Finding ways to incorporate leafy greens into the typical university student diet is tricky. My favourite way of getting a daily dose of antioxidants and phytochemicals? I throw a handful or two of spinach into my smoothie every morning. But recently I started thinking of swapping my spinach for kale. With celebrities like Lucy Hale and Khloe Kardashian singing the praises of kale, it's impossible not to be curious about this cruciferous descendent. Lettuce (ha!) scrutinize the nutritional breakdown and advantages of each leafy green and decide which is better: kale vs spinach.

Why Should I Eat Leafy Greens?

Fruits and vegetables are colourful for a reason—the colours reflect their specific disease fighting phytochemcials. The specific green colour comes from the pigment chlorophyll, which is the same chlorophyll involved in photosynthesis. Dark greens also contain the carotenoid lutein, which is important for vision protection.

Green also indicates the presence of sulforaphane and indole, which are cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Diets higher in leafy greens have been linked to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, lower rates of cardiovascular disease, decreased rates of obesity and diabetes, and better bone health. Leafy greens are, in general, low in calories and high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.


vegetable, herb, kale, broccoli, cabbage
Alex Tom

From kale chips to kale cookies, it's safe to say that the world is obsessed with kale. Kale has secured its status as a superfood due to its extremely high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients. Cancer prevention has been linked to the high concentrations of two type of antioxidants, flavenoids and carotenoids. 

In terms of macronutrient distribution, 1 cup of chopped kale has 34 calories, 6.7g of carbs, 0.5g of fat, and 2.2g of protein. Additionally, kale is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, manganese, and copper. Honourable mentions are also awarded for kale's Vitamins B6 and E, fibre, calcium, and potassium content. 

You may be familiar with protein combining or complementary proteins. A similar concept is food combining, a relatively new science. Recent studies show that kale in combination with lentils enhance the intake of essential vitamins and minerals to prevent micronutrient malnutrition. While this isn't a major issue in developed countries, it could have profound impacts in countries where food insecurity is a daily issue. 

If you're interested in incorporating more kale into your diet, check out this protein-packed kale salad. If you're worried about the bitter taste of kale, I feel your pain and I'd recommend trying this delicious vegan kale soup.


spinach, cabbage, salad, pasture, lettuce, vegetable
Caroline Ingalls

While not as trendy as kale, spinach should be kitchen staple for everyone. In 1 cup of raw spinach there are 6.9 calories, with 1.1g of carbohydrates, 0.1g of fat, and 0.9g of protein. 

Compared to kale, spinach is higher in folate, iron, and magnesium. Folate is another B vitamin that is important for women of child bearing age. Vegans and vegetarians sometimes struggle to meet their iron requirements, making spinach an excellent supplement. Foods high in iron are also beneficial for those diagnosed with anemia. Spinach has six times more magnesium than kale, which promotes restful sleep and muscle relaxation.

There's a lot of "talk" in the internet world about how raw vegetables provide a better vitamin and mineral profile. While folate, Vitamin C, niacin, riboflavin, and potassium are more readily available in raw spinach, raw doesn't always mean better. Oxalic acid present in raw spinach interferes with calcium and iron absorption.  However, steaming or sautéing the spinach breaks down oxalic acid without losing any other nutrients. 

Try this chickpea, spinach, and lentil dahl or mushroom and spinach risotto if you want to get more spinach into your diet.

Which Is Better: Kale vs Spinach?

Both kale and spinach are full of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional benefits. Any dietician would be absolutely thrilled to hear that you're finding ways to integrate more green leafy vegetables into your diet. 

If I was forced to choose a better choice based on nutrient content, kale would be the winner since it does have higher levels of more vitamins, minerals, and protein. But ones' individual nutrient requirements do need to be considered. I would also argue that spinach tastes better and has a more neutral and versatile profile when it comes to cooking. 

The bottom line? There's no need to switch completely to kale simply because it is higher in certain vitamins and minerals and your favourite celebrity said you needed to. Eat kale if you like it. Eat spinach it you prefer the taste. As for me, I'll be sticking to my spinach smoothies, thank you very much.