Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a popular leafy vegetable in the daisy family.

It ranges in color from yellow to dark green but may also have reddish hues. While it’s grown worldwide, China produces the greatest volume — upwards of 66% of the global supply (1, 2).

Lettuce is not only a major ingredient in salads but also often added to various dishes, such as wraps, soups, and sandwiches.

Although romaine and iceberg are the most common types, many varieties exist — each with their own unique flavors and nutritional properties.

Here are 5 interesting types of lettuce.

Green salad with different types of lettuceShare on Pinterest

Crisphead, also known as iceberg or head lettuce, is one of the most widely used lettuces.

While it looks similar to cabbage, it’s an entirely different species.

Contrary to popular belief, crisphead lettuce is quite nutritious. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving provides (3):

  • Calories: 14
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Folate: 7% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Iron: 2% of the DV
  • Manganese: 5.4% of the DV
  • Potassium: 3% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 3% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 3% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 20% of the DV

The folate and vitamin K contents of crisphead lettuce are particularly noteworthy.

Folate is a B vitamin that can help prevent neural tube defects, which are one of the most common birth defects. It may also lower your risk of heart disease and certain cancers, including breast and pancreatic cancer (4, 5, 6, 7).

Meanwhile, vitamin K is important for blood clotting, bone formation, and heart health (8).

Crisphead lettuce is also a moderate source of phenolic compounds, which are antioxidants that help fight oxidative stress and inflammation in your body (9).

Best ways to eat it

Crisphead lettuce has a crunchy texture and mild flavor that lends itself to salads and sandwiches. It pairs well with other vegetables and most salad dressings.

You can also use its sturdy leaves as a replacement for tortillas in wraps.

To keep crisphead lettuce fresh, refrigerate it in a sealable bag with a damp paper towel.

Summary

Crisphead lettuce is widely known as iceberg lettuce. It’s light, crunchy, and full of nutrients like folate and vitamin K.

Romaine, also called cos, is another popular lettuce that’s common in Caesar salads.

It bears green, crunchy leaves with large veins. Premature leaves, which are sometimes red, are frequently added to spring mix — a combination of baby leaves from several leafy vegetables.

Romaine is higher in nutrients than crisphead. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving provides (10):

  • Calories: 17
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Folate: 34% of the DV
  • Iron: 5% of the DV
  • Manganese: 7% of the DV
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 48% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 4% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 85% of the DV

It’s not only an excellent source of folate and vitamin K but also vitamin A. This nutrient acts as a potent antioxidant and is vital for skin, eye, and immune health (11, 12, 13).

Moreover, romaine is a good source of phenolic compounds, particularly caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, inflammation, and certain cancers (9, 14).

What’s more, red romaine boasts high levels of anthocyanins, which give certain vegetables and fruits a reddish-purple color. These pigments are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cognitive decline (9, 15, 16).

Best ways to eat it

Romaine lettuce is most frequently used in Caesar salads and other salads.

It has a slightly sweeter, bolder flavor than crisphead, which adds a mild burst to salads and sandwiches.

Although romaine works well for soups and stir-fries, you should add it near the end of cooking to prevent it from getting too soggy.

summary

Romaine’s long, crisp leaves are popular for Caesar salads. It’s high in folate, potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and K.

Butterhead lettuce gets its name from its characteristically soft, buttery leaves. It’s also known as cabbage lettuce due to its round shape. The most popular types of butterhead are Bibb and Boston lettuce.

Its leaves have a crumpled look that resembles flower petals. Butterhead lettuce is usually deep green, although red varieties exist.

It’s rich in nutrients, with 3.5 ounces (100 grams) offering (17):

  • Calories: 13
  • Protein: 1.5 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Folate: 18% of the DV
  • Iron: 8% of the DV
  • Manganese: 8% of the DV
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 18% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 4% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 85% of the DV

This lettuce is a good source of carotenoid antioxidants, such as beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These protect your eyes from macular degeneration, a condition that can result in partial vision loss (18).

Furthermore, butterhead contains higher amounts of iron than other lettuces. This nutrient is essential for creating red blood cells (9, 19).

