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Spinach vs. Turnip greens — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Erna Harutyunyan by Erna Harutyunyan | Last updated on December 18, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Spinach
vs
Turnip greens

Summary

Compared with turnip greens, spinach has higher vitamin Kironmanganesevitamin A RAEmagnesiumvitamin B2potassium, and folate levels. Notably, spinach provides 105% more daily coverage of vitamin K than turnip greens. However, turnip greens are rich in vitamin C and copper. Despite their higher vitamin C content, turnip greens contain only 0.8mg of iron compared to spinach's 3.57mg.

Introduction

Two examples of leafy green veggies are spinach and turnip greens. The primary distinctions and similarities between these two types of greens will be covered in this article, emphasizing nutrition and health. 

Classification

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) belongs to the Amaranthaceae family and the Spinacia genus, sharing botanical ties with vegetables like garden beets and chards. Additionally, although not a vegetable, quinoa is part of the same family; on the other hand, turnip greens are members of the Brassica family, and turnips belong to the Rapa genus within this family. Often called turnip tops, these greens share their botanical lineage with various cruciferous vegetables.

Appearance

Turnip greens and spinach have easily distinguishable characteristics. Spinach has smallrounded, triangular dark-green leaves, while turnips have smaller, typically bright green leaves.

Taste and Use

As it cooks, spinach's taste intensifies due to its higher density. Turnip greens, on the other hand, have a very mild flavor or a slightly bitter taste. The stems are edible but challenging, so they are often removed before cooking. These greens can be steam-cookedboiled, or served raw in a salad or on sandwiches. Other aromatic ingredients like garlic, lemon, turkey bacon, bone broth, black pepper, and cheese go nicely with these greens.

Nutrition

This article's nutritional data is given for 100g of cooked spinach and turnip greens. Both are boiled, drained and contain no added saltOne cup of turnip greens weighs around 144g, whereas the same amount of spinach weighs around 180g.

Macronutrients and Calories

Because they are high in water content, spinach and turnip greens, like other vegetables, are not particularly dense in nutrients. Turnip greens comprise 93% water and 5% nutrients, but spinach is a bit denser, with 90% water and 10% nutrients.

These veggies are mainly composed of carbohydrateswith protein, which has very little fat, coming in second.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Protein +160.5%
Contains more Fats +13%
Contains more Other +69.2%
Contains more Carbs +16.3%
Equal in Water - 93.2
3% 4% 91% 2%
Protein: 2.97 g
Fats: 0.26 g
Carbs: 3.75 g
Water: 91.21 g
Other: 1.81 g
4% 93%
Protein: 1.14 g
Fats: 0.23 g
Carbs: 4.36 g
Water: 93.2 g
Other: 1.07 g
Contains more Protein +160.5%
Contains more Fats +13%
Contains more Other +69.2%
Contains more Carbs +16.3%
Equal in Water - 93.2

Calories

Turnip greens and spinach are low in calories; turnip greens contain fewer calories.

100-gram portion of spinach has 23 calories, compared to turnip greens' 20 calories per 100 grams.

Protein

Spinach is about twice as rich in protein, containing 2.9g per 100g serving. Turnip greens contain 1.14g of protein in the same serving size. Both are not the best sources of protein.

Fats

Turnip greens and spinach contain less than 1g of fat per 100g serving.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -18.9%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +19.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +150%
27% 4% 69%
Saturated Fat: 0.043 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.006 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.109 g
33% 9% 57%
Saturated Fat: 0.053 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.015 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.091 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -18.9%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +19.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +150%

Carbohydrates

Turnip greens are slightly higher in total carbs than spinach. Turnip greens contain 4.36 g of total carbs, whereas spinach contains 3.75g per 100g serving.

Among the carbohydrates in turnip greens, dietary fiber makes up 3,5 g, and sugars make up 0.53 g; in spinach, dietary fiber makes up 2.4g, and sugars make up 0.43g.

