Is all lettuce considered equal?

By Nadene Neale | | Heal with Dr. Neale

How do you recognize the most nutritious lettuce at the supermarket?

Lettuce varieties that have the most phytonutrients share 2 easy recognizable traits:

1. Color. The most intensely colored salad greens have the most phytonutrients.
2. Arrangement. Plants with loose and open leaves contain many times more bionutrients. Plants that have a combination of open and wrapped leaves, have moderate amounts.


Looseleaf lettuce is the most vulnerable to UV rays. They produce extra quantities of phytonutrients as protection from UV rays.

Tip: Red looseleaf lettuce is the best choice, followed by dark green loose leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce.

Which lettuce is the freshest?
Whole Heads of Lettuce are fresher than packaged.
Look for crisp leaves with no sign of yellowing or wilting.
It should feel heavy for its size.

Are Prepackaged Greens Healthy?
All bags of mixed greens, no matter their exact composition, have more phytonutrients than salads made from iceberg or romaine lettuce alone.
Search for highest proportion of red, dark green, or purple-tinged leaves.
Cut edges are the first to discolor and indicate long storage.
Limp or yellow leaves indicate long storage.
Reference the “use by date” & make sure you buy the freshest bag on the shelf.

How should I store lettuce?
Pull off leaves, rinse and soak for 10 minutes in very cold water (lowers their temperature, slows the aging process).
Dry them with a towel or in a salad spinner (any moisture left on the surface hastens their decay).
Tear up lettuce before you store it. It can double its antioxidant value!
Eat the greens within a day or two, because the tearing also hastens their decay.

There is a simple way to reserve phytonutrients in lettuce & greens while they are being stored in your refrigerator.
Put in resealable plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible without crushing leaves, seal bag, and then use needle or pin to prick it with 10-12 evenly spaced out holes. Place bag in crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Pinpricks provide the ideal level of humidity and enable the beneficial exchange of gases. If there are no holes the lettuce will begin to die from lack of oxygen. As a result their fresh flavor and most of their phytonutrients will disappear.
If they are not bagged at all the opposite will occur. The lettuce is exposed to too much oxygen and begins to respire rapidly.
*Mark the pinpricked bags so you can identify and reuse them later.

Information above is credited to the book “Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson.”