Superfood Battle: Kale vs. Spinach

June 27, 2014

This week Harmons is pleased to have a second blog installment from one of our nutrition interns. Ashley Quadros wrote this blog and is currently working on finishing a Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at The University of Utah. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist once she completes the program and looks forward to working in the always exciting field of nutrition.

Healthy green juiceSuperfood Battle: Kale vs. Spinach

As you have probably noticed, kale has made quite the name for itself as a “superfood.” Some argue it is the world’s most powerful superfood, which has lead to the publishing of such cookbooks as “The Book of Kale” and “Fifty Shades of Kale.”

A quick (and admittedly not thorough) Google search reveals decidedly fewer recipe books dedicated to spinach, and none with titillating titles that liken the leafy green to erotic romance. Nevertheless, you might be wondering is kale really that much better? Does it deserve all of this limelight?

First, I will start off by saying that regardless of the outcome of this battle, please eat your green leafy veggies! Spinach, kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, bok choy…. These vegetables are loaded with nutrition including fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and E, folate, magnesium and potent phytochemicals. Some greens are also high in iron and calcium. Each of these nutrients has plenty of data backing their health-giving properties (folate and cardiovascular disease, vitamin E and skin health). When all is said and done, leafy greens are mighty fighters against chronic disease and are an excellent addition to any diet.

Okay – now that I’ve been able to stand on my nutrition soapbox, let’s get to the battle.

Nutrition

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As you can see, spinach comes in at about half the calories and fat as kale, while kale has a bit more protein. This comparison doesn’t really give us enough to evaluate who the winner might be, so let’s look at vitamin and minerals.

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The Verdict

While kale only won in 4 out of 9 nutrients, it is considerably higher in vitamins C and K than spinach. Additionally, spinach is much higher in oxalates, a naturally occurring substance found in many plants and vegetables. Unfortunately, oxalates may decrease how much calcium and magnesium we absorb from foods meaning we absorb less of these nutrients from spinach than from kale. With these considerations, I would say that kale has a slight edge over spinach. However, the abundance of disease-fighting phytochemicals in each of these foods makes them both winners. And what about cost? Per fresh bunch, spinach can be about 30 cents cheaper, making it the more economical choice. So, what is the bottom line? Kale is a very healthy food. No doubt about that. So is spinach. And with that, the battle has come to an end! Choose either of these to add to a healthy diet.

So, are you feeling inspired to write a cookbook about poor, under-appreciated spinach? Maybe something like “Sexy Spinach”? Ha! I can admit my book titling skills are certainly lacking. Either way, if you’ve made it to the end of this veggie duel, hopefully you have had a giggle and know a bit more about greens.

Written by Ashley Quadros