January 14, 2022

Is Lettuce All It Takes?

Jonathan Valdez

By Jonathan Valdez, MBA, RD

Does ‘Romaine Lettuce Water’ Really Promote Better Sleep? Each year in January people get interested in health and along with it comes a host of tips from experts and Internet influencers. We asked one of our own experts — Jonathan Valdez, a New York City-based registered dietitian/trainer and a member of the LettuceInfo.org Advisory Panel– to weigh in on how much truth is in fads like “romaine lettuce water” that go viral. Here’s what Jonathan had to say:

 Is Lettuce All It Takes? 

Increasingly, our society wants to hear quick, effortless or “magic bullet” solutions to improving their health, rather than accepting that living a healthy life is a slow and steady marathon. Today, with unlimited access to information, anyone with a social media account can proclaim an unsubstantiated idea and persuade people to follow trends that reroute research based on anecdotal events.

The truth doesn’t carry bite-size catchy phrases that many TikTok trends promise consumers. The main idea of non-science-based influencers is to get you to boost their media coverage. You may have heard of melatonin and special teas to aid in sleep latency. One such trend on TikTok is lettuce water for better sleep. This trend begs the question, is there any truth to this effect? Consumers should want to hear of the healthy habits needed to form a healthy lifestyle that promote adequate sleep. For adults, having about 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night is the recommendation.

What does the research say about diet and sleep?

Our diet has an impact on our sleep quality along with our health status and overall environment. There is no linear relationship between a particular food and better sleep habits as many factors influence sleep quality. One study concluded that short sleep was associated with increased nutrient inadequacy of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K (1). In addition, melatonin, touted for sleep aid, is found in various foods such as nuts. Nuts contain magnesium and zinc, which are nutrients vital for many functions in the body (2,3). Research indicates milk products, fatty fish, kiwifruit, and tart cherry juice have shown sleep-promoting effects, but more research is needed to make conclusive recommendations (4). Research further supports the dietary recommendations that a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products can promote good health, including adequate sleep (5).

What does lettuce have to say in this matter?

In a study investigating the sleep-inducing effects of lettuce varieties, the study concluded that the leaf and seed extracts of romaine lettuce reduced the sleeping latency and increased sleep duration in pentobarbital-induced mice (6). This study used seed extracts, which are not commonly consumed. In addition, the researchers were experimenting with mice that were already put to sleep. Conjointly, this research is outside the normal environment in which humans exist. This research alone cannot be proof that lettuce water promotes better sleep.

According to Lettuceinfo.org, an evidenced-based resource on all things lettuce, indicates that one cup of romaine lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A and K. Lettuce is also a good source of folate, is low in fat, is saturated fat-free, low in sodium, cholesterol-free, and is low in calories (7). Romaine lettuce also contains antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which along with vitamin A, research indicates is beneficial for eye health by reducing the risk of cataract development and AMD (age-related macular degeneration) (8,9). These nutrients and antioxidants are found in varying degrees in many fruits and vegetables.

It makes sense then, that the recommended trend should be consuming a wide variety of products, including fruits and vegetables. Instead of making a watered-down tea from lettuce leaves, the best way to ingest the wide range of nutrients that might promote sleep is to consume a salad of romaine lettuce, topped with other health foods l like kiwifruit, cherries, nuts and fish. This is what I recommend to my clients as the key for better sleep and, most importantly, better health.

Bottom line: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best approach to obtaining adequate nutrients important for good health and daily processes such as sleep.