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Spinach vs Arugula: Which one is truly better for you?

Ah, spinach vs arugula – a question I find myself answering quite frequently and – believe it or not – one of my most sought out blog posts! People want to know: what’s the difference between the two, which one is healthier, which one will benefit me more, and so on… So, I decided to research these two, delicious, leafy green vegetables to find out what the difference in their nutrition is.

spinach vs arugula


Let’s start with Arugula in this spinach vs arugula battle.

Arugula’s scientific name is Eruca sativa, and it’s an annual plant native to the Mediterranean region. Other names for arugula are “rocket”, “garden rocket”, “eruca”, and “rocket salad”. (I have to admit, “rocket” sounds a lot cooler than arugula.) I’m not sure how popular or available arugula is in the US. I found it in some Northern Virginia stores, but not all.

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Continuing our discussion on the spinach vs arugula battle, let’s talk about spinach.

The scientific name for Spinach is Spinacia oleracea. (Let’s be real, calling it Spinach is a whole lot easier.) Spinach is native to central and southwest Asia, but anyone who knows about the 2006 e.coli outbreak and 2007 salmonella outbreak, knows that spinach is widely grown in the US.

 

Spinach—3.5 cups Arugula—5 cups
Calories 23 kcal 25 kcal
Fiber 2 g 2 g
Protein 3 g 3 g
Vitamin A 56 % 47 %
Vitamin C 47 % 25 %
Vitamin K 604 % 136 %
Folate (vitamin B 9) 49 % 24 %
Potassium 16 % 11 %
Magnesium 20 % 12 %
Manganese 45 % 16 %
Calcium 10 % 16 %
Iron 15 % 8 %


Spinach leaves are heavier, thicker, and more dense than arugula leaves. They are also darker in color. For the same weight (100 grams in the table below), spinach fills less volume; 3.5 cups vs 5 cups for arugula. The calorie, protein, and fiber content of both vegetables is similar, but the vitamins and minerals tip the scale towards spinach — except for calcium. Spinach has more vitamin A, C, K, folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron.

If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t surprised to find out that spinach is more nutrient dense. The deeper the color of the vegetable, the healthier  it is. But I won’t be cutting out arugula! It’s still a healthy vegetable and it all comes down to taste, as well. If you like it, eat it. I like to mix both in salads – they look great together. Arugula and spinach are also great in pasta dishes! 

One thing I noticed from experience working with my patients with food sensitivities, spinach can cause diarrhea for some people. It contains the natural food chemical tyramine (which is included in for blood test). If a patient is sensitive to spinach or tyramine, it’s better to stick with other greens like arugula, kale, or lettuce. Spinach also contains oxalates that may interfere with absorption of some nutrients.

The bottomline: spinach is slightly healthier, as long a it doesn’t cause any digestion side effects.

 

Some of my favorite recipes that I have shared here on our page are this spinach and arugula salad or this steak and spinach penne. I also have several recipes in my book The Detox Way

Nour’s guidance and expertise was the key to dramatically halting our son’s [Crohn’s] disease progression! His pediatric gastroenterologist is now in agreement of our choice to treat solely with diet and supplements. All his labs have improved and his inflammatory markers are so low they are practically nonexistent.

– M.D.

Before working with Nour, I experienced intestinal pain off and on for for 54 years with minimal success on medications. I have benefited 100% from Nour’s program as I am now pain free!

– L.G.

A lot of time and money was wasted on foods that I thought would help my digestive struggles [diarrhea, bloating, hunger], but in fact I was making it worse. The main benefit is getting a handle on what negatively affects my digestive symptom. Doing a total 180 to my eating habits has been pretty amazing.

– J.V.

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26 thoughts on “Spinach vs Arugula: Which one is truly better for you?”

  1. I love both of these! I prefer cooked spinach over raw and use arugula a lot in my Italian style recipes. Thanks for the info!

  2. thanks for the great info on your website, I tried your yoghurt shanina :)) came in handy in this weather (we have 35 degrees here in switzerland these days)!!!… I wanted to ask you if you recommend some other cooling recipes, I am avoiding the cooker all together these days…

  3. I’m embarrassed to admit it but I have never had arugula (that I know of….). Maybe I have but I just didn’t realize it? Thanks for the nutritional analysis’, now I know what to tell people who ask about it. I know we sell it where I work.

