Arugula vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison
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.
In addition to coaching clients about them, I’ve purchased, researched and consumed both prior to, during and after writing this article.
What’s the Difference?
Although spinach and arugula are both green leafy vegetables, 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.
It is a dark green and the leaves are oval to triangular. Its leaves are more dense and shorter than arugula.
It’s a versatile ingredient and can be used in various dishes alone or combined with other foods.
Arugula vs Spinach: A Nutrient Comparison
The following table compares the nutrients contained 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|
Spinach generally contains much higher levels of nutrients than arugula.
Green Leafy Vegetables: 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 both, 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?
Both 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 which is better for weight loss.
Both leafy greens 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 which is better for building muscle and exercise.
Both 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.
I mostly choose spinach due to its nutrients and crisp baby spinach’s texture. I’ll add it to salads and into smoothies. When I visit my favorite cafe for lunch they make me a wonderful salad with mixed greens consisting of both.
The Tastes and Textures
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 which one 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?
- 46% said they preferred the taste of spinach.
- 42% said they preferred the taste of arugula.
- 12% said they had no preference.
To conduct more research I setup and participated in a taste test at home. We mixed each one separately into two different salads and blindly tasted each one. All three of us chose the salad with the spinach.
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 which one 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 mix containing both in the same bag or container.
Popular Arugula Uses
You can eat it raw or cook it into a variety of dishes. Unlike spinach, it 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. Its flavor becomes slightly milder when cooked with other ingredients.
You can use it in:
Popular Spinach Uses
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular 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 salad without having to sacrifice nutritional value. I often use olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Side and Main Dishes
You can use it in many main and side dishes including:
- Appetizers like steamed or sauteed
The following video describes how to make an arugula salad.
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 both leafy greens.
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 each one. Here are my findings.
First I visited 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 4. Large blood sugar spikes may lead to health complications over time 5. 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.
The two leafy vegetables provide much health nutrition with vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene
- Spinach provides 295% more vitamin A per 100 grams.
Beta-carotene is a compound present in both foods. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 6. 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 7.
According to scientific studies, vitamin A helps the eyes when it comes to dim light vision and dry eyes 8.
Spinach provides a higher percentage of B6, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. 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 9.
A B vitamin deficiency has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation.
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 these two spinach varieties in my comparison article.
Soluble fiber is helpful for many reasons 10. 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.
Potassium and Blood Pressure
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 11. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid and blood pressure 12.
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 13.
Find out which spinach type has more nutrients in my article.
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 14.
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 15.
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 16.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Maintain and build strong bones.
Find out if Swiss chard has more nutrients in my article.
Find out if collard greens have more nutrients in my article. You may be surprised.
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.
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 17.
Leafy green vegetables are rich in dietary nitrates. They are partially beneficial at improving vascular function of the vessel walls.
Arugula has approximately four times the amount of nitrates. While beneficial, the conversion into nitrites has raised questions about the safety of diets high in nitrates.
However studies have shown the benefits of leafy greens outweighs the concerns. Always check with your physician about questions with your diet, especially if you’re on particular medications.
The following video describes the heath benefits of arugula.
Find out if romaine is healthier in my comparison article. Is it just as good?
Additional Article Resources 18 19
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Spinach vs Lettuce: Which is Better? A Complete ComparisonArticle 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.
- Wikipedia: Eruca vesicaria[↩]
- USDA: Spinach, raw[↩]
- USDA: Arugula, raw[↩]
- Harvard Health Publishing: Glycemic index for 60+ foods[↩]
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Know Your Blood Sugar Numbers: Use Them to Manage Your Diabetes[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Antioxidant potentials of vitamin A and carotenoids and their relevance to heart disease[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Nutrients for the aging eye[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention[↩]
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[↩]
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[↩]
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[↩]
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[↩]
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[↩]
- National Institutes of Health: Iron[↩]
- The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide[↩]
- Google Books: Vegetables[↩]