Part of my Health Coach job is to educate people about healthy foods like leafy greens. Two of them, arugula and spinach are synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, many people ask, which is better, arugula or spinach?
Spinach is better than arugula due to its greater percentage of protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Spinach provides more vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, B6, niacin, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and copper per 100 grams than arugula.
This article will examine both foods entirely including a side-by-side nutrient comparison. In addition, I’ll take a close look at their tastes, textures, prices, glycemic index, health benefits and if one can substitute for the other.
Arugula vs Spinach: What’s the Difference?
Although spinach and arugula are both leafy greens, they are from different families. Spinach is originally from Persia and belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. Arugula is from the Brassicaceae family. Spinach is a darker green, thicker and can taste bitter. Arugula is a thinner leaf and tastes spicier and peppery.
What is Arugula?
Arugula is a healthy leafy green popularized in Mediterranean cuisine. It belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
It has a light green color and its leaves are longer and narrower than spinach.
Other common names include garden rocket and eruca. In addition to the leaves, the flowers, seed pods and mature seeds are all edible 1.
What is Spinach?
Spinach is a healthy leafy green originally from Persia. It belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, which also includes beets, chard and quinoa.
Spinach is a dark green and the leaves are oval to triangular. Its leaves are more dense and shorter than arugula.
Spinach is a versatile ingredient and can be used in various dishes alone or combined with other foods 2.
Arugula vs Spinach: A Nutrient Comparison
The following table compares the nutrients contained in raw spinach and arugula per 100 grams.
|Spinach, raw (100 g)||Arugula, raw (100 g)|
|Protein||2.86 g||2.58 g|
|Carbohydrates||3.63 g||3.65 g|
|Fiber||2.2 g||1.6 g|
|Fat||0.39 g||0.66 g|
|Sugar||0.42 g||2.05 g|
|Vitamin A||9,380 IU||2,370 IU|
|Beta-carotene||5,630 mcg||1,420 mcg|
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg||15.0 mg|
|Vitamin K||483 mcg||109 mcg|
|Vitamin D||0 IU||0 IU|
|Vitamin B6||0.19 mg||0.07 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||194 mcg||97 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.08 mg||0.04 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.19 mg||0.09 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.72 mg||0.30 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.07 mg||0.43 mg|
|Magnesium||79 mg||47 mg|
|Phosphorous||49 mg||52 mg|
|Potassium||558 mg||369 mg|
|Iron||2.71 mg||1.46 mg|
|Copper||0.13 mg||0.08 mg|
|Calcium||99 mg||160 mg|
|Zinc||0.53 mg||0.47 mg|
Arugula vs Spinach: Which to Choose?
If you have celiac disease or you’re consuming a gluten free diet, this may remove any of the other comparisons when deciding between the two greens. Therefore, when comparing arugula and spinach, knowing which one is gluten free is important.
Arugula and spinach are gluten free. Therefore, if you have celiac disease, both of them are good options.
Keto or Low-carb Diet
If you’re consuming a Keto or low-carb diet, the number of carbohydrates a food contains may be your priority. Therefore, which has more carbohydrates, arugula or spinach?
Arugula and spinach have a similar number of carbohydrates. Spinach contains 3.63 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams and arugula 3.65 grams. The two amounts are almost equal making both of them a good choice for a low-carb or keto diet.
If you’re counting calories because you’re trying to lose weight, you may be wondering if arugula or spinach is better for weight loss.
Arugula and spinach have a similar amount of calories. Arugula contains 25 calories per 100 grams and spinach 23 calories. The two amounts are almost equal making both of them a good choice for weight loss.
If you’re trying to gain lean muscle by lifting weights at home or in the gym, your protein and carbohydrate intake are important. If you’re bodybuilding you may be curious if arugula or spinach is better for building muscle and exercise.
Arugula and spinach have a similar amount of protein and carbohydrates. Arugula contains 2.58 grams of protein per 100 grams and spinach 2.86 grams. Arugula contains 3.65 grams of carbs per 100 grams while spinach has 3.63 grams.
The two amounts are almost equal making both of them a good choice for bodybuilding.
The Tastes and Textures of Arugula and Spinach
Sometimes it comes down to what tastes better or your mood at the time. Choosing one over the other may come down to taste. Therefore, let’s explore if arugula or spinach tastes better.
Spinach tastes mild to bitter when raw and the flavor becomes stronger when cooked or steamed. Arugula has a spicy or peppery flavor and can taste slightly bitter when cooked. Spinach leaves are denser and hold together better when raw compared to thinner arugula which tears apart easier.
I wanted to conduct original research on the topic, so I reached out to my clients, readers and members of food groups. I asked them, what tastes better, spinach or arugula?
- 46% said they preferred the taste of spinach.
- 42% said they preferred the taste of arugula.
- 12% said they had no preference.
I typically can find either leafy green at the supermarket, especially in the bagged or sealed container section of the produce section. Sometimes I don’t like the freshness of one and have to pick a different leafy green.
Other times I may only have one available at home and don’t feel like running out to the store. For these reasons, knowing if arugula or spinach can substitute for the other can solve the problem.
Although they have a slightly different taste and texture, arugula and spinach can substitute for each other in recipes, salads and side dishes. Both can be used in salads, soups, egg dishes, pastas, on pizza, wraps, sandwiches, smoothies and stir-fries. Substitute using a one to one ratio.
You may want to use both of them in the same dish or salad. Some of the food companies have made this easier for you as they sell a spinach and arugula mix in the same bag or container.
Popular Arugula Uses
You can eat arugula raw or cook it into a variety of dishes. Unlike spinach, arugula is often used as a garnish, but it can also be used in main dishes.
