As a Certified Health Coach, I spend much time educating people about healthy foods including spinach. Baby spinach and spinach are both popular but is there a difference?
Baby spinach and spinach are the same plant harvested at different times. Baby spinach is younger and has only grown for two to four weeks while regular, mature spinach grows for almost two months before harvesting. Baby spinach has smaller leaves and tastes sweeter than the more bitter mature spinach.
This article will examine their tastes, textures, prices and if one can substitute for the other. In addition, I’ll include which dishes are better for each spinach and examine the differences in their nutrients.
Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Differences
The following are differences between baby spinach and spinach:
- Baby spinach is harvested after 2 to 4 weeks while mature spinach is harvested approximately 1 1/2 to 2 months.
- Baby spinach leaves are small, growing up to two inches. Mature spinach leaves are larger, but some may be small.
- Mature spinach leaves are a darker green and thicker than baby spinach.
- Baby spinach tastes sweeter and juicier than spinach which is more bitter and earthy.
- Baby spinach costs more than spinach.
- Baby spinach is better consumed raw and spinach cooked.
Baby Spinach and Spinach Taste and Texture
Besides the size of the spinach leaves, the taste and texture is the biggest difference between the spinaches. Therefore, what is the difference in taste between baby spinach and spinach?
Spinach has a bitter and earthy taste. Baby spinach has a hint of bitterness and earthiness but is sweeter and more mild than spinach. Baby spinach is juicier and more tender. The bitterness of mature spinach lessens when cooked.
I wanted to conduct original research and find out what real people like you thought about the taste of baby spinach and spinach. Therefore, I polled my clients, readers and people belonging to food groups and asked, what tastes better, baby spinach or spinach?
- 44% said they preferred the taste of spinach.
- 41% said they preferred the taste of baby spinach.
- 15% said they had no preference.
Your personal preference is the deciding factor between which type of spinach you purchase. Both are delicious and can aid different culinary creations.
Some of the flavor qualities you may find in baby spinach are:
- Baby spinach can be creamy and works great with dishes delivering that flavor.
- Baby spinach has a soft consistency. The texture may be important if you are eating it raw.
- Baby spinach has earth tones, but it has a vibrant flavor.
On the other hand, mature spinach has specific taste qualities as well:
- Spinach leaves are crispy and thick, making them crunchy when you eat.
- The flavor of mature spinach is earth-like and not as tasty as baby spinach.
- Mature spinach is excellent for salads, sandwiches and earthy recipes.
Give both types of spinach a try for yourself, and see which one you prefer. Next, let’s examine which spinach is better for different cooking methods.
Which Type of Spinach to Cook
Besides the taste, choosing a particular spinach for the dish you’re planning is important. Baby spinach and spinach are known to work well with specific culinary dishes.
Mature spinach is better for cooking while baby spinach is more suitable for raw consumption. Baby spinach turns slimier and mushier when cooked compared to spinach. The less bitter baby spinach is better for salads, wraps, smoothies and sandwiches.
Baby spinach is better for the following:
Spinach is better for the following:
- Pizza topping
- Any type of cooking.
Either spinach can be used raw or for cooking but for the best results most people follow the suggestions above.
Cooking with Spinach
When cooking, add a more significant amount than may be necessary. The spinach will shrink in size, and your portion may appear to be much smaller. Baby spinach tends to be tasteless and has a mushy texture to it when it is heated.
Spinach is earthy in flavor and a bit bitter. However, the flavors of spinach increase when heated. Spinach’s texture also changes when heated because it is a hydrating vegetable.
If you are interested in cooking with spinach, here are a few foods and seasonings pairing well with this vegetable making it a delicious dish:
- Olive oil
- Sliced almonds
Before cooking with spinach, it’s best to prepare. Follow these three steps to prepare your spinach before cooking:
- Wash the spinach with cold water.
- Prepare it by trimming, if needed, to curate nice and tender leaves.
- You can wash the spinach a second time and dry the leaves if desired.
Starting with the optimum spinach from the start is important for freshness and storage. Therefore, when shopping choose the spinach following these tips:
- Choose spinach with the darkest green leaves.
- Avoid leaves which are yellowing.
- Avoid wilted leaves and choose crispy ones.
If cost is a factor, let’s examine which spinach costs less.
Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Prices
Prices seem to go up every time I visit the supermarket. Since the cost of food matters to most people let’s take a look at the prices for both foods and determine which cost more, baby spinach or spinach.
Baby spinach cost more money per ounce than spinach. The cost for baby spinach averages $0.33 per ounce and spinach averages $0.16 per ounce.
