By Lynn Okura
Crisp veggies, bold colors and fresh, leafy greens. A beautiful salad presentation is important — after all, we eat with our eyes first, right? So it’s no wonder that when prepping a head of romaine or cabbage, we tend to peel away the ugly outer layers and discard them. They’re typically a bit wilted or damaged, often not as appealing as the interior layers. Though the outer leaves may not be pretty, registered dietitian and author Janis Jibrin explains why they should never be cast aside.
“Well actually, those outer leaves are the most nutritious part of the head of lettuce… they’ve been hit with the sunlight and that triggers the development of these wonderful compounds called flavonoids that help protect you against cancer and heart disease and maybe even Alzheimer’s,” Jibrin says in the above #OWNSHOW video.
The outer leaves are darker, so you can visibly see the difference. “The sunlight hitting those heads of cabbage or lettuce produces about 10 times more flavonoids than you would get in those inner leaves,” Jibrin says.
Unless the outer leaves are completely unappetizing, Jibrin says they’re worth cleaning off and eating. “If they’re black and moldy and icky — no,” she says. “That second layer is still going to be a little darker, so you can have that. But if it’s not so bad, but you maybe don’t want to put it in your salad, throw it in a soup or stir fry.”
What the outer leaves lack in beauty, they certainly make up for in health benefits. The taste, however, is something you may need to get accustomed to. “I have to admit, they are a little bit more bitter,” Jibrin says.