Broccoli and spinach—the two superheroes of the vegetable world. Vegetable-heavy meals help us achieve optimal health and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
While there is an unlimited variety of vegetables that you can include in your diet, broccoli, and spinach are among the most readily available options. What’s even better is that both are superfoods with high nutrient content. So, in the battle of taste, let the best green win!
What is the main difference in the broccoli vs spinach debate? Broccoli is known to have more carbohydrates than spinach, while raw spinach has more protein.
This article further provides a detailed comparison of broccoli vs spinach regarding their nutrient content, health benefits, culinary uses, and other aspects.
1. Nutritional Differences
When comparing the nutritional value of broccoli and spinach, we should start by looking at each vegetable’s macronutrient and micronutrient profiles.
Broccoli’s Nutritional Profile
According to the USDA, 100g of raw broccoli contains 34 calories. Broccoli has a high-water content – up to 90%.
- 3% protein
- 7% carbohydrates
- 0% fats
A 100g serving of fresh raw broccoli contains:
- 0.4g fat
- 2.8g protein
- 7g carbohydrates
A 100g serving of broccoli contains 2.6g of dietary fiber and 1.7g of sugar. Notably, 1 cup of broccoli contains 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake.
Spinach’s Nutritional Profile
Comparatively, the USDA indicates that 100g of raw spinach contains 23 calories, which is lower than broccoli’s calorie content for a similar portion.
Like broccoli, spinach has a high water content – up to 91%. It contains:
- 3% protein
- 4% carbohydrates
- less than 1% fat
For 100g of raw spinach, this translates to:
- 0.4g fat
- 2.9g protein
- 3.6g carbohydrates
Spinach also contains 2.2g of dietary fiber and only 0.4g of sugar per 100g serving.
Vitamins and Minerals
Key Vitamins in Broccoli
A 100g serving of broccoli contains the following key vitamins and their indicated daily value:
- Vitamin C – 148%
- Vitamin B6 – 10%
- Vitamin K – 128%
Key Vitamins in Spinach
Similarly, spinach contains vitamin C, B6, and K. It has almost as much vitamin K content but a significantly lower vitamin C content than broccoli.
A 100g serving of raw spinach contains:
- Vitamin C – 46%
- Vitamin B6 – 10%
- Vitamin K – 121%
Mineral Content in Broccoli
Here is an overview of the key mineral content in broccoli in relation to the daily recommended value for a 2000-calorie diet:
- Sodium – 1%
- Potassium – 9%
- Iron – 3 %
- Magnesium – 5%
- Calcium – 4%
Mineral Content in Spinach
Spinach has a similar mineral profile as broccoli, including sodium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. However, it has a higher micronutrient content than broccoli. For example, it has up to five times higher iron content than broccoli, twice more calcium, and four times the magnesium.
Here is an overview of the key mineral content in spinach in relation to the daily recommended value for a 2000-calorie diet:
- Sodium – 3%
- Potassium – 15%
- Iron – 15%
- Magnesium – 19%
- Calcium – 9%
2. Health Benefits
Broccoli’s Health Benefits
Broccoli has a wide range of health benefits we can take advantage of, including:
- Antioxidant properties. Antioxidants break down free radicals naturally produced in the body due to metabolism and environmental stress.
- Potential cancer-fighting properties. Cancer is linked to oxidative stress. Broccoli has antioxidant properties that lower the risk of cancer. Studies particularly link sulforaphane to preventing the formation of cancerous cells.
- Supports digestive health. Broccoli’s high dietary fiber and water content support digestive health. Fiber promotes healthy bowel movement and helps maintain the gut flora balance.
Spinach’s Health Benefits
- Rich source of iron and folate. Spinach has a high iron and folate content. Both are essential for the production of red blood cells and anemia prevention.
- Promotes eye health. Spinach contains lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants. The two help to reduce the harmful effects of blue light on the eyes. They also lower the risk of aging-related eye diseases.
- May help lower blood pressure. Spinach contains nitrates which are converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide promotes relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, consequently lowering blood pressure.
3. Culinary Uses
Broccoli in Cooking
Broccoli is a versatile veggie often used in delicious and nutritious salads, soups, stews, stir-fries, casseroles, and pasta dishes. It is the Hulk of the vegetable world! With each bite, you can practically feel your muscles growing.
Cooking Methods for Broccoli
Due to its versatility, broccoli can be steamed, stir-fried, roasted, grilled, or boiled. Unfortunately, deep-frying is not a recommended cooking method for this particular veggie. Be sure to maintain the right temperature to avoid overcooking or undercooking your broccoli.
