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Lettuce vs Cabbage - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Lettuce
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Introduction

Due to their similar appearance, lettuce and cabbage are often confused with each other, even though botanically, they have nothing in common. In this article, we will further discuss the similarities and differences between these two vegetables, especially in nutrition and their impact on health.

Classification

Lettuce and cabbage are both layered, crunchy and often green vegetables, however they belong to separate families. Lettuce belongs to the Asteraceae family and the Lactuca genus, while cabbage is a part of the Brassicaceae family and the Oleracea species. Cabbage is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts.

Appearance

Both cabbage and lettuce have short stems, however lettuce leaves wrap each other giving lettuce a more oblong shape, whereas cabbages look more round. Lettuce also tends to have more chlorophyll, giving it a darker green colouring. Some variants of cabbages and lettuce can also be red or purple. 

Taste and Use

Lettuce, containing more water, has a weaker taste and no smell, as opposed to cabbages that have a strong taste and odor. Cabbage being crunchier, is often used in the kitchen in boiled or steamed forms, while lettuce is more commonly consumed raw.

Growing Conditions

These two vegetables also grow under different conditions. Lettuce is an annual plant that thrives in warmer climates, whereas cabbage is biannual and prefers cooler environments.

Varieties

Both lettuce and cabbages have various cultivars. These cultivars can differ by looks, taste and nutritional values.

The most common varieties of lettuce are looseleaf, Romaine or cos and iceberg or crisphead. Iceberg lettuce, that is the prevalent cultivar used in the United States, most resembles white cabbage by its appearance.

The most widely used varieties of cabbage are green, red or purple, Savoy and napa or Chinese cabbage. Brussel sprouts can also be considered to be small cabbages.

Nutrition

In this article we are using the nutritional values for Romaine lettuce and green cabbage.

Like most vegetables, lettuce and cabbage consist predominantly of water. The tougher texture of cabbages is a result of a lower water density. Lettuce consists of 95% water, whereas cabbage contains 92% of it.

Macronutrients and Calories

One serving of lettuce is equal to 36 grams, or one cup of shredded lettuce. A serving of cabbage, on the other hand, is only 23 grams or one average leaf.

Calories

Due to the higher density of macronutrients, cabbage contains more calories. 100g of cabbage contains 25 calories, whereas the same amount of lettuce has only 15. Both lettuce and cabbage are low calorie foods.

Protein and Fats

Lettuce and cabbage contain approximately the same amount of protein. Lettuce is only slightly richer in protein with 1.36g of it in every 100g, while cabbage contains around 0.1g less of protein per 100g. Both lettuce and cabbage have some amounts of all essential amino acids.

Lettuce and cabbage are also similar in fat content. Lettuce only contains 0.05g more of it per 100g. The predominant fat type in lettuce are the preferable polyunsaturated fatty acids, when cabbage contains more saturated fatty acids. However a hundred gram of lettuce contains only 0.15g of fats.

Carbohydrates

Cabbage contains almost double the amount of carbohydrates that lettuce does, with 5.8g of it per 100g. Both vegetables, but especially cabbages, are rich in dietary fiber, that makes up about 45% of total carbohydrates.

The sugars found in lettuce are glucose and fructose. In addition to that, cabbage contains some sucrose and maltose.

Vitamins

Lettuce is an amazing source of vitamin A, containing over 50 times more of it than cabbages. Lettuce is also richer in vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B3. One hundred grams of Romaine lettuce contains more than enough of the daily value of both vitamins A and K.

Cabbage, on the other hand, contains 4 times more of vitamin C and is also higher in vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and folate form of vitamin B9. A 100g of cabbage contains 41% of the daily value of vitamin C.

Both vegetables are completely absent in vitamin D, vitamin B12 and the folic form of vitamin B9.

Minerals

Lettuce is richer in minerals as well, being higher in iron, potassium, copper and phosphorus.

Cabbage is richer in calcium and lower in sodium.

Lettuce and cabbage contain equal amounts of magnesium and zinc.

Glycemic Index

In general, vegetables tend to have a low glycemic index. Lettuce and cabbage are not exceptions to this rule. 

