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9 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Red Leaf Lettuce

Health + Wellness
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By Kaitlyn Berkheiser

Red leaf lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a leafy vegetable in the daisy family.


It resembles romaine lettuce except in its tips, which have a red or purple tinge.

Aside from adding a burst of color to your favorite salad or sandwich, this vegetable offers numerous benefits.

Here are 9 health and nutrition benefits of red leaf lettuce.

1. High in Nutrients but Low in Calories

Red leaf lettuce is nutrient-dense, meaning that it's high in a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, yet very low in calories.

Three cups (85 grams) of shredded leaves provide the following nutrients (1):

  • Calories: 11
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0.2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Vitamin K: 149% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 127% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 3% of the DV
  • Manganese: 9% of the DV
  • Folate: 8% of the DV
  • Iron: 6% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 5% of the DV
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 4% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 4% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 4% of the DV

Its nutrition profile is similar to other popular leafy vegetables, such as green leaf, romaine, and iceberg lettuce, although there are a few notable differences.

For example, when compared to romaine, red leaf lettuce provides more vitamin K, slightly more iron, and slightly fewer calories — while romaine offers more fiber and vitamins A and C (1, 2).

Summary

Red leaf lettuce is loaded with vitamins and minerals while low in calories. Its nutrient profile is comparable to other lettuces.

2. Very Hydrating

Maintaining adequate hydration is important for your overall health.

While drinking water plays a significant role in keeping your body hydrated, eating water-rich foods, such as red leaf lettuce, can also help.

Red leaf lettuce is 96% water, making it incredibly thirst-quenching (1).

Its high water content may also help curb hunger and promote fullness (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source).

Summary

Red leaf lettuce has an especially high water content, which can keep you hydrated and feeling full.

3. Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants

Red leaf lettuce boasts a number of antioxidants, which protect your body from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Having too many free radicals in your body may increase your likelihood of certain diseases (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).

Red leaf lettuce is especially rich in the antioxidant beta carotene, which is a carotenoid pigment that your body converts into vitamin A (8, 9).

Eating adequate amounts of beta carotene may bolster your eyesight and reduce your risk of macular degeneration, a condition that can lead to vision loss (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

What's more, red leaf lettuce gets its reddish-purple hues from anthocyanins, a group of flavonoid antioxidants (12Trusted Source).

Diets rich in anthocyanin-dense foods may fight inflammation and are linked to improvements in heart disease risk factors, such as HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).

Additionally, red leaf lettuce is a good source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant. Foods high in this vitamin may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

Summary

Red leaf lettuce is a great source of antioxidants, in particular, anthocyanins, beta carotene, and vitamin C.

4. May Keep Your Heart Healthy

Generally speaking, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of heart disease (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).

While no study has directly tested the effects of red leaf lettuce on heart health, this veggie does have several heart-promoting properties.

For instance, red leaf lettuce provides 3% of the DV for magnesium and 5% for potassium in just 3 cups (85 grams) of shredded leaves — enough for one mid-sized salad (1).

Potassium and magnesium maintain a healthy heartbeat and allow your heart's muscle cells to relax (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

Additionally, deficiencies in both minerals have been linked to numerous heart-related disorders, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, and coronary heart disease (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).

Summary

Red leaf lettuce contains decent amounts of magnesium and potassium, which may boost your heart health.

5. Excellent Source of Vitamin A

Vitamin A is the generic name for a group of fat-soluble compounds involved in maintaining immune health, cell growth, and eye health and vision.

This vitamin is also central to the normal development and function of many vital organs, including your heart, kidneys, and lungs (27).

Red leaf lettuce is chock-full of vitamin A, providing 127% of the RDI in just 3 cups (85 grams) of shredded leaves (1).

Adding just one or two servings of red leaf lettuce to your diet a few times per week can help you meet your needs for this vitamin.

Summary

Red leaf lettuce is high in vitamin A, a nutrient that's essential for maintaining vision and immunity.

6. Packed With Vitamin K

Red leaf lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin K, providing 149% of the DV in 3 cups (85 grams) of chopped leaves (1).

Vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting. Without it, you would increase your risk of uncontrolled bleeding (28Trusted Source).

In addition, this vitamin is important for bone growth and development. Adequate intake may protect against osteoporosis and fractures (29, 30Trusted Source).

Although individuals taking certain blood-thinning medications may need to regulate their vitamin K intake, most people can boost their intake without any worry (29).

Summary

Red leaf lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin K, a nutrient involved in blood clotting and bone health.

7. May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Many people around the world have high blood pressure, which causes your heart to work harder and may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke (31Trusted Source).

Recent studies indicate that a diet rich in potassium may help lower blood pressure (32Trusted Source).

Potassium, which is found in adequate amounts in red leaf lettuce, appears to lower blood pressure by lessening the effects of sodium and helping dilate your blood vessels (33Trusted Source).

Increasing your red leaf lettuce intake in conjunction with other potassium-rich foods, such as avocados and beans, may help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).

Summary

Potassium may help reduce high blood pressure levels. Eating potassium-rich foods like red leaf lettuce may stabilize your blood pressure.

8. May Promote Weight Loss

Many traits of red leaf lettuce make it a weight-loss-friendly food.

For instance, this vegetable is extremely low in calories but fairly high in fiber, which can keep you feeling full (1, 36Trusted Source).

Additionally, it has a high water content. Studies show that diets rich in low-calorie, high-water foods, such as leafy vegetables like red leaf lettuce, can significantly promote weight loss (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).

Although no studies specifically link red leaf lettuce to weight loss, this low-calorie vegetable is likely to benefit your waistline if eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Summary

Red leaf lettuce has a high water content and low calorie count, making it a great addition to a weight loss diet.

9. Easy to Add to Your Diet

In addition to its health benefits, red leaf lettuce is quite tasty.

It can be enjoyed in salads or added to sandwiches or wraps for extra flavor, crunch, and color.

What's more, this veggie is relatively affordable.

However you decide to add it to your meal, this lettuce makes for an easy way to boost your nutrient intake.

Summary

Red leaf lettuce is a delicious leafy vegetable that can easily be added to your diet. Enjoy red leaf lettuce in salads or on sandwiches for extra flavor and nutrition.

The Bottom Line

Red leaf lettuce is a highly nutritious food. It's especially rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and K.

Additionally, it may help lower blood pressure, aid weight loss, and boost heart health.

Red leaf lettuce can easily be added to your favorite salads or sandwiches for extra flavor and nutrients.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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