Spinach in Cooking
Spinach was always Popeye’s secret weapon, which I’m sure we’ve all mentioned trying to get the kids to eat it. The truth is, spinach can be used in a ton of different recipes, including salads, smoothies, fresh juices, soups, stews, and stir-fries. It can also be used in an array of different wraps and sandwiches. I love the versatility of this vegetable.
Cooking Methods for Spinach
Spinach is more delicate than broccoli. So, the best methods for cooking spinach are sautéing, steaming, blanching, baking, and roasting. Grilling, boiling, and deep frying are not recommended.
4. Taste and Texture
Flavor Profile of Broccoli
Broccoli has an earthy, lightly bitter taste. The exact flavor depends on the freshness of the broccoli and the method used to cook it. Fresh broccoli can have subtle nutty undertones.
Texture of Cooked Broccoli
The texture of cooked broccoli can range from soft and tender to crisp and crunchy, depending on the cooking method and timeframe. Overcooking results in mushy broccoli. Stir-frying and roasting achieve tender and crispy broccoli florets.
Flavor Profile of Spinach
Raw spinach has an earthy, slightly bitter taste. When cooked, the bitterness reduces. Cooking can also bring up other flavors depending on the ingredients used. Cook spinach with garlic, lemon, or olive oil for milder flavors. For a stronger flavor, you can cook spinach with ingredients like ginger, cumin, or feta cheese.
Texture of Cooked Spinach
When cooked, spinach wilts and reduces in volume. It becomes tender and soft, with a silky texture. The longer you cook it, the softer it becomes. If you cook it long enough, it will get mushy. Stir fry or sauté the spinach for a few minutes to retain firmness.
5. Cost and Availability
Average Cost and Availability of Broccoli
The average cost of broccoli is about $1.5-$5 per head. The exact cost varies depending on the size of the broccoli and where you buy it. The price also changes with shifts in supply and demand. Frozen broccoli is generally cheaper than fresh broccoli.
Broccoli is readily available throughout the year in the US. You can buy it at a nearby grocery store or order online from Instacart, Aldi, and Whole Foods Market.
Average Cost and Availability of Spinach
The average price of spinach in the US is about $0.63-$1.59 per pound. You can buy it raw or frozen, but you will likely see frozen spinach at more affordable prices.
Spinach is also available throughout the year in the US and can be bought at your nearest grocery store or even the farmers’ market.
6. Common Uses and Recipes
Incorporating Broccoli in Salads
You can incorporate cooked or raw broccoli in salads for an even more nutritious twist on a classic. Raw broccoli adds a crispy and crunchy texture to your salad, while steamed or blanched broccoli adds a softer texture. For salad recipes, cut the broccoli into florets or grate it. Broccoli pairs well with most of the commonly used ingredients for salads.
Broccoli in Stir-Fries and Pasta Dishes
Broccoli adds a vibrant green color and crunchy texture to stir-fries and pasta dishes. It also increases their nutritional value.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a delectable broccoli stir-fry:
- Cut up a broccoli head into bite-sized florets.
- Blanch them in boiling water for 1-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil over high heat in a large skillet.
- Try adding garlic and ginger for extra flavor.
- Add the blanched florets and cook for a few minutes until tender and crisp.
- Season to your preference.
For pasta dishes:
- Cut the broccoli into florets and blanch them.
- Boil the pasta until al dente.
- Place a separate pan on the stoke and preheat it over medium to high heat.
- Add oil, onion, and garlic.
- Sauté the onion and garlic.
- Add the blanched florets and cook until tender and crisp.
- Then, drain the pasta and add it to the pan.
- Toss all the ingredients until well-mixed. Season to your preference.
- You can serve it with additional toppings such as pasta, pine nuts, and cheese.
Adding Spinach to Smoothies
Spinach is a commonly used ingredient for green smoothies. It blends easily and combines well with other ingredients. When used in smoothies this way, it is easy to hide it from the kids!
For best results, use fresh spinach. Rinse it properly to remove dirt from the leaves. You may blanch it for about 1-2 minutes as an extra cleaning measure and to tone down any bitterness. Add a sufficient amount to your blender alongside other ingredients. Blend until smooth.
Spinach in Salads and Sautés
You can add raw or cooked spinach to your salad. It combines well with a variety of salad ingredients.
Broccoli vs Spinach FAQ
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