Kale and spinach are two foods that have received a lot of attention recently. Kale’s current superfood status has spawned in a flood of palatable goods, maybe most famously those unexpectedly addicting kale chips.
Spinach, on the other hand, may seem to be out of favor these days, yet since first appearing in Popeye cartoons in 1933, this leafy green has demonstrated it can endure the test of time as a staple food source.
While there is no doubt that these two greens are among the most well-known vegetables on the market, there is some confusion about what distinguishes spinach and kale from one another, so we are taking an in-depth look at kale and spinach, discussing the specific characteristics and health benefits of each. Grab a fork, because it’s time to start eating your greens!
- What is Kale?
- What is Spinach?
- Differences Between Kale and Spinach
- Other FAQs About Kale and Spinach
- Kale vs. Spinach: Two Great Ways to Get Your Leafy Greens In!
- What is better kale or spinach?
- Does kale and spinach taste the same?
- Can I substitute kale for spinach?
- Are kale and spinach related?
- What is the healthiest green vegetable?
- Should you eat kale everyday?
- Is kale better cooked or raw?
- What is better for weight loss spinach or kale?
- What is better in smoothies spinach or kale?
- Is kale the healthiest green?
What is Kale?
Kale is a tough plant of the Brassicaceae family, especially Brassica oleracea. This species is really made up of numerous distinct cultivars known together as cruciferous vegetables.
Other cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, brussels sprouts, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli, and kohlrabi. Kale is different in that its leaves do not develop into heads like cabbages and Brussels sprouts, but rather each leaf has its own stem.
What is one method to identify whether you have a cruciferous vegetable on your hands? That distinct foul odor! We owe this fragrant pleasure to what scientific marvel? To a class of chemicals known as glucosinolates. These substances are known as phytochemicals, and their existence, as you may have heard, is a solid marker of nutritional worth. Surprisingly, their strong odor is not apparent until their structure is broken down, either by cutting or by boiling. As a result, raw kale will be far less smelly than cooked kale.
What is Spinach?
Spinach belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, which includes many other leafy greens such as Beta vulgaris (which contains beets and Swiss chard) and Chenopodium, sometimes known as Goosefoot and including lamb’s quarters and quinoa!
You may have noticed that the word amaranth is tucked inside the phrase Amaranthaceae, which has recently become a popular food item. Amaranth, often regarded a whole grain, is really the seed of many kinds of amaranth plants, which may be cooked and consumed in the same way as cereal grains like oats or cornmeal.
It’s hard to think that these small grain-like seeds and pink, scarlet beets are connected to bright and verdant spinach, but it’s true! Spinach is likely most recognized for its vibrant green coloration, so much so that it has been employed as a fabric dye or ink pigment in the past!
And anybody who has ever sautéed a large amount of fresh spinach knows how little the yield is. This is because raw spinach has a high amount of water. In fact, raw spinach contains 91% water.
Differences Between Kale and Spinach
Although there is no denying that kale and spinach are nutritious powerhouses, both of which are commonly regarded as essential components of any healthy eating plan, there are several variations between these two vegetables. Let’s look at what distinguishes each of them so we can understand why it’s crucial to have a healthy serving of each in our diets.
Kale vs. Spinach: Origin & Varieties
The first significant distinction between kale and spinach is in how and where they grow, as well as the variety present in each group. Let’s examine the fundamentals of these two plants.
Kale is closely linked to wild cabbage variants found in western Europe and the Mediterranean. These wild relatives of the leafy greens we now call kale were able to survive in these various environments, drawing ample nutrients from the loose, chalky soil and surviving severe, freezing winters. The modern kale is not the same as its wild ancestors from the past. The majority of farmed kale is biennial, meaning it grows for two seasons and then dies; however, certain kinds are perennial and will thrive year after year.
Kale cultivars that are often used include:
- Curly Kale: the most well-known kale cultivar, with long stems and thick, ruffly leaves. Curly kale exists in both green and reddish-purple types.
- Red Russian Kale is a flat-leaf kale with purple stems and sage green leaves. Red Russian kale is sweeter and less bitter than other varieties.
- Lacinato Kale: Lacinato kale, often known as dinosaur kale, is a variety of flat-leaf kale. The leaves are smooth but crinkled, like a piece of tissue paper that has been crumpled and then smoothed out, and are not frilly like those of curly kale cultivars. Lacinato kale has dark blue-green leaves that are long and thin.
- This variety of kale, often known as Chinese broccoli, has wide, round-shaped leaves with a smooth surface. The flavor is quite similar to broccoli, and it would be very simple to confuse a bunch of Chinese kale with other broccoli-like brassicas like broccoli rabe and broccolini!
- Ornamental Kale: Although this variety of kale is still edible, eating it may not be your first choice. Since decorative kale is developed for appearance rather than texture, the leaves of this kind are significantly rougher and more leathery than other varieties such as curly and lacinato kale! These plants have compact heads, similar to cabbages, and have a stunning, center rosette that may be any color from pink to blue to white.
