There are plenty of reasons for not wanting to eat salad. As much as we might like to pretend that we enjoy our food being green and leafy rather than beige and deep fried, there’s no getting away from the fact that some things just taste better than others. Small wonder that we all end up ignoring the salad bar at some point.
But, for all the perfectly valid reasons of flavour and enjoyment, there is another, significantly more surprising reason why you might be better off going for something meaty. As shocking as it may seem, there is evidence to suggest that eating lettuce can make you extra sleepy.
The key to lettuce’s snooze inducing side-effects comes from a chemical known as lactucin. A bitter tasting chemical, lactucin is found in many different species of lettuce leaf and can have a remarkable effect on the body. Known for sedative properties, the effect of ingesting lactucin was compared to opium in a 2014 edition of Oregon State University’s “Wellness Ink” magazine. The salad bowl can apparently pack more of a punch than meets the eye.
It’s not just lettuce leaves that are known to contain high lactucin levels. Other famously bitter vegetables, such as chicory and foods like it, are equally rich in the chemical. All this means that, unbeknownst to us, we’ve all been eating greens that have been slowly sending to sleep.
Precisely what the side effects of lactucin may be are the subject of intense debate. According to the US National Library of Medicine, a 2006 study concluded that the chemical does indeed have a calming, pain relieving effect on the body - similar to many strong opioids. The study, however, was focused on mice rather than humans.
Similarly, Dr Pamela Peeke revealed to the Huffington Post in 2015 that lettuce is one of the most potentially energy-sapping foods out there, reiterating the claim that “lettuce has sedative properties that affect your brain in a similar way to opioids.” Regardless whether lettuce may be potent or harmless, its chemical contents certainly raise a few eyebrows.
Though the sinister sounding ingredients in a lettuce leaf may set some alarm bells ringing, it is not all bad news for salad lovers. In addition to causing potential drowsiness, research has shown that lactucin could have potentially analgesic pain relieving properties, making it a potentially interesting product for the pharmaceutical industry.
Furthermore, it has also been suggested that lactucin may be an anti-malarial chemical, which could in the future provide the key to treating one of the world’s most deadly diseases. Not bad for a little leaf most of us would rather leave on the side of a plate.
Our food is full of all sorts of surprising ingredients. Whether you’re trying to stay healthy or looking to indulge, you can guarantee that you can discover something unexpected. As ever, it pays to know exactly what it is you are eating. You don’t want to end up feeling awkwardly sleepy.