Kale and spinach are two of the most nutritious leafy green vegetables around. Both are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. However, there are some key differences between these two superfoods.
In this article, we’ll compare kale and spinach side by side, looking at their nutrition facts, benefits, downsides and which is ultimately the healthier choice.
Below is a comparison of the nutrition facts for raw kale and raw spinach (per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces).
As you can see, both vegetables are low in calories and high in micronutrients like vitamins A, C, K and minerals like iron and magnesium. However, there are some key differences:
- Kale contains more calories, protein, carbs, fiber and sugar.
- Spinach contains more iron and magnesium.
- Kale is richer in vitamins A, C and K.
- Spinach contains more folate.
Here is an overview of some of the top health benefits associated with kale and spinach:
- High antioxidants – Full of antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol that help fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
- Anti-cancer – Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol found in kale have been linked to reduced cancer risk.
- Heart healthy – The fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin K in kale support heart health.
- Powerful nutrition – Excellent source of vitamins A, C and K as well as minerals like calcium and iron.
- Rich in iron – Provides substantially more iron than kale. Iron is essential for hemoglobin and proper oxygen transport in the blood.
- Strong bones – Provides a good amount of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K which help strengthen bones.
- Healthy vision – High in carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin that prevent eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Slows aging – The nutrients in spinach like folate help maintain DNA and cellular health.
There are a couple potential downsides to keep in mind with kale and spinach:
- Contains oxalates which may contribute to kidney stones in susceptible individuals.
- Has potential for heavy metal contamination when grown in polluted areas.
- Raw kale contains goitrogens which may impact thyroid function for those with iodine deficiency.
- Raw spinach also contains oxalates which can bind to calcium and cause kidney stones.
- Has the potential for contamination with bacteria like E. coli.
- Contains purines which can cause gout symptoms in those susceptible.
Overall, kale edges out spinach as the healthier choice because:
- It provides more fiber, protein, vitamins A, C and K.
- Higher in cancer-fighting compounds like sulforaphane.
- Less potential for contamination than spinach.
- Spinach provides more folate and magnesium.
- Both vegetables have pros and cons.
However, kale’s higher antioxidant content gives it an advantage over spinach. The vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals in kale offer broad spectrum health benefits.
Of course, both vegetables are extremely nutritious. Including both kale and spinach as part of a balanced diet provides a powerful nutrient boost.
How to Use Kale vs Spinach
When it comes to using kale and spinach, they have slightly different tastes, textures and cooking methods. Here’s a comparison:
- Slightly bitter, earthy flavor.
- Fibrous leaves with sturdy texture.
- Commonly eaten raw in salads, smoothies, juices.
- Use raw or lightly cooked to preserve nutrients.
- Great sauteed or added to soups, stews and casseroles.
- Massage raw kale with lemon juice to soften its texture.
- More delicate, mild and sweet taste.
- Smooth, tender texture.
- Better raw or lightly cooked.
- Use fresh in salads, dips, smoothies and sandwiches.
- Sautee briefly or add to finished cooked foods.
- Sauteeing spinach too long causes excess water loss and nutrient depletion.
Kale’s hardy texture stands up well to cooking methods like boiling, steaming and baking. Spinach is more delicate and best eaten raw or lightly cooked to preserve nutrients.
The Bottom Line
Both kale and spinach are incredibly healthy. While spinach provides more folate and magnesium, kale edges it out when it comes to antioxidants, cancer-fighting compounds and overall nutrition.
However, there is no need to choose between the two. Include both kale and spinach as part of a well-rounded diet for maximum benefits.
Aim for 1-2 cups per day of dark leafy greens like kale and spinach. Try using them interchangeably in recipes and enjoy their unique textures and flavors. Your body will thank you for the bounty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they provide.
When it comes to the green veggie battle between kale vs spinach, both reign supreme in terms of nutrition!