Spinach, on the other hand, is only grown once a year. Although kale will grow for a second, and possibly many more, season(s) after planting, spinach completes its entire growth cycle each season and must be planted again the following year. The leafy greens that gave rise to spinach are said to have originated in Iran and spread to other parts of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Asia, Europe, and, finally, the Americas.
The most common spinach kinds are:
- Savoy Spinach: This spinach features dark green, crinkly, crisp leaves that are wide and rounded at the tips. The prominent structure of these leaves may make them difficult to clean, particularly as spinach grows in sandy soil, and grit will often get trapped in between the folds and curls.
- Flat-Leaf Spinach: Unlike savoy types, flat leaf spinach has leaves that are smooth and unwrinkled. Their taste is likewise less bitter, and their color is lighter.
- Semi-Savoy Spinach: the ideal combination of the two! Semi-savoy spinach blends the delicious bite of savoy spinach with the ease of flat leaf spinach to create a very flexible spinach choice.
- Baby Spinach: Although not a distinct variety, baby spinach may refer to any spinach type harvested and utilized in its juvenile period. The leaves are delicate and fragile at this time, making them ideal for eating raw. The baby spinach bags you’ll find at the grocery store are usually full of flat-leaf spinach, but savoy and semi-savoy baby spinach are also available!
Kale vs. Spinach: Availability
When it comes to grocery shopping, availability is always important! If you’re not sure where or how to acquire your leafy greens, we’ve got you covered.
While spinach has been a mainstay of the average American diet for many years, kale seems to be a newcomer to the vegetable scene. Kale is often offered fresh in the vegetable area of your grocery store, as well as at farmers markets and farm stands. At these stores, you’ll often find bunches of curly kale for sale, or you could get lucky and get a convenient bag of partly processed kalestems removed and leaves chopped! Several supermarkets now sell chopped, blanched kale in their freezer areas. And don’t forget to look in the snack aisle for the ever-popular kale chips!
Nonetheless, any kale purchased will almost certainly be curly kale or lacinato kale. If you want to find more unusual kale kinds, such as red Russian or decorative, you should head to the farmers market!
Spinach, on the other hand, has always existed and continues to exist in many varieties. Raw spinach may be found in a variety of shapes in the fresh produce section, ranging from value-sized packets of baby spinach to smaller bunches of giant savoy spinach leaves.
Other regions of the market are likely to include multiple canned spinach selections, as well as several spinach options in the frozen food category! Frozen spinach is an excellent source of plain spinach for your favorite dishes, or you can go for a comfort food classic and grab for a carton of frozen creamed spinach.
Kale vs. Spinach: Taste & Texture
Spinach and kale have quite different flavors and textures! If you aren’t a fan of one of these fantastic greens, don’t be afraid to try the other!
Kale often gets a poor name owing to its texture, and it’s easy to understand why. Kale leaves may be rough and fibrous, sometimes to the point of taking on a leathery feel, depending on the type and age of the plant. Fortunately, boiling kale will remove these unpleasant qualities. Most forms of kale have a little bitter flavor (it is a cruciferous plant after all!) but also an innate sweetness and comforting heaviness, making it ideal for robust recipes like our Easy Roasted Broccoli Quinoa Salad!
As compared to kale, fresh spinach is a true softie. The hardness and crunchiness of raw spinach will vary depending on the variety as well as when it was collected (in the infant stage or left to completely mature). Nonetheless, a piece of raw spinach is considerably simpler to chew than a bite of raw kale, and it is not as soft as more delicate greens like Boston or Bibb lettuces. Spinach has a little bitter taste as well, although it is more earthy and slightly metallic than kale.
Kale vs. Spinach: Nutritional Makeup
Kale and spinach are both incredibly healthful! Although it is obvious that each of these greens plays an important part in a balanced diet, there are some distinct nutritional variances between them.
Kale is unquestionably the best vegetable for helping you fulfill your fiber objectives, since it contains almost twice as much as spinach! It also includes nearly two and a half times the calcium of spinach, which is essential for bone health.
Kale also has double the amount of vitamin C as spinach, as well as lower quantities of other key elements including manganese, phosphorus, and numerous B vitamins.
Spinach, as you may well know, is high in iron. This mineral is essential for keeping your blood pressure and cardiovascular system in check. Iron is found in various foods such as meat, poultry, and eggs, but for individuals who follow plant-based diets, this iron might be more difficult to get, making spinach even more vital!
Although kale includes more vitamin C, spinach has almost double the amount of vitamin K! Spinach also has a higher concentration of folate, a B vitamin that is essential for healthy cell development and synthesis. One cup of raw spinach has around 60 micrograms of it! Don’t be fooled by the term “micro,” since this amount represents roughly 15% of your recommended daily consumption.
Kale vs. Spinach: Which Has the Most Health Benefits?
So, does one offer more advantages than the other when it comes to kale and spinach? It’s difficult to say since they’re so different!
Kale includes significant quantities of beta carotene, which is not only found in carrots but is also beneficial to the skeletal and immunological systems. It is a form of antioxidant known to help protect the body against significant health concerns such as heart disease, cancer, and other sorts of chronic illness.
Spinach contains several antioxidants, including lutein, which helps to reduce the incidence of eye illness and maintain good skin! Also, the high fiber and water content of spinach might help with digestion.
