ate less fiber-rich produce (
Plus, eating fiber may help regulate blood sugar, improve heart health, and enhance immune function (
Both contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Both cabbage and iceberg lettuce are good sources of nutrients. However, cabbage contains significantly more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce, including vitamins C and K, folate, and potassium (
In particular, green cabbage is packed with antioxidants, including polyphenol compounds and vitamin C. Antioxidants have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and help fight cellular damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals (
In fact, one study observed that green cabbage had a higher level of antioxidant activity than Savoy and Chinese cabbage varieties (
While iceberg lettuce contains antioxidants, cabbage and other lettuce varieties like red lettuces contain much higher amounts (
Incorporating vitamin-, mineral-, and antioxidant-rich foods into your diet can help reduce your risk of many chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart and neurodegenerative diseases (
It should be noted that other varieties of lettuce, such as romaine lettuce and red leaf lettuce, are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In fact, these lettuce varieties can contain higher amounts of certain nutrients than cabbage does (
Both cabbage and lettuce contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cabbage is generally a richer source, but it depends on the variety of lettuce or cabbage. Iceberg lettuce is typically lower in nutrients than other varieties like red leaf lettuce.
Culinary differences between cabbage and lettuce
Although cabbage and lettuce look similar, they have completely different flavors and are used in different ways in the kitchen.
For example, green cabbage has a more complex, peppery flavor and a crunchier texture than iceberg lettuce, which has a somewhat bland, watery taste.
The tougher texture of cabbage allows it to hold up well in cooking applications such as boiling, which is why cabbage is often served cooked.
Though iceberg and other lettuces can be cooked, they are most often served raw. Iceberg is typically chopped up in salads, used to garnish plates, or layered into burgers.
Raw cabbage can also be combined with mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and other ingredients to make coleslaw, a popular side dish for barbecues and picnics.
Cabbage and lettuce have different flavor profiles and culinary uses. Cabbage is typically served cooked or used in coleslaw dishes, while lettuce is usually eaten fresh.
Which should you choose?
If you’re looking for the healthier option of the two, choose cabbage. Lettuce varieties such as red leaf lettuce and romaine are also good options.
Cabbage, including green and red cabbage, is typically higher in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds than iceberg lettuce.
However, keep in mind that cabbage has a different taste and texture than lettuce, so it might not work well in certain lettuce-based recipes.
For example, raw cabbage can be made into a salad, but lettuce varieties such as iceberg are usually preferred in these types of dishes due to their milder flavor and lighter crunch.
If you want the texture of lettuce but are looking for a more nutritious option than iceberg, choose a variety of lettuce that contains higher levels of nutrients, such as red leaf or romaine lettuce (
Whether you choose cabbage or lettuce depends on how you plan to use it, as well as your nutritional and flavor preferences.
The bottom line
There are many different varieties of cabbage and lettuce, each with its own nutrient profile. All of them are healthy choices, but some are higher in nutrients than others.
Though green cabbage and iceberg lettuce look similar, green cabbage is more nutritious. The two also have significantly different flavors, textures, and culinary uses.
Cabbage tends to be used in cooked dishes and coleslaw, while lettuce is usually eaten raw in salads, burgers, and sandwiches.
If you’re deciding between the two, cabbage is the more nutritious choice. However, in a situation in which only lettuce will do, try a more nutrient-dense variety like romaine or red leaf lettuce.