To conduct some original research, I visited local supermarkets and checked the prices of baby spinach 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 baby spinach
- 11 ounce container for $3.98. Equals $0.36 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 baby spinach
- 16 ounce container for $4.99. Equals $0.31 per ounce
Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Nutrient Comparison
The following table compares the nutrients contained in baby spinach and mature spinach per 100 grams.
|Spinach (100 g)||Baby Spinach (100 g)|
|Protein||2.91 g||2.85 g|
|Carbohydrates||2.64 g||2.41 g|
|Fiber||1.6 g||1.6 g|
|Fat||0.60 g||0.62 g|
|Beta-carotene||3,670 mcg||3,400 mcg|
|Vitamin C||30.3 mg||26.5 mg|
|Vitamin D||0 IU||0 IU|
|Vitamin B6||0.21 mg||0.20 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||113 mcg||116 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.07 mg||0.07 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.19 mg||0.19 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.51 mg||0.55 mg|
|Magnesium||93 mg||93 mg|
|Phosphorous||41 mg||39 mg|
|Potassium||460 mg||582 mg|
|Iron||1.05 mg||1.26 mg|
|Copper||0.08 mg||0.08 mg|
|Calcium||67 mg||68 mg|
|Zinc||0.42 mg||0.45 mg|
Baby spinach and spinach have a similar number and percentage of nutrients. Baby spinach provides a little more potassium and iron while spinach provides a little more protein, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
The small differences in nutrients between the two don’t make baby spinach or spinach healthier than the other.
Baby spinach and spinach have a similar number of calories, carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, calcium and zinc.
Therefore, baby spinach and spinach are both good options for the following:
- Losing weight
- Low-carb or Keto diets
- Gluten free diets
Find out if kale or spinach had more nutrients in my article, Kale vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Baby Spinach and Spinach Health Benefits
Since the nutrients provided are similar, the health benefits offered from eating either food is also similar. Let’s examine how the nutrients provided by baby spinach and spinach benefit health.
- Baby spinach contains 26.5 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.
- Spinach contains 30.3 mg of vitamin C per 100 grams.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and helps with the following:
- Prevent cell damage.
- Help heal wounds.
- May help boost the immune system.
- Collagen production.
- Increases iron absorption.
- Help maintain health gums.
- Spinach provides a higher percentage of B6.
- Baby spinach provides a higher percentage of folate and niacin.
The B vitamins provided by both include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Brain function.
- Nerve function.
- Energy levels.
- Red blood cells.
- Cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene
- Spinach contains 3,670 mcg of beta carotene per 100 grams.
- Baby spinach contains 3,400 mcg of beta carotene per 100 grams.
Beta-carotene is a compound present in arugula and spinach. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
According to scientific studies, vitamin A helps the eyes when it comes to dim light vision and dry eyes 3.
Besides eye health, 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 4.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 5.
- Spinach contains 41 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.
- Baby spinach contains 39 mg of phosphorus per 100 grams.
Phosphorus has been shown in scientific studies to help with the following:
- Promote teeth and bone health.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Help the body manage and store energy.
- Muscle contraction and recovery.
Find out if collard greens are better in my article, Collard Greens vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
- Spinach contains 93 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.
- Baby spinach contains 93 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.
Magnesium helps the body control the following:
- Muscle function
- Nerve function
- Blood sugar
- Systolic and diastolic blood pressure
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 6.
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 7.
- Spinach contains 460 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
- Baby spinach contains 582 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid therefore reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure 8.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 9. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming not enough potassium or too much sodium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 10.
- Baby spinach contains 68 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
- Spinach contains 67 mg of calcium per 100 grams.
Calcium helps the following:
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- Helps nerve function.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
In addition, 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 11.
- Spinach contains 1.05 mg of iron per 100 grams.
- Baby spinach contains 1.26 mg of iron per 100 grams.
Iron is a necessary part of any healthy diet 12 and may help with the following:
- Vital for development and growth.
- Is essential the creation of red blood cells.
- Help some hormones remain balanced.
- Help the immune system.
Find out if raw or cooked spinach has more nutrients in my article, Raw Spinach vs Cooked Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 13. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 14.
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
Since avoiding high levels of blood sugar is an important part of consuming healthy food, many people wonder about the glycemic index of baby spinach compared to spinach.
Baby spinach and spinach are both low glycemic foods and shouldn’t cause any spikes in blood sugar.
Besides the two, all leafy greens have a low glycemic index.
Read More Spinach Food vs Food Articles
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- USDA: Spinach, baby
- USDA: Spinach, mature
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Nutrients for the aging eye
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Antioxidant potentials of vitamin A and carotenoids and their relevance to heart disease
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- National Institutes of Health: Iron
- 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
- The University of Sydney: Your GI Shopping Guide
- Google Books: Vegetables
- Harvard Health Publishing: Vegetable of the month: Leafy greens
- Harvard Health Publishing: Salad greens: Getting the most bang for the bite
- Harvard Health Publishing: Chopped, uncooked spinach offers more antioxidants
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Fresh Spinach with Sesame Seeds
- Wisconsin Horticulture: Spinach, Spinach oleracea
- University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: What to do with Spinach?