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Colour of lettuce determines antioxidants

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New research at the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Spain has looked at the growth and health influences on Batavia, Marvel of Four Seasons and Oak Leaf lettuces.

Lettuce is one of the indispensable vegetables in the Mediterranean diet, with health benefits mainly because it is rich in antioxidants. But not all lettuce varieties have the same antioxidant effect. According to the study led by Usue Pérez-López of the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology of the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Science and Technology, the colour of the leaves of these vegetables determines the speed at which their compounds act. So lettuces with green leaves have antioxidants that react more slowly while red-leaf ones have a faster effect.

Scientists were able to observe the behaviour of the kinetics of the compounds of each variety. The results show that the green-leaf lettuce contains water-soluble, antioxidant compounds that act at a slow and intermediate speed, the red-leaf one has compounds with intermediate and rapid kinetics, and the semi-red-leaf one has three kinds of compounds, with a rapid, intermediate and slow speed.

Dr Pérez-López stressed, “The fact that there are compounds that act at different speeds does not mean that some are better or worse than others. If we eat foods that can generate free-radical activity, there will be some compounds that act to eliminate them more quickly. But at the same time, it is also important that our bodies should acquire foods with antioxidants that have slower kinetics so that the latter will continue to act over a longer period of time. That is why people say that it is very interesting to mix different types of lettuce because they have different, complementary characteristics.”

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