Informing people about healthy foods like spinach and Swiss chard is part of my Health Coaching job. Many of my clients want to know if one is superior to the other. Let’s answer which is better, spinach or Swiss chard?
Spinach is better than Swiss chard due to its higher percentage of protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Spinach provides 50% more iron, 1,280% more folate, 47% more potassium, 53% more Vitamin A and 94% more calcium. Swiss chard is more difficult to find in stores and costs more per ounce.
This article will examine their tastes, textures, prices, glycemic indexes, health benefits and whether one can substitute for the other. In addition, I’ll include a side-by-side nutrient comparison.
Spinach vs Swiss Chard Comparison
They both look similar. This makes some people wonder if they are related. Let’s take a closer look at the two.
Spinach and Swiss chard are both green leafy vegetables but they are from different cultivar groups and species. The Swiss chard species is Beta vulgaris and the spinach species is Spinacia oleracea. Swiss chard leaves may be green or red coloring and the stems red, yellow or white while spinach is all green.
Although some chard or Swiss chard nicknames include the word spinach, they are not the same. Some chard nicknames are:
- Swiss chard
- Silver beet
- Beet spinach
- Perpetual spinach
- Leaf beet
The following table compares the nutrients contained per 100 grams.
|Spinach, raw (100 g)||Swiss Chard, raw (100 g)|
|Protein||2.86 g||1.80 g|
|Carbohydrates||3.63 g||3.74 g|
|Fiber||2.2 g||1.6 g|
|Fat||0.39 g||0.20 g|
|Sugar||0.42 g||1.10 g|
|Vitamin A||9,380 IU||6,120 IU|
|Beta-carotene||5,630 mcg||3,650 mcg|
|Vitamin C||28.1 mg||30.0 mg|
|Vitamin K||483 mcg||830 mcg|
|Vitamin D||0 IU||0 IU|
|Vitamin B6||0.19 mg||0.10 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||194 mcg||14 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||0.40 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.07 mg||0.17 mg|
|Magnesium||79 mg||81 mg|
|Phosphorous||49 mg||46 mg|
|Potassium||558 mg||379 mg|
|Iron||2.71 mg||1.80 mg|
|Copper||0.13 mg||0.18 mg|
|Calcium||99 mg||51 mg|
|Zinc||0.53 mg||0.36 mg|
Both vegetables are nutrient dense. At first glance it may be difficult to determine which is healthier.
Spinach is healthier than Swiss chard because it provides more protein, fiber, vitamin A, B6, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium and zinc.
Swiss chard is healthy also and provides more of the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Find out how each one of these nutrients benefit health in the lower section of this article.
Which to Choose?
Choosing one food or the other may depend on your particular goals. This section will examine the four most popular goals and determine which of the two foods is better for them.
This goal is an easy one to determine. For people who have celiac disease, whether one food contains gluten will automatically make the decision which to choose.
Some people prefer following a gluten free diet, therefore it’s important also. Let’s answer which one is gluten free.
Spinach and Swiss chard are gluten free. Therefore, both foods are good options for a gluten free diet.
Keto Diets or Low-carb
If you’re considering one of these diets or currently consuming low-carb foods, the number of carbs may make a huge difference in your choice. Therefore, let’s examine which one has more carbohydrates.
Swiss chard has 3.74 grams of carbohydrates, and spinach has 3.63 per 100 grams. Spinach provides 0.11 grams fewer than Swiss chard. That’s 3% fewer carbohydrates per 100 grams making spinach better for low-carb diets.
The difference isn’t large and choosing one over the other may not matter much. Although when limiting the total daily amount, every gram can make a difference.
The number of calories per serving matters a whole bunch if weight loss is the goal. Let’s examine how many calories per serving each one contains.
Spinach has 23 calories, and Swiss chard has 19 calories per 100 grams. Swiss chard provides 4 fewer calories than spinach. While this number may not seem like much, it equals 21% less calories making Swiss chard better for weight loss.
The difference is minimal and choosing one over the other may not make much of a difference. Although when counting calories every little bit may help as the total is calculated for the day.
If gaining lean muscle mass is your goal then the amount of protein and carbohydrates may matter to you.
Healthy carbohydrates help to increase performance and fuel energy when exercising or lifting weights. It’s why marathon runners consume many carbs the day and night before the big race.
Any extra protein helps to build and repair muscle after putting them through a good workout. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at which is better for bodybuilding.
Spinach is better than Swiss chard for bodybuilding due to its higher percentage of protein. Spinach provides 2.86 grams of protein and Swiss chard 1.80 grams per 100 grams. Spinach provides 59% more protein per 100 grams.
In addition, spinach provides a few more calories which may help when trying to bulk up. The carbohydrate number between the two is similar.
Taste and Texture
Let’s face it, if someone doesn’t like the way a food tastes, they will probably leave it on the store shelf. Therefore, let’s examine how the taste and texture of each one compares.