Why Are Antioxidants Beneficial?
How exactly do these antioxidants assist the body? It boils down to one word: oxidative damage. This occurs when free radicals (atoms with unpaired electrons) circulate through the body, destroying the healthy atoms of human tissues. Chronic oxidative damage has been related to a host of illnesses and disorders, ranging from Alzheimer’s to various malignancies.
Fortunately, there is an antidote to this phenomena. Antioxidants! Certain chemicals, such as beta carotene in kale and lutein in spinach, have the ability to neutralize free radicals, avoiding additional oxidative damage. Such a fantastic idea!
Other FAQs About Kale and Spinach
Can You Eat Raw Kale?
There is substantial debate regarding whether raw kale is edible. After all, it’s tough material, so picturing yourself chewing through a leaf of this leathery plant may be difficult. But, you may and should consume raw kale on occasion since it provides more antioxidant advantages than cooked kale.
To make raw kale more appealing, cut it and combine it with a little lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Scrunch the leaves with your hands and set aside for 15-30 minutes before eating or adding into a salad. The acid and scrunching movement aid in the breakdown of some of those tough fibers, giving your digestive system a head start!
Why Does Spinach Make My Teeth Feel Weird?
You are not alone if you experience a gritty or sticky sensation on your teeth after eating spinach. This is because spinach includes a chemical called oxalate, which produces small crystals when it reacts with the calcium in your teeth.
These crystals, on the other hand, are harmless and may be readily removed with a little time or by cleaning your teeth.
Are There Any Health Concerns with Eating Kale and Spinach?
Although the oxalate in spinach does not pose any dental issues, this same chemical may interact with the calcium in your urinary system, increasing your chance of developing kidney stones. Most people will not be concerned about this. Nevertheless, if you are prone to kidney stone development or consume a lot of oxalate-rich foods like spinach, this is something to be aware of.
Kale is not associated with kidney stones, which is great news! But, it does include some difficult compounds of its own. Progoitrin is one such chemical that may disrupt the way your thyroid processes iodine and controls hormones. Again, this is a rare occurrence, but if you have thyroid difficulties or eat a lot of kale or other cruciferous vegetables, keep an eye on your thyroid health.
Kale vs. Spinach: Two Great Ways to Get Your Leafy Greens In!
Whatever your health objectives are, both spinach and kale are excellent veggies to include in your diet. True, they each have a distinct taste character, are accessible in various forms (and places! ), and provide vastly varied nutritional advantages. Both of these fiber-rich foods are good additions to a balanced diet.
When you need a side dish to go with your main course, try one of these nutrient-dense leafy greens. There are several ways to get your greens in, whether you enjoy munching on a fresh kale salad, sinking into a pile of Steamed Spinach, or sipping kale juice.
What is better kale or spinach?
Kale contains more calcium, vitamin K, and twice as much vitamin C than spinach, according to her nutritional analysis. Nevertheless, spinach has more iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate, and vitamins A and E. “Overall, both are incredibly healthy options,” she says.
Does kale and spinach taste the same?
They have quite distinct flavors and sensations.
Kale has a somewhat bitterer flavor than spinach, but when it comes to flavor profiles, Joe believes it all comes down to personal opinion. “If you enjoy particularly creamy and smooth recipes, spinach is a good choice since it wilts quickly and has a mild taste.”
Can I substitute kale for spinach?
You may swap kale for spinach, but the variety you use will vary based on the recipe. If you’re creating a salad and want to swap kale for raw spinach, use baby kale since it’s more tender than mature kale.
Kale, like collards, belongs to the brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. It has nothing in common with spinach, which belongs to the beet family.
What is the healthiest green vegetable?
1. Spaghetti. This leafy green is one of the most nutrient-dense veggies. This is due to the fact that 1 cup (30 grams) of raw spinach has 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A and 120% of the DV for vitamin K – all for just 7 calories ( 1 ).
Should you eat kale everyday?
Kale use on a regular basis has also been shown in studies to assist the body flush out harmful pollutants. Simply explained, kale has a chemical that aids in the regulation of the detoxification process from inside our body cells!
Is kale better cooked or raw?
According to several studies, eating raw kale instead of boiling it provides the maximum nutritional benefit. Heating kale reduces its antioxidant and vitamin C content, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial for you.
What is better for weight loss spinach or kale?
Surprisingly, kale has more calories and carbs than spinach (49 calories per 100 g of raw kale, versus 23 calories per 100 g of spinach). According to Paterson, it is also somewhat higher in those necessary nutrients.
What is better in smoothies spinach or kale?
Since they are high in nutrients, spinach and kale are both excellent choices for smoothies. If you’re new to green smoothies, start with spinach instead of kale since it has a milder taste. When you’ve gotten acclimated to the flavor of greens in your smoothie, you may experiment with kale or other greens such as Swiss chard or collard greens.
Is kale the healthiest green?
Kale is one of the most nutritious leafy greens available, packed with vital minerals and antioxidants. Kale, in reality, includes a number of useful chemicals, some of which have potent therapeutic benefits.