14 Facts About Iceberg Lettuce

a head of lettuce on a white background

Iceberg lettuce is one of the most popular lettuce in the world. With its crisp, refreshing crunch and mild flavor, it’s a staple vegetable for salads and sandwiches. But there’s more to this lettuce than meets the eye.

Here are 14 fascinating facts about iceberg lettuce that might surprise you. Learn more about this vegetable’s history, nutrition, and growing process.

Facts About Iceberg Lettuce

Lettuce: Iceberg
Lettuce: Iceberg
  1. Iceberg lettuce is the most commonly consumed type of lettuce in the United States. Its popularity rose in the 1920s and 1930s with the advent of refrigerated railroad cars that allowed iceberg lettuce to be transported long distances. The crunchy texture and mild, sweet flavor make it a versatile base for salads and sandwiches.
  2. It’s called “iceberg” lettuce because of how it’s grown. Iceberg lettuce is grown tightly packed into dense heads, which gives them their crisp texture. During shipping and storage, layers of older outer leaves protect the younger inner leaves from light and air exposure. This process keeps the inner leaves pale, like the ice they resemble.
  3. Iceberg lettuce has the highest water content of any lettuce. It’s made up of 96% water, giving it that signature crunch. The water also makes it a low-calorie food, with only 10 calories per one-cup serving. The high water content keeps you hydrated and gives a feeling of satiety without lots of calories.
  4. It originated off the coast of Spain and Portugal. The first iceberg lettuce crops were grown on the Canary Islands off North Africa. Christopher Columbus then brought iceberg lettuce seeds to the New World on his second voyage in 1494.
  5. California grows the most iceberg lettuce of any U.S. state. California supplies over 75% of the country’s iceberg lettuce, harvesting around 1.25 billion pounds every year. The state’s Salinas Valley has ideal growing conditions for crisphead lettuce thanks to its cool coastal climate.
  6. Iceberg lettuce has significant amounts of vitamins A, C, and K. While not as nutrient-dense as darker leafy greens, iceberg lettuce contains decent levels of important vitamins and minerals. One serving provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 6% for vitamin A.
  7. It’s rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene. Iceberg lettuce contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives fruits and vegetables their orange color. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and promotes healthy skin and eyes.
  8. Folate in iceberg lettuce promotes heart health. This versatile lettuce also offers 12% of the RDI of folate per serving. Getting enough dietary folate lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cardiovascular disease risk when elevated.
  9. Its high fiber content benefits digestion. Crisphead lettuce provides nearly 2 grams of dietary fiber per one-cup serving. This fiber adds bulk to stools and promotes regularity, preventing constipation. The water content also keeps digestion smooth.
  10. It has more iron than other lettuces. Iceberg contains 0.5 milligrams of iron per serving, amounting to 3% of the daily recommended intake. Pairing this lettuce with iron-rich foods maximizes absorption of this mineral crucial for oxygen transport in red blood cells.
  11. Lettuce harvesting is still done manually. While machines can core lettuce heads and pack chopped lettuce, picking the mature heads still requires manual labor. Skilled harvesters know just how to twist each head at the base to remove it without damaging the leaves.
  12. It grows very quickly in the right conditions. Iceberg lettuce seeds germinate in just two days in ideal growing conditions. The heads mature and are ready for harvesting in around 75 days after planting. This quick turnaround makes lettuce a profitable, fast-growing crop.
  13. Too much heat causes bitterness and prevents heading. Cool-weather is critical for iceberg lettuce to form tight heads and keep its signature sweet flavor. In hot weather above 75°F, lettuce tends to bolt and become bitter-tasting before forming a proper head.
  14. It’s susceptible to contamination during growth and processing. As a leafy green that grows close to the soil and is harvested by hand, iceberg lettuce risks picking up bacterial contaminants. Proper handwashing and sanitation during processing are vital to prevent foodborne illnesses.


While iceberg lettuce has a reputation as a nutrition-less filler, these fascinating facts show it has legitimate health benefits. Its high water and fiber make it ideal for weight loss, digestion, and hydration.

Iceberg lettuce has come a long way from the Canary Islands to become America’s sweetheart lettuce. So next time you crunch into this crisp veggie, remember just how remarkable its history and nutrition are!


What are the nutritional benefits of iceberg lettuce?

Iceberg lettuce is low in calories and contains several important nutrients, including Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and folate. It also has a good amount of fiber, which can aid in digestion.

Can iceberg lettuce help with blood clotting?

Yes, iceberg lettuce is high in Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. People with blood clotting disorders or liver disease may find it particularly beneficial but should consult a doctor before making dietary changes.

How does iceberg lettuce support eye health?

Rich in Vitamin A, iceberg lettuce can contribute to better eye health by potentially preventing age-related vision loss and improving vision in low-light conditions.

Is iceberg lettuce a good choice during pregnancy?

Iceberg lettuce contains folic acid, which is crucial for fetal development, especially in the first trimester. Pregnant women are often advised to include folic acid in their diet.

What should be considered when preparing iceberg lettuce?

Ensure the leaves are washed thoroughly to remove any pesticides and dirt. A salad spinner can be useful for rinsing and drying the lettuce. It’s also recommended to mix iceberg lettuce with other greens for a diverse intake of nutrients.

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