Green vegetables are highly recommended as part of a balanced diet. They are rich in nutrients and vitamins that help fight common diseases, obesity, and other lifestyle-related diseases. Spinach is one of the healthiest leafy green vegetables used in many recipes. Sometimes, people are forced to choose alternatives for spinach when cooking.
The best alternatives for spinach when cooking include kale, swiss chard, arugula, romaine lettuce, and escarole. These alternatives have similar nutrients to spinach like vitamin A, K, iron, and calcium. If you don’t use the best alternatives, you may miss the essential nutrients for a healthy living.
Many vegetables can be used in place of spinach, but only a few meet the nutritional requirements. This article will take you through five of the best alternatives for spinach when cooking, why they’re valuable in your diet, how to choose the best, and how to serve them in your meals.
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Choosing Alternatives for Spinach When Cooking
Spinach contains significant amounts of vitamin A and vitamin K that only a handful of greens meet. It’s also rich in other essential minerals such as potassium and iron 1.
Getting the perfect replacement is not always so easy to get equally the same nutrients as you would with spinach. Besides, some of these replacements might not be fruits or vegetables, but a mixture of fortified grain meals, meat, and beans.
There are several reasons people choose to use other alternatives instead of spinach in their daily dishes. For instance, when the FDA issued a public report about baby spinach due to the E. coli outbreak, many people had no option but to get a suitable replacement 2.
Your choice is determined by the vegetable’s taste, where and when it’s available, health benefits obtained, and the kind of dish you’re serving. For instance, some alternatives like kale will fit best in hot meals. Kale is not tender, so it needs to be cooked to bring out the taste, which leads us to the first alternative.
Kale and spinach are like two sides of the same coin. In most cases, people will opt for spinach because it’s tender and easier to cook, steam, or eat raw. On the other hand, kales are tougher.
Still, they contain a high concentration of iron and vitamin K, antioxidants, and fiber 3. These nutrients give your body the upper edge in fighting against conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases.
Serving kale is easy because you can eat raw (in salad and smoothies), boiled, steamed, or as part of a delicious soup. If you have underlying medical conditions, always consult your doctor before taking kale since taking too much could pose a risk to your health. For instance, heavy potassium intake could lead to severe effects on people with kidney problems.
Always remember to wash your vegetables properly before cooking. Kale was recently ranked as one of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. Large quantities of pesticides are used to keep pests away, and they could end up on your plate if you don’t wash your vegetables thoroughly 4.
Kale has a long list of health benefits that should come to your body 5. It has several other uses in salad and meat dishes. The next time you drop spinach off the menu, use kale as the next alternative.
Escarole has a slightly bitter, leafy taste. Commonly found in Italian cuisines, escarole tastes good when grilled, sauteed, raw, or cooked to make a simple soup. Escarole contains several nutrients such as vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and fiber 6.
Most people prefer it raw because that’s when the taste comes out best. The next time you go shopping, look for escarole in the refrigerated vegetable section. Look for the leaves that show no signs of wilting or withering. When you take it home, store in the refrigerator and only wash when you’re ready to cook.
Swiss chard looks a lot like spinach. The main difference is in the stem color; spinach has white stems while chard has either red, yellow, pink, or purple color. In terms of nutrition, the Swiss chard is not far from spinach 7. It is a popular choice in recipes that require mild-tasting greens, but if spinach is unavailable, Swiss chard could be a suitable replacement.
Swiss chard is packed with nutrients and vitamins and helps in the prevention of many human diseases. It contains antioxidants, vitamin C, E & K, fiber, and an endless list of nutritional benefits 8.
Just like spinach, adding Swiss chard to your diet is quick and straightforward. Start by looking for the darkest chard leaves you can find at the grocery if you don’t intend to eat the same day and store it in a refrigerator for prolonged freshness.
You can blend Swiss chard with other ingredients for a popular healthy drink. If you’re looking for a good quality juicer, Breville has a nice variety and very stylish. You can check the current price on Amazon by clicking here, Breville Juicers, along with other affordable options.
Others add Swiss chard to omelets, fruit and vegetable salads, and sandwiches. The leaves and stalks of are rich in vitamins and minerals for healthy living. It goes well with all kinds of stew, salad, pasta, and meat recipes. If you can’t find spinach at the nearest store, buy Swiss chard.
Arugula (also called the rocket, rucola, or roquette) is quite similar to spinach in terms of nutritional value and uses. Apart from making salads, both spinach and arugula can be used in meat cuisines and omelets. However, one of the most significant differences lies in the taste.
Arugula has a pepper-like taste. This popular vegetable has numerous benefits because of its nutritional content. It aids in the fight against diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer 9.
Unfortunately, arugula still remains unknown to many people around the world. Due to its tenderness and peppery flavor, arugula stands out from other vegetables. It’s commonly found in Italian and French dishes. Others use it raw or slightly cooked to prepare delicious salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza toppings, and casseroles.
If spinach isn’t an option at the moment, slicing arugula into your diet or blending it into your drinks is a great idea. When shopping, look for dry arugula leaves with darker green color, unwithered, and little blemishes (like brown spots or dry edges).
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When spinach is unavailable when making your salad, Romaine lettuce could serve as the next alternatives. Romaine lettuce has a more robust and crispier taste than spinach, and it contains vitamin A and C, folic acid, and fiber for healthy living 10. It has long heat-tolerant leaves that make the perfect salad.
Widely grown in California, Romaine lettuce is available at the local supermarket or grocery throughout the year. Many people use it as a salad while others grill it. Some of the delicacies include chicken salad, beef ribs, stir fry, Nicoise salad, avocado salad, and Greek salad.
Before making any purchase, observe your hygiene, and follow strict health measures to keep you and your family safe. This year (2020), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an update on the E. coli outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce 11. Everyone has a responsibility to wash their fruits and vegetables properly before eating.
Substituting spinach with other vegetables is easy. The only problem is trying to get the perfect replacement. Various vegetables can serve to fill in for spinach in your dishes, but not many have as many vitamins and minerals as spinach.
If possible, don’t discard spinach out of your diet since you’ll be sacrificing too much to get too little from other vegetables. However, if there’s no other way, use kales, arugula, Swiss chard, or Romaine lettuce.Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Functional properties of spinach phytochemical and bioactives
- FDA: Dole Fresh Vegetables Announces Precautionary Limited Recall of Baby Spinach
- Taylor & Francis Online: Kale: An excellent source of vitamin c, pro-vitamin A, lutein and glucosinolates
- Environmental Working Group: 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Lentil and Kale: Complementary Nutrient-Rich Whole Food Sources to Combat Micronutrient and Calorie Malnutrition
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Grown to Be Blue – Antioxidant Properties and Health Effects of Colored Vegetables. Part ll: Leafy, Fruit, and Other Vegetables
- Food Source Information: Swiss Chard
- National center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of Swiss Chard as Nitrite Replacement on Color Stability and Shelf-Life of Cooked Pork Patties during Refrigerated Storage
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Novel insights into plant-associated archaea and their functioning in arugula
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach
- CDC: Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Romaine Lettuce