Keep in mind that plants provide only non-heme iron, which is poorly absorbed. As vitamin C helps increase your absorption, consider eating butterhead lettuce with a food high in this vitamin, such as red peppers (19).

Best ways to eat it

Butterhead lettuce adds a mild, sweet flavor to dishes.

It pairs well with most dressings and can enhance the flavor and texture of your salad.

Furthermore, it works well in egg-salad or tuna sandwiches and serves as a great tortilla replacement for wraps.

Store butterhead lettuce in a sealable bag in the fridge for 2–3 days, keeping the leaves dry to prevent wilting.

summary

Butterhead lettuce has soft leaves and looks similar to cabbage. It’s particularly high in iron and vitamins A and K.

Leaf lettuce, also known as loose-leaf lettuce, varies in shape, color, and texture — though it’s usually crisp, ruffled, and dark green or red, with a flavor ranging from mild to sweet.

Unlike other lettuces, it doesn’t grow around a head. Instead, its leaves come together at a stem.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of either green or red leaf lettuce gives the following nutrients (20, 21):

Leaf lettuce, greenLeaf lettuce, red
Calories1513
Protein2 grams1.5 grams
Fiber1 gram1 gram
Folate10% of the DV9% of the DV
Iron5% of the DV7% of the DV
Manganese11% of the DV9% of the DV
Potassium4% of the DV4% of the DV
Vitamin A 41% of the DV42% of the DV
Vitamin C10% of the DV4% of the DV
Vitamin K105% of the DV117% of the DV

Green leaf lettuce tends to have more vitamin C, while the red variety offers more vitamin K.

Both types are high in vitamin A, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which support eye and skin health (9, 11, 12, 18).

However, red leaf lettuce contains much higher levels of phenolic compounds. In particular, its anthocyanins and quercetin act as potent antioxidants that protect your body from free radical damage (9, 22, 23).

Best ways to eat it

Leaf lettuce’s crisp, mild flavor lends itself to salads and sandwiches.

Furthermore, it can be used in wraps and tacos.

To store leaf lettuce, pat it dry and keep it in a plastic bag or storage container. It can usually last 7–8 days in the fridge.

summary

Leaf lettuce has crisp, ruffled leaves. Both green and red types are high in folate, manganese, and vitamins A and K. Yet, red leaf lettuce is higher in antioxidants.

Stem lettuce is popular in Chinese cuisine and is commonly called Chinese lettuce, stalk lettuce, or celtuce (2).

As its name indicates, stem lettuce has a long stalk with narrow leaves. Unlike other lettuces, its stem is normally eaten but its leaves discarded. That’s because the leaves are very bitter due to their high latex content.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving offers (24):

  • Calories: 18
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Folate: 12% of the DV
  • Iron: 3% of the DV
  • Manganese: 30% of the DV
  • Potassium: 7% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 19% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 22% of the DV

Stem lettuce is an excellent source of manganese, which plays a key role in fat and carb metabolism. Moreover, it’s a part of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which helps decrease oxidative stress in your body (25, 26).

Furthermore, it’s high in vitamin C, which is important for collagen synthesis and immune health (12, 27, 28).

Best ways to eat it

Stem lettuce isn’t widespread, but you might be able to find it at international grocery stores.

Since only its stalk is eaten, it’s used differently than most lettuces. It’s said to be crunchy with a slightly nutty taste.

When preparing it, peel the stalk to get rid of the tough outer layer. The inner layers are soft and have a consistency similar to that of cucumbers. You can add it raw to salads, cook it in stir-fries and soups, or spiralize it into crunchy veggie noodles.

Store stem lettuce in the refrigerator in an airtight bag or container for 2–3 days.

summary

Stem lettuce is popular in Chinese cuisine. Most people eat the stem and discard its bitter leaves.

Lettuce is a nutritious vegetable that comes in many varieties.

It’s full of important nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A and C.

While widely used in salads, sandwiches, and wraps, certain kinds can also be cooked.

If you’re looking to switch up your diet, try out these delicious types of lettuce.