    How do you find out which search phrase is most often used to find your blog??? I want to know!!

  4. Nour El-Zibdeh, RD

    Thank you all for your comments! I’m glad you liked this post and found it useful 🙂

  5. Great blog! I had a feeling spinach would be a bit healthier too! I do however maybe enjoy arugula a tad bit better because of its peppery taste. However, I know spinach also contains two antioxidants that are key for eye health and provide less taste. Having that said, it can be secretly added into dinner meals and even smoothies! shh! 🙂

  6. Nour El-Zibdeh, RD

    Thank you Amy for the comment! I think both are great! I love them both and they add variety to my meals 🙂

  7. I love both– this is very interesting and informative! Rocket or roquette salad is how I refer to arugula. Both, especially when eaten fresh, are an acquired taste but worth trying over and over again. And of course, they both taste better with some shaved goat cheese over the top!

    1. Nour El-Zibdeh, RD

      Thank you Michelle for the comment. Shaved goat cheese is so yummy… also shaved Parmesan 🙂

  8. It’s funny that today i was deciding what kind of salad should I get, Spinach or Arugula. I would like to get the most nutrient salad ever. Without reading your blog, i got Arugula. 🙂
    Now when i am back at my office and see your blog, i realize that i should have got Spinach…. Oh well.. 🙁

    1. Arugula is better in my opinion. The oxalates in spinach can bind to beneficial minerals so that your body can’t absorb them. Arugula has nitric oxide which is good vasodilation. spinach doesn’t have that advantage.

  9. So glad to see this info posted! In the South it is so much easier to grow Argula. It actually will grow like a weed. The flavor mellows when cooked. I like to throw in with scrambled eggs or saute quickly with olive oil. Nutritious and so cheap and quick to grow yourself.

  10. A little more info: “4. All Clear for Calcium

    Nutrients can have trouble getting from the food we eat into our bodies because of compounds that interfere with absorption. Oxalate is one such compound. Oxalate is found in many leafy greens like spinach and collard greens, but on the down side, it can reduce the absorption of calcium. Eating spinach and other oxalate-containing foods may lead to insufficient calcium absorption or other problems in susceptible individuals. According to the Dole Nutrition website, arugula is lower in oxalates than spinach and certain other leafy greens. If you are trying to limit oxalate in your diet, arugula is a good choice of leafy greens.”
    Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/5381-need-health-benefits-arugula/#ixzz1shrACLJY

    1. Thanks JW for stopping by and for leaving a comment. You’re right. Spinach is high in oxalate compared to arugula and it should not be considered a good source of calcium because oxalate interferes with calcium absorption. However, as I mention in my post, 5 cups arugula have 160 mg calcium (16% of DV), and arugula is not considered a good source of calcium anyways. If you’re looking for non-dairy sources of calcium, you’re better off eating kale, bok choy, collard greens, tofu (read labels), tempeh , calcium-fortified orange juice, broccoli, or tahini.

  11. I actually love arugula but don’t really care for the taste of spinach – wish I did. I suspect that kale is better than arugula as well but what are your thoughts on kale as it compares to spinach? It seems those two would be a closer comparison.

    1. Thanks Mike! I wrote this post a long time ago. I think back then, I used to use either arugula or spinach for my salads. Most people wouldn’t eat kale raw, but they would eat spinach or arugula. Since the original post, I’ve started using kale for salads, and my guess is that it’s more nutrient dense than both. That would make a good blog post article! Thanks for inspiring me 🙂

      1. Great blog post! The ANDI scale, which has been adopted to some extent by Whole Foods, has collard greens and kale at the top of the list (1000 points) and significantly better than spinach (739) and arugula (559). I’ve started eating more pre-washed baby kale b/c of this and try to eat more collards, but I prefer them boiled, which takes extra time.

  12. Thanks for the information. Given that my husband and I are working to better our health, these two leafy vegetables will help us in our journey.

    1. Thanks Sharita for stopping by and for leaving a comment. There are many more green leafy vegetable to try.. don’t stop with spinach and arugula!

  13. actually, after some research, I found that spinach is higher in oxalates, which means lower absorption of vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, arugula is also a member of the brassicas family. My conclusion is that arugula is better!

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