Lettuce is estimated to have a slightly lower glycemic index of 32, while cabbage is said to have a GI equal to 45.

Acidity

The acidity of both lettuce and cabbage can vary depending on environmental conditions and changes among cultivars. Lettuce and cabbage are slightly acidic foods.

The pH values of different lettuce varieties usually fall between 5.9 to 6.2. Lettuce grown in winter has a lower pH value, when compared to lettuce grown in the summer (1).

The pH value for cabbages can be in the range of 5.2 to 6.8. Green cabbages usually have a pH value of 5.5 to 6.75 (2).

Even though these vegetables are slightly acidic, they are not acid forming. Based on the potential renal acid load (PRAL), the acidity of lettuce is -3.1, making it alkaline. The PRAL of cabbages has been calculated to be -2.8: also alkaline. The PRAL shows the capacity of the food to produce acids or bases inside the organism.

Weight Loss

Vegetables are known for their positive effects in weight loss diets. Like most vegetables, lettuce and cabbage are also low calorie foods, rich in dietary fiber. Cabbage has more calories than lettuce, but it also has more than twice the amount of dietary fiber.

Increased vegetable consumption prevents long-term weight gain and provides further food-specific guidance for the prevention of obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and many other health conditions (3).

Cabbage and lettuce have been a part of the original low carb diet in the late 18th century and have not lost their importance in these kinds of diets since (4).

Red cabbage has been studied to suppress pancreatic enzymes, consequently reducing fat and sugar absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, as well as decreasing blood glucose levels after high-starch meals (5).

Cabbage Soup Diet

The cabbage soup diet is a 7 day low calorie, high fiber diet. As the name implies, this diet relies mainly on cabbage soup, although you can have other foods in limited amounts, mainly also vegetables or fruits.

Overall soup consumption has been associated with a lower dietary energy density and a better diet quality in adults (6). However cabbage soup is an extreme form of a soup diet, and after the initial weight loss, the weight may be regained quickly.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Cabbage and lettuce are both rich in certain macronutrients and phytochemicals that give these vegetables various beneficial properties. 

Cardiovascular Health

High intake of vegetables have been consistently associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease mortality also has been found to have an inverse association with intake of total vegetables (7).

Particularly, cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbages, have been studied to promote cardiovascular health and overall longevity (8).

Research suggests that diets with nitrate rich foods, such as lettuce, may lower the risk of heart attack or stroke mortality (9).

Diabetes

Red lettuce has been researched to have the potential to improve metabolic syndrome conditions of fatty liver and glucose metabolism, expressing antidiabetic effects due to the polyphenols found within (10). Red varieties of both lettuce and cabbages tend to have the highest amounts of antioxidant polyphenols (11).

A study has demonstrated the potential of cabbage to control blood sugar and ameliorate oxidative stress of the liver (12).

In general, diabetes patients benefit from a diet high in vegetables and fruit (7).

Cancer

Most meta-analyses have found inverse associations between cruciferous vegetable intake, such as cabbage, and risk of bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, gastric, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and renal cancer (13).

Red lettuce has also been found to have a significantly higher antitumor activity (14).

Downsides and Risks

Cabbage and lettuce have extremely few downsides, as long as they are grown in the right conditions and used in moderation.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend for adults to consume one and a half to two and a half cup-equivalents of dark-green vegetables per week as part of healthy meals (13).

Summary

Cabbage and lettuce are both low calorie vegetables with similar appearance but are unrelated to each other. Cabbage has a little more calories and is higher in carbs and dietary fiber. Lettuce, on the other hand, is richer in protein and fats. Lettuce also wins in the vitamin and mineral categories, containing more vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamins B1, B2, B3, also iron, potassium, copper and phosphorus. However cabbage is much richer in vitamin C, also containing larger amounts of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, folate and calcium. Cabbage is lower in sodium.

 Cabbage and lettuce possess beneficial qualities on cardiovascular health, diabetes, obesity and oncological diseases. Red cabbage and lettuce tend to have stronger antioxidant effects.

Both cabbage and lettuce are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and are overall great for health. The final choice depends on personal preference,

Sources.

