If ever there was an “it” vegetable, kale fits the bill. Lately, it’s everywhere, from chips to exquisitely prepared side dishes at restaurants - and it packs a powerful nutritional punch.
Its cousin, spinach, is no dietary slouch either. It makes a nice side dish for sure, but it’s also good in salads, wraps and pasta.
Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute dietitian Laurie Ross is a big fan of both superfoods. “Both of these veggies really pack in a great deal of nutrients,” she said. “Kale and spinach are fairly inexpensive and available year round. Don’t be afraid to try them in recipes.” So, who walks away with the crown for most nutritious in the battle of the leafy greens? Read on to find out.
Healthy eating isn’t practical if you can’t afford it, so price is obviously a big consideration when you hit the produce aisle. Bargain shoppers will love kale, which averages $2.19 a pound. Spinach weighs in at $3.92 a pound, according to the USDA.
Some people might be turned off by kale’s bold and almost bitter taste, but that can be tempered by adding it to soup or eating it as a chip. (Snack hint from the American Heart Association: Take bite-size pieces of leaves, drizzle with oil and black pepper, and bake at 350-degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes until crispy.) Spinach tends to be more delicately flavored and is a favorite eaten raw in salads. Cooked, it can a little bitter and salty tasting, but makes a great addition to stir-fry and dips. It can even be added to smoothies!
Both kale and spinach are nutritional powerhouses. Calorie-wise, kale has more than spinach in a 3.5-ounce serving (49 vs. 23), but that’s not really a concern when you’re talking healthy greens. You want to know about the nutrients. Kale edges out spinach when it comes to fiber (3.6 g) and calcium (150 mg), and really shines with more protein (4.28 g), vitamin C (120 mg), vitamin A (999 IU) and vitamin K (704.8 micrograms). Spinach beats kale when it comes to iron (2.71 mg), magnesium (79 mg) and potassium (558 mg). “Use caution, though.” said Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute dietitian Laurie Ross. “If you are taking certain blood thinners, it’s important to keep your vitamin K levels as consistent as possible.”
When buying kale and spinach, opt for organic. Both vegetables make the top 20 on the Environmental Working Group’s list that ranks produce with the most pesticide residue.
By a nose, kale takes the top prize. Dietitian Laurie Ross is impressed with the veggie's versatility:
“I recently added frozen kale to a slow cooker full of vegetables and my kids didn’t even notice. They even asked for seconds!” But, both foods are exceptionally good for you, so if you prefer the taste of one over the other, go ahead and throw that spinach or kale in your cart."