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Upgrade Your Lettuce Game — Boost Your Nutrient Intake 3000% With This Two Second Salad Hack

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Image: Epicurious

What if we told you one mindless—and laughably easy—nutrition hack could boost your vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C intake by over 3000%, and your potassium, calcium, and iron consumption by as much as 600%?

GET IN THE GREEN. We’re gunning for a salad overhaul. Call it a dietary supercharge.

Before tossing on gobs of HQ protein, a mountain of veggies, and (hopefully) a very light waterfall of dressing, lettuce forms the bedrock of any salad. The reality is, most salad greens are utter crap. It’s nutritionally devoid hamster bedding that serves no purpose other than to clog space, add weight to any salad bar tab (AKA $$$), and contribute some semblance of health.

Specifically, we’re talking about iceberg lettuce.

It’s in almost every salad you’ll find in stores, and generally forms the base for orders at Chop’t, Just Salad, and any other build-your-own-salad places. Hell, you’re probably even using it at home.

STOP IT. It’s house money that you’re letting wilt and fly away, completely unclaimed.

We’ll let the evidence speak for itself. We’ve calculated and split out the nutritional data for 5 lettuce varieties—the common ones available at any supermarket or lunch joint—including iceberg, romaine, spinach, arugula, and kale.

Let the battle royale begin.


Food Faceoffs — Kale vs. Spinach vs. Arugula vs. Romaine vs. Iceberg

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MAKE THE UPGRADE. When you put each lettuce type side-by-side there’s no contest — kale and spinach reign supreme, while iceberg safely assumes worst place. And it’s not just a trivial little boost, the difference is absolutely stunning.

Like, copious orders of magnitude. A few things happen when you swap out iceberg lettuce for kale:

  • Vitamin A jumps a whopping 3000%, a nutrient critical for healthy skin & teeth.
  • Vitamin C skyrockets by almost 4000%, a powerful antioxidant.
  • Vitamin K spikes 3300%, a nutrient critical for blood clotting
  • Calcium increases by 600%, a mineral that supports bone health and muscular function.
  • Iron more than quadruples; and if you go the spinach route, it increases by more than 10-fold. Up to 80% of people are estimated to be iron deficient, many of whom have anemia. Eating more spinach, kale, or arugula is an easy way to ameliorate deficiencies, especially given that vitamin C boosts iron absorption.
  • Potassium bumps up 225%, and 300% for spinach. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps with nerve function.

Bottom line: drop iceberg and romaine from your culinary vernacular and go big with kale or spinach.

They’re unadulterated nutritional powerhouses and a green opportunity to beef up your nutrient intake — without any pain or sacrifice whatsoever.

And don’t just stop at the salad bar. Toss spinach into your smoothies. Throw a little arugula into your omelettes. Whip up a few crispy lemon pepper kale chips.

You might think this whole thing is absurd. He’s ranting about lettuce. But look at the bottom line, there’s no argument.


Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
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  • Hi, just wanted to know your thoughts on this study
    [] where it lists Kale as lower than Spinach and even Romaine Lettuce.

  • Nona Maus

    You can’t compare these greens nutritional value by weight. They are all very different in water content which is why iceberg comes in so low, it’s mostly heavy water, whereas spinach probably weighs about 1/4th of iceberg by volume.
    These kinds of comparisons are misleading to most people & lead to bad nutrition. Use a comprehensible serving size.
    A fair & simple comparison of relative nutritional value would be based on chopped volume.

    • I understand your logic, but the nutrition holds even if you adjust it for volume, per 100 calories, etc.

      Iceberg is fine but it’s not nutritious. 1 cup of it has a marginal amount of vitamin K, but it’s basically completely devoid of nutrients otherwise (like you said, it’s basically all water).

      – Iceberg:
      – Spinach:

      • Nona Maus

        Thanks for the reply.
        I completely agree anything but iceberg is far superior nutritionally. Yet the nutritional values as stated in your article are highly misleading. Yes, iceberg is relatively far less nutritious than kale or spinach, but the order of magnitude is far less than is stated in this article.

        As stated in your article, the percentages listed would lead one to believe that spinach has 20x more vitamin K than iceberg. However, per the links you referenced in your reply, spinach has just under 5x vitamin K than iceberg whenq using a comparable volumetric measure (1 cup) rather than weight measure. Your article numbers on spinach K content are 400% overstatement of relative nutritional values when compared to rational volumetric measures. My guess is your other chart values for iceberg err by 400% +or- 50%.

        No argument that other greens are more nutritious, but 1 cup shredded lettuce actually provides 37% RDA vs 181% for 1 cup spinach. I consider 37% significant nutritionally & question whether I need nearly twice my RDA. I’d rather enjoy a mix of texture & taste personally.

        For the record, I have no financial interests in any of these greens, I’m simply trying to provide a more scientifically accurate view of this faulty weight-based nutritional comparison presentation. Additionally, for the benefit of all who read these posts, I’m hoping my clarification will lead to more scientific & rationally based nutritional comparisons in future articles.