It’s a salad staple. But why exactly is it considered a vegetable? In this article, we explain the botanic definition of vegetables, and we answer why lettuce falls in this category. In addition, we explain the benefits of eating lettuce. We’ll also look at the recommended serving size for lettuce and whether it can be used to check off one of your daily vegetable servings.
Is Lettuce a Vegetable or a Fruit?
All types of lettuce that we know and love today – including romaine, iceberg, butter, and green leaf lettuce – are considered vegetables. This is true both in botanical classification systems and culinary ones.
The difference between those systems is that botanical is the scientific classification of a plant. Culinary classification, on the other hand, depends on how the plant is used in cooking. Savory plants are often considered vegetables, while sweeter ones tend to be thought of as fruits. A good rule of thumb when it comes to culinary classification is to remember that you would never use a vegetable in a dessert, but you can use fruits.
Why is Lettuce Considered a Vegetable?
A vegetable is defined in many ways. But its broadest definition, as defined in Wikipedia, is “any plant, part of which is used for food.” Vegetables are distinct from fruits in that the latter is the mature ovary of a plant.
Vegetables are grouped depending on what part of the plant is used for food. In this case, lettuce is considered a leaf vegetable. Other vegetable classifications are stem, roots, tubers, bulbs, and flowers.
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Is Lettuce a Cruciferous Vegetable?
In recent years, interest in cruciferous veggies has shot up. These veggies have numerous healthy properties, such as helping reduce the risk of cancer and usually being low in calories.
Will your daily lettuce-based salad help you work cruciferous veggies into your diet? Unfortunately not. Lettuce is not considered a cruciferous vegetable because it is not a part of the cruciferae plant family.
If you’re looking to leverage the healthy benefits of cruciferous vegetables, though, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for you out there, including the following:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Related Article: Why Does Lettuce Turn Brown?
Is Lettuce Considered a Serving of Vegetables?
The USDA recommends that you eat anywhere from 2.5-3 cups of veggies per day depending on how active you are and how many calories you burn. Ideally, at least one of those servings will include a portion of dark green leafy veggies such as romaine lettuce.
Other types of lettuce certainly can count as a single serving of vegetables. However, we strongly recommend diversifying the veggies you eat daily, and not just eating only lettuce for all of your vegetable intake every day. Some types of lettuce are infamous for their low nutritional value, such as iceberg lettuce. In short, while you can count a cup of lettuce as a serving of veggies, think carefully about the type of lettuce you choose.
Lettuce is a vegetable as it is a plant that is used for food. While it may not be a cruciferous vegetable, it can still make a tasty base to a salad or a wrap. We just recommend thinking carefully about the type of lettuce that you choose. If you’re looking for the most health benefits, consider going with romaine or butter lettuce as opposed to the ever-popular iceberg lettuce.
Want to learn more about lettuce? Check out our post on why butter lettuce is called butter lettuce.