You can also use it as a flavorful, robust garnish on pizzas, pasta, soups or on the side of a hearty meal as a beautiful and delicious accent.
Arugula can be cooked, steamed or simply placed on top of main or side dishes. Like spinach, its flavor becomes slightly milder when cooked with other ingredients.
You can use arugula in:
Popular Spinach Uses
Where can you use spinach and what dishes are they typically used in? Let’s take a look at some of the more popular spinach uses.
You can eat raw, fresh spinach on its own in a light, refreshing salad. This dish is not only easy to make but can be enriched by adding other healthy ingredients to it like:
- Red onions
Adding a homemade vinaigrette can add a significant amount of flavor to your spinach salad without having to sacrifice nutritional value. I often use olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Side and Main Dishes
You can use spinach in many main and side dishes including:
- Appetizers like steamed or sauteed spinach
The Cost of Arugula and Spinach
It seems the price of grocery items keeps getting higher. The cost of food certainly matters to most people. Therefore, let’s examine the prices of arugula and spinach.
Fresh arugula costs more money per ounce than spinach. The cost for fresh arugula averages $0.55 per ounce and spinach averages $0.16 per ounce.
To conduct more original research, I visited some local supermarkets and compared the prices of arugula and spinach. Here are my findings.
First I checked a Walmart Supercenter:
- Marketside bagged fresh spinach
- 10 ounce bag for $1.98. Equals $0.20 per ounce
- Marketside fresh arugula
- 5 ounce container for $2.55. Equals $0.51 per ounce
I then checked my local Shoprite supermarket:
- Bowl and basket chopped spinach
- 10 ounce bag for $1.29. Equals $0.13 per ounce
- Bowl and basket arugula
- 5 ounce bag for $2.99. Equals $0.60 per ounce
The glycemic index measures how fast food raises blood sugar levels 5. Large blood sugar spikes may lead to health complications over time 6. For this reason, avoiding blood sugar spikes as often as possible is an important part of a healthy diet.
Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: 55 or under
- Medium-GI foods: 56-69
- High-GI foods: 70 or over
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index 70 or more cause a quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 56 to 69 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 or less cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
Arugula and spinach are both low glycemic foods and have few carbohydrates per serving. Besides the two, all leafy greens have a low glycemic index, almost unmeasurable in some varieties.
Arugula vs Spinach: Health Benefits
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene
- Raw arugula contains 2,370 IU of vitamin A per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 9,380 IU of vitamin A per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 295% more vitamin A than arugula per 100 grams.
Beta-carotene is a compound present in arugula and spinach. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. As you can see in the table above, arugula contains 1,420 mcg and spinach 5,630 mcg.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 7. An increased number of vitamin A has been shown to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States 8.
According to scientific studies, vitamin A helps the eyes when it comes to dim light vision and dry eyes 9.
Spinach provides a higher percentage of B6, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. Arugula provides a higher percentage of B5. The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Nerve function.
- Brain function.
- Red blood cells.
- Energy levels.
- Cardiovascular disease.
In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 10.
A B vitamin deficiency has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation.
Spinach contains 28.1 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams and arugula 15.0 mg. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and helps with the following:
- Help maintain health gums.
- Collagen production.
- Prevent cell damage.
- May help boost the immune system.
- Increases iron absorption.
- Help heal wounds.
Find out the differences between baby spinach and spinach in my article, Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
- Raw spinach contains 2.2 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
- Raw arugula contains 1.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 37% more fiber than arugula per 100 grams.
Soluble fiber is helpful for many reasons 11. What makes fiber soluble is it dissolves in water.
Soluble fiber is known for the following:
- Help overall digestion.
- Helps to have a more regular stool and avoid constipation.
- Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
- Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less.
Spinach provides a higher percentage of five of the seven minerals listed in the table above. The difference in minerals is significant. Therefore, let’s examine the minerals closer and discuss how they may benefit health.
- Raw arugula contains 369 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 558 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 51% more potassium than arugula per 100 grams.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 12. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid and blood pressure 13.
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 14.
Find out if raw or cooked spinach has more nutrients in my article, Raw Spinach vs Cooked Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
- Raw arugula contains 47 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 79 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 68% more magnesium than arugula per 100 grams.
Magnesium helps the body control the following:
- Systolic and diastolic blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Nerve function
One reason many people supplement with magnesium in the evening is because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels stable and balanced. Recent scientific research examined previous studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure 15.
In the heart and muscles, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat 16.
- Raw arugula contains 160 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 99 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
Arugula provides 61% more calcium than spinach per 100 grams.
Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 17.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Maintain and build strong bones.
Find out if spinach or Swiss chard have more nutrients in my article, Spinach vs Swiss Chard: Which is Better? Complete Comparison.
Find out if collard greens have more nutrients in my article, Collard Greens vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
- Raw arugula contains 52 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 49 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.
Arugula provides 6% more phosphorus than spinach per 100 grams.
Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Help the body manage and store energy.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Muscle contraction and recovery.
- Promote bone and teeth health.
- Raw arugula contains 1.46 mg of iron per 100 grams.
- Raw spinach contains 2.71 mg of iron per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 85% more iron than arugula per 100 grams.
Iron is essential in the creation of red blood cells and is a necessary part of any healthy diet. Iron is also vital for growth and development, as some hormones need iron to be appropriately balanced 18.
Find out if spinach or romaine is healthier in my article, Spinach vs Romaine: Which is Better? An Ultimate Comparison.
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- Wikipedia: Spinach
- USDA: Spinach, raw
- USDA: Arugula, raw
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- National Institutes of Health: Iron
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- USDA: Spinach, baby
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- Oregon State University: Arugula
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