Arugula vs Spinach

A big tub-o-greens is one of the easiest ways to have veggies on hand to grab and go, add to a meal, or throw in a salad. But they aren’t always a crowd favorite.

Our mothers’ always said “eat those leafy greens,” but does their demand actually have validity?

If so, does one type of green contain more benefit than another? When picking out a leafy green two heavy hitters some in mind — spinach and arugula. These two are easily found in most grocery stores and on restaurant menus. In this article, we will compare these two greens so you can make an informed decision next time you are faced with the dilemma of arugula vs spinach.

Eat your greens

First off let’s quickly tackle why you should eat your greens. One of the main reasons is they are chock full of vital micronutrients such as A, C, E and K and also folatewhich is a B vitamin that promotes heart health and prevents birth defects.  Because of their high antioxidant levels among other things, leafy greens may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods.       

If you are looking for purely aesthetic benefits, leafy greens are where it is at. They pack a nutrient punch without lots of calories and due to their high nitrite content they can aid in fat burning. Both have been shown to have anti-aging effects. They can provide UV protection at a cellular level due to carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. The high fiber content in leafy greens can keep your gut microbes happy and lead to better digestion, which ultimately can result in a less bloated stomach. That filling fiber can also help keep hunger at bay.

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Arugula versus spinach  

Spinach is part of the amaranth family and is related to beets and quinoa.  It originated in Persia but is now mainly grown in the United States and China.

In grocery stores, you can choose between both baby spinach and regular spinach.  What is the difference?  Baby spinach has been harvested earlier in the stage of plant growth.  Usually 15-35 days after planting versus mature spinach that is harvested 40-65 days after planting.  Baby spinach has smaller leaves, is more tender, and tends to be a bit sweeter than mature spinach. Mature spinach will have a thicker leaf and stem.  The leaves are noticeably larger.

Nutrient-wise, baby spinach, and mature spinach are the same. When deciding which one to purchase it comes down to taste and texture preference. Baby spinach has a lighter texture and lends itself better to salads and eaten raw. Mature spinach has a hardier texture so holds up well when being cooked. However, both types can be eaten both raw or cooked.

Spinach Nutrients

Speaking of nutrients…spinach is full of vitamins such as A, K and C. Plus calcium, iron, and potassium. It is low in calories with only about 23 calories per 100 grams. This has a lot to do with the fact that is is about 91% water! 100 grams has about 3 grams of protein, 3.6 grams of carbs and less than a gram of fat. Plus 2.2 grams of filling insoluble fiber. This fiber adds bulk and passes through the digestive system helping keep things moving along. So if you want to add volume to your diet, spinach is a great way to fill up without breaking the calorie bank.    

When picking out spinach you want to pick out leaves that are dark and without too much of a stem. You also want to avoid spinach that has any yellowing, wilting or decay. Once you get the perfect batch of spinach do not wash it until ready to use. Exposure to water can encourage spoilage. Many times I will put a few paper towels in my spinach container. The towels will soak up moisture and help prolong the shelf life.

Preparing Spinach

When preparing spinach, make sure to wash it very well since it tends to hold onto dirt and sand.  Trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Pull out any leaves that are wilted or have begun to show signs of spoilage.  Put the leaves in a bowl of water and let the sand and dirt float to the bottom. Do not leave the spinach soaking long because the water-soluble vitamins can leach into the water robbing you of valuable nutrition. Then rinse one more time before putting into a salad spinner to dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner you can drain well and lay on paper towels to dry.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to enjoy both baby spinach and mature spinach. Here are a few recipes to help motivate and inspire your spinach consumption.

