Is It Safe to Eat Romaine Lettuce (2020)?

Medically Reviewed on 3/26/2021
Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa), also known as Romanian lettuce or cos lettuce, is one of the types of head lettuce
Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa), also known as Romanian lettuce or cos lettuce, is one of the types of head lettuce

Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa), also known as Romanian lettuce or cos lettuce, is one of the types of head lettuce that is deep green with elongated, stiff, and upright leaves. The outer leaves are dark green with a prominent white central rib. It is known for its mild flavor and crisp texture. Its sturdy leaves make it more tolerant to heat than other lettuce varieties. It is most commonly used as salad greens, although it can also be grilled and sautéed. In recent years, romaine has become a grilling staple along with other vegetables. They are widely desired because they can stay crunchy in a salad without quickly wilting.

Green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, can become easily contaminated in the field by soil, water, animals, or due to improperly composted manure. After a massive romaine lettuce recall in 2018 due to an E coli outbreak, many started to wonder if it is safe to eat them again. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) says they are safe if their origin is known. Only six cities in California were linked to the current E coli outbreak, according to US FDA. The green leafy vegetables harvested in Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, or Ventura should not be eaten. Any lettuce sold at stores is typically labeled with its origin. However, in January 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US FDA declared that the outbreak was over and romaine lettuce is safe to eat. Romaine Lettuce is nutritious and has several health benefits.

If purchased from a reliable place and cleaned thoroughly before eating, romaine lettuce is safe to eat.

Nutritional facts of romaine lettuce

Romanian lettuce is crisp, succulent, and crunchy with a mild bitter taste. Most varieties of lettuce exude small amounts of a white, milky liquid when their leaves are broken. This milk gives lettuce a slightly bitter flavor. A cup of lettuce has about 8 calories and 1-2 g carbohydrates. Romaine lettuce is a heart-healthy green leaf with vitamin C and beta-carotene working together to prevent cholesterol build-up. It is also a rich source of folic acid (vitamin B) and potassium, which may be useful in lowering high blood pressure. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins K and B6, thiamine, folate, iron, manganese, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.

Health benefits of romaine lettuce

Due to its extremely low caloric content and high water volume, Romaine lettuce is considered a very nutritious food. The vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber found are especially good for the prevention or alleviation of many common health complaints. The nutrients in romaine lettuce provide multiple health benefits, such as:

  • Vitamin C is high in antioxidants. It helps support the immune system and keep bones and teeth strong.
  • Calcium helps build and maintain bones, muscle function, nerve function, and blood clotting.
  • Vitamin K acts as an important cofactor for blood clotting. It works together with calcium to prevent bone mineral loss and fractures due to osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin A (from beta-carotene) is a vital nutrient and necessary for health. As an antioxidant, vitamin A supports cell growth and reproductive health. It also helps to maintain the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Vitamin A also supports the eyes.
  • Folate, a B vitamin supports cell division, the production of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and genetic material. Folate deficiency in pregnant women can lead to complications with pregnancy including premature birth, low birth weight, or the birth defect Spina bifida.
  • Phosphorus works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth.
  • Magnesium helps enzymes to function properly and relax the muscles in the body. It works with calcium to build tissue.
  • Potassium is an electrolyte that helps the heart beat regularly. It supports nerve function and helps muscles contract normally. Potassium also helps cells to move and utilize nutrients efficiently. It minimizes the negative impact of sodium (salt) on the body.
  • Antioxidants found in romaine lettuce are believed to help prevent cancer. More research though is needed to confirm the same.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/26/2021
References
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Outbreak Investigation of E. coli O157:H7: Unknown Food (Fall 2020). https://www.fda.gov/food/outbreaks-foodborne-illness/outbreak-investigation-e-coli-o157h7-unknown-food-fall-2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce. https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2019/o157h7-11-19/index.html

Science Direct. Romaine Lettuce. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/romaine-lettuce