Red leaf lettuce is a type of leafy vegetable belonging to the Asteraceae group of plants. Growing in small to medium sizes, these ‘mostly’ leafy greens are broad, smooth, and tender with a bunch of frilly and curly edges. They are also known to boast a vast nutritional value. 

Red leaf lettuce is very tasty with its earthy, sweet, and sometimes bitter taste. That’s why people love to add this vegetable to their salads and meals. So if you want to learn more nutritional facts and information regarding Red leaf lettuces, feel free to read further into this write-up.

What in the World are Red Leaf Lettuces?

As previously mentioned, Red leaf lettuces are part of the Asteraceae or Daisy family. Botanically called Lactuca sativa, these leafy greens grow in a lengthy shape with a small white base that spreads into a wide, loose, frilly top. You can easily differentiate it from other types of leafy vegetables in the market because of its edges that are colored bright red to purple.

Red leaf lettuces can reach a height of thirty centimeters and are one of the most widely planted lettuces in the world. When its stalk is scratched, Red leaf lettuces emit a sweet and earthy aroma. The leaves have a sweet taste, sometimes followed by a bitter tang and some hint of hazelnut. And the more mature the leaves are, the more bitter they become. So they are best consumed fresh from harvest.

Red lettuce is extremely versatile in cooking and widely applied in various culinary practices. It is popular for its vibrant colors, which are attributed to anthocyanins—a pigment found in all edible red plants. It is also regenerative, which naturally allows it to continue growing new leaves when its outer layer is harvested.

The Nutritional Value of Red Leaf Lettuce

Nutritional Value

Red lettuce has a very high nutritional value. This means that it has a diverse concentration of healthy vitamins and minerals we humans need to grow. Additionally, it is also low in calories, so you don’t have to worry about gaining weight if you eat huge portions of this vegetable.

Red lettuce also has high fiber and moisture content, making it an amazing addition to a healthy diet or if you plan to cut off some weight. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a cup full of chopped red leaf lettuce only has: [1]

  • 4 counts of Calories
  • 1 gram of Carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of Protein
  • 0 grams of Fat
  • 0 grams of Fiber, and;
  • 0 grams of Sugar

It is also rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene, and anthocyanins that kill several free radicals that cause harm to our bodies.

Health Benefits of Red Leaf Lettuce

To help you understand how amazing Red lettuce really is and what it has to offer, here is the list of the vitamins and minerals it contains, along with their respective health benefits:

Vitamin C 

Red leaf lettuce contains vitamin C, which greatly helps lower the chance of developing chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension. 

Vitamin K

Red lettuce is also abundant in vitamin K, an essential vitamin for blood coagulation processes. Vitamin K aids in the development of our bones and is responsible for our growth.

Vitamin A

Red lettuce has high levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps maintain good eyesight and the correct development and function of several vital organs in our body—such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart.

Beta Carotene

Beta carotene present in Red lettuce also aids in converting the vitamin A in our body. This process helps improve our eye health and lowers the chances of eye problems caused by old age from occurring.

Anthocyanin

The reddish-purple tint in the Red lettuce, called anthocyanins, helps lower cholesterol, combat agents that cause inflammation, and boost our cardiovascular system.

Potassium and Magnesium

The Potassium and Magnesium in Red leaf lettuce help lower blood pressure, soothe our heart muscles, and maintain a healthy pulse.

Apart from all that, Red leaf lettuce even has a variety of additional vitamins and minerals up its sleeve. Its other nutrients include iron, folate, and vitamin B complex. All of which are essential for blood creation, the development of a fetus’s neural tube, and other functions in the nervous system. [2]

How to Grow Red Lettuces Yourself?

How to Grow Red Leaf Lettuce

Generally, lettuces grow best when exposed in broad daylight. But it is also important to remember that you have to plant them in places away from extreme heat so they won’t bolt—which makes the leaves taste bitter, break and wilt easily.