Swiss chard has a slightly bitter taste when raw compared to the slightly milder spinach. Cooked Swiss chard loses the bitterness and tastes milder and sweeter, similar to spinach. The spinach and Swiss chard leaves have a similar texture when raw and both wilt when cooked.
The stem of the Swiss chard leaf is crunchy with a sweet flavor.
I wanted to conduct original research and get the opinion of real people like you. So I reached out to some of my clients, readers and members of food groups and asked, what tastes better, spinach or Swiss chard?
- 46% said they preferred the taste of spinach.
- 42% said they preferred the taste of Swiss chard.
- 12% said it depended on their mood.
In the battle of taste, spinach had a slight win over Swiss chard.
Sometimes people want to substitute one for the other due to taste, price or availability. This makes some people wonder if they can substitute Swiss chard for spinach.
Due to their similar tastes and textures, Swiss chard and spinach can substitute for each other in raw or cooked recipes. When substituting, use a one to one ratio for raw or cooked dishes. Depending on how you trim their leaves, Swiss chard may involve slightly longer preparation time to trim the stems.
Other substitutions for Swiss chard or spinach include the following:
- Bok choy
- Green leaf lettuce
- Butterhead lettuce
- Iceberg lettuce
- Beet greens
- Mustard greens
They both can be used in the following preparations:
The price of foods purchased every week is important to most people, especially with inflation the way it is. Let’s take a close look at how much each one costs.
The price for fresh Swiss chard and spinach are similar. The average price for Swiss chard is $0.19 per ounce. The average price for spinach is $0.18 per ounce.
To conduct my own original research, I visited some local supermarkets and compared the prices. Here are my findings.
First I checked Walmart:
- Marketside bagged fresh spinach
- 10 ounce bag $1.98. Equals $0.20 per ounce
I then checked my local Shoprite supermarket:
- Fresh spinach bundle
- 12 ounces for $1.87. Equals $0.16 per ounce
- Fresh Swiss chard bundle
- 16 ounces for $2.99. Equals $0.19 per ounce
I then checked FreshDirect online:
- Fresh Swiss chard
- 16 ounces for $2.99. Equals $0.19 per ounce
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale measuring how fast a particular food raises the blood sugar in the blood 3. Blood sugar spikes can lead to health complications with the heart, nerves, kidneys and eyes 4.
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.
Let’s examine which food has a higher glycemic index.
Swiss chard and spinach have low glycemic indexes and are considered low GI foods. Either food is a good choice avoiding many blood sugar spikes.
Compare the benefits of baby spinach and mature spinach in my article, Baby Spinach vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
This section will examine the health benefits of the nutrients provided by both foods. Each section includes the benefits of each nutrient and a breakdown of the numbers and percentages provided by each vegetable.
Swiss Chard Health Benefits
- Swiss chard provides 6.7% more vitamin C than spinach per 100 grams.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and helps with the following:
- Prevent cell damage.
- May help boost the immune system.
- Collagen production.
- Help heal wounds.
- Increases iron absorption.
- Help maintain health gums.
- Swiss chard provides 72% more vitamin K than spinach per 100 grams.
Vitamin K comes in two forms. Phylloquinone is the one found in spinach and Swiss chard.
Vitamin K helps to make various proteins needed to help with the following:
- Heart disease
- Blood clotting
- Bone health
Vitamin K, through the production of proteins, help to prevent hardening or calcification of the arteries 5.
- Swiss chard provides 2.5% more magnesium than spinach per 100 grams.
Magnesium helps the body control the following:
- Nerve function
- Blood pressure
- Muscle function
- Blood sugar
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 6.
Many people supplement with magnesium in the evening because it helps calm the whole body including blood vessels.
Find out if kale or spinach had more nutrients in my article, Kale vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Spinach Health Benefits
- Spinach provides 94% more calcium than Swiss chard per 100 grams.
Calcium helps the following:
- Helps nerve function.
- Help the muscles to function properly.
- 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 7.
- Spinach provides 47% more potassium than Swiss chard per 100 grams.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 8. The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose.
- Spinach provides 50% more iron than Swiss chard per 100 grams.
Iron is a necessary part of any healthy diet 9 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.
Vitamin A & Beta Carotene
Spinach provides more of both but Swiss chard provides a good amount also.
- Spinach provides 53% more vitamin A than Swiss chard per 100 grams.
Spinach provides 54% more beta carotene than Swiss chard per 100 grams.
Beta-carotene is a compound present in both foods. 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 10.
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 11.
In addition, vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 12.
Another health benefit of spinach is an electrolyte replacement. Find out more in my article, 17 Best Gatorade Substitutes.
Spinach provides a higher percentage of B6, folate, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin. Swiss chard provides a higher percentage of B5 but also contains the other B vitamins.
The B vitamins provided include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Brain function.
- Nerve function.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Red blood cells.
- Energy levels.
Find out if collard greens are better in my article, Collard Greens vs Spinach: Which is Better? A Comparison.
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- USDA: Spinach, raw
- USDA: Chard, Swiss, 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
- Harvard T.H. Chan: Vitamin K
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure
- National Institutes of Health: Iron
- 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