  1. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/3052/305249823014.pdf
  2. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf
  3. https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878
  4. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)61535-8/fulltext
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318762165
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24382211/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18356334/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21593509/
  9. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/a-salad-a-day-keeps-stroke-away
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082798/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26065768/
  12. https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=jas.2019.413.420
  13. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/cruciferous-vegetables
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5979491/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Lettuce vs Cabbage infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Iron +83%
Contains more Potassium +14.1%
Contains more Copper +52.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +11.5%
Contains more Calcium +11.1%
Contains less Sodium -35.7%
Equal in Magnesium - 12
Equal in Zinc - 0.18
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 33% 11% 18% 10% 10% 5% 13% 4%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 18% 12% 15% 9% 7% 5% 12% 3%
Contains more Iron +83%
Contains more Potassium +14.1%
Contains more Copper +52.6%
Contains more Phosphorus +11.5%
Contains more Calcium +11.1%
Contains less Sodium -35.7%
Equal in Magnesium - 12
Equal in Zinc - 0.18

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin A +7456.1%
Contains more Vitamin E +46.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +14.8%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +60.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +66.2%
Contains more Vitamin C +297.8%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +58.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +37.8%
Contains more Folate +13.2%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 31% 445% 5% 0% 18% 19% 8% 9% 21% 0% 316% 29%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 122% 6% 3% 0% 16% 10% 5% 13% 29% 0% 190% 33%
Contains more Vitamin A +7456.1%
Contains more Vitamin E +46.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +14.8%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +60.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +66.2%
Contains more Vitamin C +297.8%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +58.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +37.8%
Contains more Folate +13.2%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
75
Lettuce
35
Cabbage
Mineral Summary Score
13
Lettuce
10
Cabbage

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
8%
Lettuce
8%
Cabbage
Carbohydrates
3%
Lettuce
6%
Cabbage
Fats
1%
Lettuce
0%
Cabbage

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Lettuce Cabbage
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Lettuce Cabbage
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Lettuce
Lettuce is lower in Sugar (difference - 2.42g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Lettuce
Lettuce is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.014g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Lettuce
Lettuce is lower in glycemic index (difference - 32)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Lettuce
Lettuce is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Sodium?
Cabbage
Cabbage contains less Sodium (difference - 10mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Cabbage
Cabbage is cheaper (difference - $0.3)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Lettuce Cabbage Opinion
Calories 15 25 Cabbage
Protein 1.36 1.28 Lettuce
Fats 0.15 0.1 Lettuce
Vitamin C 9.2 36.6 Cabbage
Carbs 2.87 5.8 Cabbage
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 0.86 0.47 Lettuce
Calcium 36 40 Cabbage
Potassium 194 170 Lettuce
Magnesium 13 12 Lettuce
Sugar 0.78 3.2 Lettuce
Fiber 1.3 2.5 Cabbage
Copper 0.029 0.019 Lettuce
Zinc 0.18 0.18
Starch 0 0
Phosphorus 29 26 Lettuce
Sodium 28 18 Cabbage
Vitamin A 7405 98 Lettuce
Vitamin E 0.22 0.15 Lettuce
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.07 0.061 Lettuce
Vitamin B2 0.08 0.04 Lettuce
Vitamin B3 0.375 0.234 Lettuce
Vitamin B5 0.134 0.212 Cabbage
Vitamin B6 0.09 0.124 Cabbage
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 126.3 76 Lettuce
Folate 38 43 Cabbage
Trans Fat 0 0
Saturated Fat 0.02 0.034 Lettuce
Monounsaturated Fat 0.006 0.017 Cabbage
Polyunsaturated fat 0.082 0.017 Lettuce
Tryptophan 0.009 0.011 Cabbage
Threonine 0.059 0.035 Lettuce
Isoleucine 0.084 0.03 Lettuce
Leucine 0.079 0.041 Lettuce
Lysine 0.084 0.044 Lettuce
Methionine 0.016 0.012 Lettuce
Phenylalanine 0.055 0.032 Lettuce
Valine 0.07 0.042 Lettuce
Histidine 0.022 0.022
Fructose 0.43 1.45 Cabbage

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Lettuce - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169249/nutrients
  2. Cabbage - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169975/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.