For starters, lettuce seeds can be grown in small pots 4 weeks before the last cold season, then you can transplant them outside in mid to late spring. But if you’ve decided to plant your lettuce in the summer, try to look for an area with a lot of shade since the summer heat can potentially damage your crops.

Lettuce grows in various soil types, but they mostly favor growing on soil that is well-drained, cold, and coarse with plenty of moisture. Therefore, before you plant your lettuce on the ground, you must ensure that the soil contains high levels of organic compost materials—this is to encourage the lettuce to grow well. [3]

Reminder: Lettuce grows best in soils with pH levels between 6.2 to 6.8. So, if necessary, make the proper soil adjustments before you start planting.

Red Lettuce vs. Green Lettuce

Red Leaf Lettuce vs. Green Leaf Lettuce

Did the thought of the difference between Red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce ever occur to you? Although closely related, the red and green leaf lettuce has more distinct differences than might you have imagined. In this portion, we shall compare and contrast green leaf lettuce with its red leaf counterpart. 

We will talk about how different they taste from each other, their nutritional differences, and which one is better overall.

Taste

The Red and green leaf lettuce have quite identical qualities flavor-wise. However, if you closely examine them, you can notice some differences between the two. Both are delicious vegetables with a slight sweet profile and a subtle nutty taste. The red lettuce gains this bitter edge to it the more it matures. 

And this bitterness in Red leaf lettuces is known to be quite overpowering when mixed in salads and vegetable wraps. While this can also happen with some varieties of green leaf lettuces, the probability is not as high compared to Red leaf. [4]

Nutritional Differences

Although all members of the lettuce family are nutritious, this does not imply that they are all nutritionally equivalent. In case you don’t know, there’s a rule that applies to the various members of the lettuce family. And it’s that the deeper the shade of green the lettuce leaf has, the better it is for you in terms of nutrition value.

And while Red lettuce is visibly the much darker one between the two, remember that we are talking about the shade of ‘green’ here. So obviously, green leaf lettuce is a much healthier option. Also, if we’re not counting the fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6, the amino acid Tryptophan, and the anthocyanins, Red lettuce loses to green lettuce in every given nutritional category. [5]

Red Lettuce vs. Green Lettuce: Final Verdict

Evidently, green leaf lettuce is the clear winner here. It contains more important vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and K, which helps fight cancer. And it even has more levels of vitamin C, which helps boost immunity. Lastly, green leaf lettuce also has more micronutrients and fiber than Red leaf lettuce overall. [6]

Serving and Storing Red Leaf Lettuce

Serving Red Leaf Lettuce

How to Serve Red Lettuce

Red leaf lettuce is best served fresh, or if you like it cooked, you can sautée it, braise, or even boil it if you want. If you prefer eating it raw, you can tear and slice it up so you can mix it in a salad or stack it in sandwiches or burgers. You can also wrap Red leaf lettuce in summer rolls, and use it to make tacos.

It may even be served along with seasonal meats and vegetables or use it as an addition to soups. The culinary possibilities of Red leaf lettuce are practically endless, so just widen your imagination and be creative with your choices.

How to Store Red Lettuce

Speaking of storage, you can keep your Red leaf lettuce fresh for up to ten days if you wrap it in paper towels. And then store it in a tight-sealed container placed inside the refrigerator. Also, it is crucial to keep your lettuce away from fruits that emit natural gasses that cause it to wilt faster, like apples, bananas, and pears. [7]

Bottomline

Red leaf lettuce is a great leafy vegetable with its highly nutritious qualities and delicious crisp, sweet, and earthy taste. So it is understandable that you might want to add it to your diet soon. But as a rule of thumb, if you’re already following a strict healthy diet, try to reach out to your doctor or nutritionist before making a decision.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Elijah enjoys creating content that educates and entertains at the same time. During the health-content writing process, Elijah takes extra care and precaution to craft research-backed articles that are helpful, educational, and relatable to readers from various walks of life. LinkedIn