Sneak Your Veggies in First Thing

Spinach Frittata

Scrambled Eggs With Spinach and Parmesan

Blender Spinach Banana Muffins

Wild Blueberry Banana Spinach Power Smoothie

Throw Together A Tasty Salad

Strawberry Feta Spinach Salad

Amazing Chickpea Spinach Salad

Quinoa Spinach Power Salad

Mix Spinach Into Your Main Dish

Flatbread Pizza With Spinach and Goat Cheese

Mushroom Spinach Quinoa Risotto

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Arugula

Now that we have team spinach covered, let’s move onto team arugula which also can go by the names salad rocket, roquette, or rucola.  It is in the same botanical family as watercress, cabbage, and broccoli. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has been eaten for centuries. Both the seeds and the leaves have been consumed for a long time, but these days the leaves seem to be the more popular way to enjoy arugula. It is mostly harvested in the spring but can be enjoyed year-round thanks (or no thanks) to modern agriculture. 

The leaves are tender and bite-sized.  Arugula has been known to have a stronger, almost peppery mustard taste. It also carries with it a peppery smell. This makes it a great green to mix with other greens if you don’t want to overpower your palate. However, it can be eaten alone and many enjoy it that way.  My favorite way to enjoy it is alongside a runny egg and sauteed sweet potatoes.

According to the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) arugula is one of the top 10 most nutrient-dense foods.  For example, it comes in almost 30% more nutrient dense than cabbage and 50% more nutrient dense than cauliflower. It is rich in lutein which can aid in the prevention of eye diseases as well as colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Arugula is also high in vitamin A which helps keep your vision, immune, and reproductive systems healthy.  

This leafy green also contains high levels of nitrate, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure. It can aid in lowering the amount of oxygen needed during exercise thus enhancing athletic performance. To top it off, arugula also contains potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Arugula packs a nutritional punch without lots of calories.  One hundred grams comes in at 25 calories. This breaks down to four grams of carbohydrates and two grams of protein. It also brings along one gram of filling fiber.

Preparing Arugula

When purchasing arugula, like spinach, you want to pick out leaves that have a bright green color and no yellowing. Look for leaves that show no sign of wilting or a dark green slimy texture. That indicates it is past its prime. It must be kept in the refrigerator and usually has a shelf life of several days before it is no longer consumable. Like spinach, and most leafy greens, put a few paper towels in with your arugula when storing it to help soak up any extra moisture. Also, like spinach, wait to wash arugula until you are ready to enjoy it. Then give it a rinse and toss in a salad spinner to dry.

Arugula is most often consumed fresh and raw in a salad but it can also be enjoyed cooked.  Because the leaves are very tender they saute very quickly. Because of the stronger flavor, chopped arugula leaves can be used in place of herbs like cilantro or parsley. It is also commonly used as a pizza topping post baking due to its peppery flavor.

Here are a few recipes to help motivate and inspire your arugula consumption.

Rise and Shine Arugula

Tomato Arugula and Goat Cheese Frittata

Arugula Breakfast Salad With Soft Boiled Eggs

Arugula-Ricotta Omelet for One

Pear Arugula And Avocado Green Smoothie

Salad Time

Arugula Salmon Salad With Capers and Shaved Parmesan

Apple Pecan Arugula Salad

Quinoa and Arugula Salad With Mediterranean Chicken

More Than Just Salads

Creamy Vegan Arugula Soup

Spring Gnocchi With Mustardy Arugula Pesto

Lemon Arugula Pizza

Arugula vs Spinach

After reading this post you have probably realized that both arugula and spinach have their own powerful nutrition benefits. So in essence, there’s no need to choose arugula vs spinach.  In a perfect world, you would consume both. There are many creative ways to mix them (take a look below) or you can just throw a simple salad together as both for the leafy green base.   

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Can’t Pick? Eat Them Both

Spinach and Arugula Lasagna Roll-Ups

Arugula and Spinach Hummus

Spinach Arugula Almond and Pomegranate Salad

Spinach and Arugula Tartlets

At the end of the day, it isn’t about having to choose a single team, but rather making sure that greens are a regular part of your intake.  Although spinach may win slightly in nutrient benefits, having a diversity of greens in your day truly provides a winning combination.

Are you team arugula or team spinach? 

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

   

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