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KITLIVINGLIVING

Advances in farming mean that a wider

variety of salads are now grown and

supplied with better yields from around

Europe. The name lettuce is derived from

the Latin word Latucca, which refers to

the vegetable's milky sap and it is believed

that the Romans introduced it to Britain

and the word salad comes from the

Latin word herba salta (salted herbs, so

called because such greens were usually

seasoned with dressings containing lots

of salt).

Iceberg was given its name as a result

of the leaf being developed in America

and being packed with ice so as to

survive transport in warm temperatures. In

the late 1980s and early 1990s, lettuces

known as 'continental' or 'specialty', such

as Batavia, Lollo Rosso and Romaine,

began to be grown here after being

introduced from Europe. In the late 1990s

baby leaf and further specialty leaves such

as rocket were grown in the UK.

Lettuce was first eaten by the ancient

kings of Persia 2,500 years ago. The

ancient Greeks and Romans thought it

helped you to have a good night's sleep,

and the lettuce we see today started out

as a weed around the Mediterranean

basin. In ancient Egypt, lettuce was

believed to be sacred to the fertility god

Min and considered to be a powerful

aphrodisiac. The first representation of

salad appeared in paintings on Egyptian

tombs in 4500 BC.

Colour coded

Many of the health benefits that leafy

salads provide come from unique plant

compounds known as phytochemicals

(also called phytonutrients). These are

chemical compounds that are considered

to be beneficial to human health. For

example Romaine/Cos and spinach

contain lutein, while watercress and

rocket contain glucosinolates.

Salad leaves are classified as

vegetables and one cereal/dessert bowl

full, or 80g of salad leaves, counts as

MAKING CARBS COUNT

one portion of your '5 a day'. We are

encouraged to 'eat a rainbow' of fruit

and vegetables for variety and to ensure

we get all the nutrients we need to stay

healthy. Salad leaves are ideal, ranging

in colour from red through to dark green.

Generally the darker or more coloured

a leaf, the more phytonutrients it may

contain.

Energy density is the amount of

energy or calories in a particular weight of

food (kcal per gram). Foods with a lower

energy density provide fewer calories per

gram than foods with a higher energy

density. For the same amount of calories,

a person can consume a larger portion of

a food lower in energy density than a food

higher in energy density.

As a low-energy dense food, salad

leaves can help with weight loss and

appetite. In one study participants were

given a standard lunch on different

occasions, each time with either a

first-course salad or with no salad (1).

Participants consumed fewer calories

when the meal started with the lowerenergy-dense salad

and they reported

feeling just as full as participants who had

no first-course salad but had eaten more

of the main course, or had a salad that

was higher in energy density.

Salad leaves are a low energy dense

food, providing on average only 11kcal

per portion or 14kcal per 100g and are

naturally low in calories, fat and sodium.

Lettuce is also high in fibre. This means

you can enjoy large servings without

having to worry about the calories,

but just watch what you're adding as

dressings and toppings can add calories,

fat and salt.

Research has highlighted how

different nutrients and phytochemicals

('phyto' meaning plant), including different

carotenoids, work best as a team. For

example, vitamins C and vitamin E,

which also have an antioxidant role, help

enhance the benefits of phytochemicals

too. This is one very important reason

Lettuce is a source of vitamin A, folic acid

and manganese, and a good source of

vitamin K. Rocket is a source of vitamin

C and calcium, and a good source of

vitamin K, folic acid and potassium. Red

leaf lettuce is a good source of vitamin

A and vitamin K. Spinach is a source

of potassium, calcium and iron, and a

good source of vitamin A, vitamin K,

vitamin C and manganese. Watercress is

a source of folic acid, chloride, calcium

and iron and a good source of vitamin

A (as carotenes), vitamin K, vitamin

C and manganese. Many of these are

important for a healthy immune system,

a healthy heart and circulation, bones

and healthy skin. As different leaves

offer different nutrients, eating a wide

variety of mixed leaves is a good idea.

Nutritional content of

a variety of lettuce

continued over

why eating a variety of different fruit and

vegetables is so beneficial to our health.

It may also help to explain why regularly

eating nutrient-packed green leafy

vegetables, has been strongly linked with

maintaining good health.

Information from:

www.makemoreofsalad.com

1. Rolls BJ, Roe LS, Meengs JS. Salad and

satiety: energy density and portion size of a

first course salad affect energy intake at lunch.

Journal of the American Dietetic Association

2004;104:1570-1576.

Index

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