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Lettuce

The Lettuce is a leafy green vegetable that comes in many types. The types like iceberg have been bred for less bitterness, the other effect of this is to reduce their nutrient content. Choose darker colored lettuce for health as they are a rich source of vitamin A and folic acid. Lettuce is a diuretic with a sedative effect and dries damp health conditions. It is great in salads or on a sandwich.

Lettuce
The thermal nature is cooling.
The flavour is .
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What it is

Lettuce is a fast growing annual vegetable with either loose or compact leaves. They range in color from light green to a reddish tinted green. Lettuce is a fat-free low calorie food.

There are many varieties
• Iceberg, difficult to grow but very common in the supermarket. Forms a tight head of leaves similar to cabbage. Fewer nutrients that loose leaf lettuce.
• Butterhead lettuce – loose head and crunchy delicate leaves with a buttery texture.
• Cos or Romaine lettuce has long crisp leaves with a slight bitterness. They are hardy and store well for a week.
• Rocket or Arugula has small flat leaves with a hot peppery flavor. These leaves are very delicate keeping for just a day or two.
• Chicory is a curly-leaved lettuce. The leave are dark green with a bitter taste
• Endive has pale green leaves that form a small football shaped tight head pointed at the ends. It has a bitter flavor. Endive will keep for a few days.
• Escarole is a type pf endive with broader and more curved leaves with a milder flavor.
• Radicchio looks like a miniature red cabbage. It is a member if the chicory family with a less bitter flavor. Radicchio will keep for about a week.
• Watercress is a delicate small leafed lettuce with dark green leaves. It does not keep stay fresh for more had a couple of days.
• Chinese lettuce generally has long, sword-shaped, non-head-forming leaves, with a bitter and robust flavor unlike Western types, appropriate for use in stir-fried dishes and stews. 


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What is in it

Lettuce contains the most silicon of common vegetables. 

Lettuce is a rich source of Vitamin A, folic acid, Iron and vitamin C. 

Lettuce also contains Lactucarium, a milky substance that relaxes the nerves. Leaf lettuce is much richer in nutrients than head lettuce, especially chlorophyll, iron and vitamins A and C. 

Some lettuces (especially iceberg) have been specifically bred to remove the bitterness from their leaves. These lettuces have high water content and are low in nutrients. The bitter lettuces have a higher nutrient content; they are the ones with pigmented leaves that contain antioxidants like phytonutrients and carotenoids.


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What it is good for

Lettuce is a 
• Diuretic  
• Sedative – relaxes the nerves without impairing digestion
• Dries damp conditions including edema, digestive ferments and yeasts.
• Starts or increases the productions of mother’s milk
• Treats hemorrhoids
• Treats blood in the urine
• Relaxes the nerves


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When you get it

Lettuce is a cool season crop best is in the spring although it can be found all year around.


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Which to select

Why Organic
To eat organic means to live cleanly, free of pesticides and toxins. It is a conscious choice. One made in order to survive right along with the planet that sustains us. Organically grown foods do not over-run the landfills with toxic waste from their farming or subject your body to unhealthy toxins. For your health and for the planet, choose to eat organic foods. To understand more about why organic is better please read our “Why Organic?” special feature.

The vegetable
Lettuce should be fresh and crisp, avoid soft and wilted leaves and leaves with brown edges or spots.


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Where to store

Store in your refrigerators, in the crisper or a plastic bag with roots in tact to keep maximum freshness.


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How to use

Remove the leaves from the stem and wash well for dirt and sand as they often settle at the base of the leaves.

Lettuce is most often eaten raw and cold in salads, on sandwiches or as a side to other foods like fish or meat. In some countries, including China, lettuce is normally cooked with the stem used also.


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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
 
Servings per food group:
• Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
• Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
• High quality fats: 1
• Dairy:     2 – 3
• Fruit: 2
• Vegetables: 5
• Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible; always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.


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References

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Wikipedia, Lettuce, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lettuce, retrieved 05/2009

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)


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