Spinach and kale are two of the most nutritious leafy green vegetables around. Both are packed with vitamins, minerals and powerful plant compounds that provide many health benefits. This article reviews the nutrition profiles, health benefits, and potential downsides of spinach and kale to help you determine which is healthier.
Here is a comparison of the nutrition facts for raw spinach and kale per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) (1, 2):
|Protein||2.9 g||4.3 g|
|Carbs||3.6 g||8.8 g|
|Fiber||2.2 g||3.6 g|
|Sugar||0.4 g||2 g|
|Fat||0.4 g||0.9 g|
|Vitamin A||469% DV||206% DV|
|Vitamin C||28% DV||134% DV|
|Vitamin K||483% DV||771% DV|
|Vitamin B6||11% DV||17% DV|
|Folate||15% DV||6% DV|
|Magnesium||12% DV||8% DV|
|Potassium||558 mg||491 mg|
|Calcium||99 mg||150 mg|
As you can see, both vegetables are low in calories but packed with nutrients. Kale contains more vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6 and calcium than spinach. Spinach contains more vitamin A and folate.
Here is an overview of some of the top health benefits associated with spinach and kale:
- Excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a key role in bone health and limiting inflammation.
- High in vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for immune function, vision and cell growth.
- Good source of manganese. Manganese supports connective tissue, sex hormones, immunity and more.
- Loaded with antioxidants. Spinach provides kaempferol and quercetin, powerful antioxidants that may reduce cancer risk.
- May support eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach protect your eyes from UV light damage.
- Excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts immunity, heart health, skin health and iron absorption.
- Rich in vitamin K. Adequate vitamin K consumption promotes bone strength and may reduce fracture risk.
- Good source of potassium. Potassium supports heart health, digestion and muscle function.
- Contains cancer-fighting compounds. Kale provides special compounds like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol that may suppress cancer cell growth.
- High in lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help prevent macular degeneration and promote eye health.
Spinach and kale are very healthy, but there are a few downsides to consider:
- Contains oxalates, which may promote kidney stone development in some people.
- Has non-heme iron, which is not absorbed as well as heme iron from animal foods.
- Raw spinach contains high nitrate levels, but nitrates are reduced by cooking.
- Some people are allergic to spinach and experience symptoms like itching or hives.
- May contain pesticide residues, depending on cultivation methods. Buy organic if this is a concern.
- Has goitrogens that may interfere with thyroid function for some people.
- Contains oxalates that can promote kidney stones in susceptible individuals.
- Raw kale contains high nitrate levels, but nitrates are reduced by cooking.
- May cause symptoms like gas, bloating and diarrhea when overeaten due to high fiber and fructans.
- Can have elevated levels of heavy metal contamination when grown in polluted areas. Choose organic.
Spinach vs Kale: Which Is Healthier?
Both spinach and kale are incredibly nutritious and associated with many impressive health benefits. While their nutrition profiles differ somewhat, they are both great additions to a healthy diet.
Spinach may have some advantages due to its incredibly high vitamin K content, folate levels and carotenoid antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Meanwhile, kale contains more vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and calcium per calorie than spinach. It also provides glucosinolate compounds that help fight cancer.
In general, kale may be slightly healthier than spinach due to its higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential. However, spinach makes an excellent nutrient-dense addition to any diet.
To reap their benefits, enjoy both spinach and kale regularly as part of a balanced diet. Add them to smoothies, soups, stir-fries, salads, side dishes and more.
The Bottom Line
Spinach and kale are extremely healthy vegetables that are both rich in vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. Kale may have a slight edge over spinach in terms of nutrient diversity and antioxidant content.
However, spinach is still very nutritious. It has higher levels of certain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that promote eye health.
For optimal health, include a variety of leafy green vegetables in your diet, including both spinach and kale.