06/01/2017 10:00 PM AEDT | Updated 12/01/2017 3:31 AM AEDT

Here's What The Lettuce In Your Salad Actually Does For Your Body

Are you choosing the right greens?

NycyaNestling via Getty Images

We all know that salads are great for us ― they aid in digestion (thanks to fiber) and they’re full of antioxidants ― but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re building that salad with the best greens. 

There’s a reason kale salads have taken off in popularity; they’re nutritional powerhouses. One cup of kale satisfies all your daily requirements for vitamins A, C and K. Plus, it has three grams of protein to boot. Kale is the antithesis of iceberg, which basically has the nutritional value of water (plus a little fiber). But, if you just can’t take the thought of another bite of kale ― and we hear ya ― there are other salad greens that will supply you with nutrients.

Romaine and loose head lettuces, such as red leaf and butterhead, pack more antioxidants and nutrients than tighter heads of greens (like iceberg), especially vitamins A and K. They are also a good source of folic acid ― particularly Romaine. So, when in doubt, go loose.

Spinach offers an ever bigger nutritional jolt. It’s not only packed with vitamin A and K, but also has hearty amounts of iron and calcium. Did we mention the potassium? That’s right, you can take a break from bananas.

If you go the cruciferous route with arugula, you have the advantage of phytochemicals, which may inhibit the development of certain cancers. That’s a whole lot of good in one bowl of salad. 

When you’re up for it, go even heartier. It doesn’t have to be kale. Tougher roughage like chard, escarole and mustard greens contain lots of good nutrition. A good rule of thumb is the darker the leaves, the higher the nutrition. (Darker means the plants were able to absorb more light, which means they were able to synthesize nutrients.)

But whatever green you choose for your salad, you can feel good about making a healthy choice ― especially if you add lots of other veggies, too. 

For a really nutrient-dense salad, consider mixing all of the above greens in one bowl ― that’s tops. Now, go make some salad.