Does Iceberg Lettuce Have Any Nutritional Value?

Iceberg lettuce
Tracy Benjamin/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Iceberg lettuce is that plain pale green that's typically used in salads, tacos, and sandwiches. Although it's not as popular as it used to be, many people still prefer the crispness of iceberg lettuce over the darker greens.

One reason it's lost popularity is due to the lack of nutritional content. Iceberg lettuce just isn't as nutritious as superfood greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula, but it's certainly not bad for you.

For one thing, it's very low in calories. In fact, it has less than ten calories per cup of fresh leaves. That also means it's low in carbohydrates and is fat-free, so it's also well-suited for any low-fat or low-carb diet.

Here are some of the nutritional highlights for one cup of chopped iceberg lettuce:

  • 8.0 calories
  • 0.5 gram protein
  • 0.7 gram fiber
  • 10 milligrams calcium
  • 78 milligrams potassium
  • 1.5 milligrams vitamin C
  • 16 micrograms folate
  • 13.3 micrograms of vitamin K
  • 164 micrograms beta-carotene
  • 152 micrograms of lutein + zeaxanthin

So, you can see you are getting a few nutrients, which is good. Iceberg lettuce is also a pretty good source of water, so it's ideal for those hot summer days.

I don't think too many people eat only the iceberg lettuce, so what really makes or breaks it, nutritionally speaking, is what you add to it. I mean a big salad loaded with fresh veggies, a little protein, and a light dressing is both nutritious and not high in calories.

But if you top it with fried foods, big globs of dressing and tons of croutons, then you have a nutritional mess on your hands. 

Another way to enhance the nutritional value of iceberg lettuce is to combine it with some of those darker greens. That way you'll get some extra fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K and antioxidants.

Healthy Salads Featuring Iceberg Lettuce

I love a traditional steakhouse style wedge salad, but I don't love all the calories that come with the blue cheese dressing and bacon. Lighten up your wedge salad by asking for the dressing to be served on the side or ask to have it prepared with only half the usual amount of dressing. 

I've also got a few tips for making tossed green salads that are perfect for soup or sandwiches at lunchtime, or as part of your dinner:

  • It's important to rinse your iceberg lettuce before making your salad, but don't leave it soaking wet. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner or pat them dry with paper towels.
  • Don't chop your lettuce until your ready to use it. The leaves oxidize quickly, and brownish lettuce is so unappetising. 
  • Go easy on the dressing. There's no need to drench your iceberg lettuce. Try just a small amount of sweeter dressings like French or Russian dressings.
  • A salad can serve as a main meal. This green salad with chicken and strawberries is a perfect combination of crisp iceberg lettuce with succulent strawberries, plus the protein keeps you satisfied long after your meal is finished.


    Agricultural Research Service United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. "Basic Report: 11252, Lettuce, iceberg (includes crisphead types), raw."

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