Spinach vs Lettuce

I love having salad for lunch. It’s a great way to control my daily carb intake. However, when most people think of salads, thoughts of lettuce come to mind. I prefer spinach, and this article is going to break down the differences between spinach vs lettuce. It’s my hope that this article will:

  1. Provide useful information about spinach
  2. Present you with some new ideas for salads
  3. Inspire you to create your own salad recipes and share them

For the sake of this article I will be comparing spinach to iceberg lettuce since it is the most common lettuce used for salads in the US.

spinach vs lettuce

Baby Spinach

spinach vs lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce

Major Comparisons of Spinach vs Lettuce

Spinach Iceberg Lettuce
Nutrient Unit Value per 100 grams Winner
Water g 91.58 95.89 Spinach
Protein g 2.86 1.01 Spinach
Fiber g 2.70 1.40 Spinach
Minerals
Calcium mg 99.00 19.00 Spinach
Iron mg 2.71 0.50 Spinach
Magnesium mg 79.00 9.00 Spinach
Phosphorus mg 49.00 20.00 Spinach
Potassium mg 558.00 158.00 Spinach
Vitamins
Vitamin C mg 28.10 3.90 Spinach
Folate mcg 194.40 56.00 Spinach
Vitamin A, RE mcg 672.00 33.00 Spinach

The Breakdown – Spinach vs Lettuce

Click the following links to learn more about each nutrient, mineral, and vitamin.

Water - You can see that the water content of both spinach and lettuce is relatively the same. For this comparison though, more water equals less room for other vitamins and minerals.

Protein – There is over twice as much protein in spinach compared with lettuce. To learn more about the importance of protein read my other articles Why Use Protein Powder and Protein Substitutes.

Fiber -  Prevents constipation and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes. There is almost twice as much fiber in spinach compared with lettuce.

Calcium – Builds strong bones and prevents osteoporosis. There is five times more calcium in spinach than lettuce!

Iron - Carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. One of the most important differences between these two plants is that spinach has more than five times the amount of iron.

Magnesium - Helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, keeps bones strong, regulates blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is eight times more magnesium in spinach than lettuce.

Phosphorus - Helps filter out waste in the kidneys and plays an essential role in how the body stores and uses energy. It also helps reduce muscle pain after a hard workout. Phosphorus is needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells, and for the production of the genetic building blocks, DNA and RNA. There is two and a half times more phosphorus in spinach than lettuce.

Potassium - Low potassium is associated with a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders, and infertility. There is two and a half times more potassium in spinach than lettuce.

Vitamin C – Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, cataracts, gout, hypertension, diabetes, and the common cold. Spinach has over seven times more vitamin C than lettuce!

Folate - A water-soluble vitamin B, helps produce and maintain new cells and is nearly four times more abundant in spinach than lettuce.

Vitamin A – Has many functions and affects vision, regulation of hormones, immunity, cell growth and development, red blood cell production, nutrient interaction. Spinach has over twenty times more Vitamin A than lettuce. Yes, you read that right, TWENTY TIMES!

There you have it! The breakdown of the major differences between spinach vs lettuce. What do you think? Is there a clear winner?

Convenient

One of my personal favorite and non scientific differences between spinach and lettuce is that it seems (to me anyways) that spinach lasts three times longer in the fridge than lettuce! I don’t have anything other than my observation to back up this claim, but I noticed this difference right away several years ago when I switched over to spinach as the main portion of my salads.

An Extra Boost

I always add additional protein to my salads, usually in the form of tuna fish or chicken. However, tofu or any protein substitute will work. Also, as an extra tip, try adding raisins to your salads for an additional boost in flavor!

What are some of your favorite recipes? Please contribute in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading!

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  • Stephanie Davis

    I love making some Chipolte Lime dressing & putting it on my spinach salad. Easy & tasty:
    1/8c to a 1/4c Olive oil
    Cilantro to taste…(I like about a TBS chopped)
    1/2 of a small chipolte pepper in adobo sauce
    juice of 1 fresh lime
    1 TSP honey

    Mix in a blender…poor over salad. The sweet & spicy lime flavor really sets off the spinach. Enjoy

    • http://www.johnnyfit.com JohnnyFit

      Yum, thank you Stephanie! I love chipotle flavor and lime. I’ll have to try that out!

  • Megan

    I love sweet salads. Any combination of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, mandarin oranges, craisins, etc. tastes good with spinach and raspberry vinaigrette. I tend to use about 1 1/2 c. spinach, 1/2 c. mixed fruits, 1 1/2 tbs. rasp. vinaigrette. I always add 1/8 c. crunchy chow mein noodles for texture. You could add 1/2 oz. almonds instead.

    Thanks for the breakdown on spinach. I watched an episode of Iron Chef yesterday that featured spinach as the main ingredient. One of the judges said that he laughs to himself when he sees people eating spinach salads. He agreed that spinach is higher in nutrient content. However, he also said that if it is left in it’s raw state, the nutrients do not get released into the body. Have you ever heard of this? I haven’t found evidence that confirms or denys it..

    • http://www.johnnyfit.com JohnnyFit

      Hi Megan. All of those berries in your salad sounds fantastic! I’ve had chow mein noodles in a salad before too, and of course I’m a fan of slivered almonds.

      I have not heard that the body is unable to breakdown spinach. In fact, I don’t believe that to be true. I know that healthy fats in your diet actually help your body absorb nutrients from vegetables, and there is evidence that supports this. Here is a WebMD article that is based on a scientific study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20040727/fat-helps-vegetables-go-down

      Healthy fats in your diet from such sources as almonds and nuts, fish, avocados, and olives (including olive oil in salad dressing) would all help you absorb nutrients found in vegetables, including spinach.