Vitamins

Spinach is two times richer in vitamin B1 (thiamin)three times richer in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and 1.5 times richer in vitamin Kfolate, and vitamin A than turnip greens. Spinach covers the recommended daily value of folate by 37%

On the other hand, turnip greens are richer in vitamin C and slightly richer in vitamin B5. However, both have almost the same quantity of vitamin EB3 (niacin), and B6.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin A +37.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +10.6%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +111.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +227.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +19.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +34.4%
Contains more Folate +23.7%
Contains more Choline +6466.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +34.3%
Contains more Vitamin C +179.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +89%
Equal in Vitamin E - 1.88
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 629% 42% 0% 33% 24% 55% 10% 9% 56% 110% 0% 11% 1234%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 458% 38% 0% 92% 12% 17% 8% 17% 42% 89% 0% 1% 920%
Contains more Vitamin A +37.5%
Contains more Vitamin E +10.6%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +111.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +227.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +19.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +34.4%
Contains more Folate +23.7%
Contains more Choline +6466.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +34.3%
Contains more Vitamin C +179.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +89%
Equal in Vitamin E - 1.88

Minerals

Spinach is over 2.5 times richer in manganesetwo times richer in phosphorus and potassiumfour times richer in iron and magnesium, and five times richer in zinc

Spinach is also richer in selenium, whereas turnip greens are more prosperous in sodium and copper. Both contain similar levels of calcium (136 milligrams).

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Iron +346.3%
Contains more Magnesium +295.5%
Contains more Phosphorus +93.1%
Contains more Potassium +129.6%
Contains more Zinc +442.9%
Contains more Manganese +177.4%
Contains more Selenium +66.7%
Contains less Sodium -58.6%
Contains more Copper +45.4%
Equal in Calcium - 137
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 41% 134% 63% 24% 42% 10% 21% 58% 122% 9%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 42% 30% 16% 13% 18% 4% 4% 85% 44% 5%
Contains more Iron +346.3%
Contains more Magnesium +295.5%
Contains more Phosphorus +93.1%
Contains more Potassium +129.6%
Contains more Zinc +442.9%
Contains more Manganese +177.4%
Contains more Selenium +66.7%
Contains less Sodium -58.6%
Contains more Copper +45.4%
Equal in Calcium - 137

Oxalates

The oxalate content of spinach is 490mg per 100 grams, and the oxalate content of turnip greens is 50mg per 100 grams. They are both considered to be high in oxalates.

Acidity

Spinach and turnip greens have PRAL values of -10.3 and -3.6, respectively. This shows us that spinach is significantly more alkaline-forming compared to turnip greens.

Weight Loss and Diets

Both fit into low-calorie diets just as well. Low-carblow-fat, and high-fiber diets may favor spinach. Additionally, spinach is a superior option for a diet low in salt.

Both fit into anti-inflammatory diets, the Dukan diet's "Cruise" and "Consolidation" stages, and the ketoAtkins, and Mediterranean diets.

Thylakoids are plant components found in leafy greens. Studies have shown them to increase fullness and decrease appetite, which lowers food intake and aids in reducing body fat and weight. In addition, thylakoids may control intestinal glucose absorption and function as a probiotic for the bacteria in the colon (1).


 

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

While specific research on turnip greens is still limited, studies on leafy green vegetables, including spinach, suggest promising cardiovascular health benefits. Intake of leafy greens has been associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, serving as a potential first-line prevention method (2). Recent in vitro and in vivo research highlights turnip greens' anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics, contributing to overall health (3). Spinach, in particular, is noted for its cardiovascular benefits, potentially reducing the risk of myocardial infarctionstroke, and overall cardiovascular mortality (4). The high nitrate content in spinach may also improve vascular health by reducing high blood pressure and arterial stiffness (5). 

Diabetes 

Although turnip greens' precise glycemic index values are unknown, it is reasonable to assume that they have low values given their high dietary fiber and low net carbohydrate content. Turnip leaf aqueous extract can lower blood sugar levels in diabetic rats (6). Alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant, is also present in turnip greens. Research has demonstrated that doing this can decrease blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and shield diabetic patients from the damaging effects of oxidative stress by free radicals (7). Similarly, spinach, known for its low sugar content and low glycemic index, possesses properties that contribute to diabetes prevention. The nitrates in spinach have been studied for their ability to improve insulin resistanceenhance nitrate statusregulate blood lipid levels, reduce inflammation, and improve protective endothelial function (8). Moreover, spinach leaves exhibit hypoglycemic qualities by lowering blood glucose levels after meals (9).

  Cancer

Green-leafed vegetables, including turnip greens and spinach, are abundant in phytochemicals that help prevent cancer. Turnip leaves, in particular, contain glucosinolates, a chemical compound associated with effectively reducing the risk of cancer (10).  Studies provide probable evidence that dietary fiber, found in abundance in both turnip greens and spinach, can decrease the risk of breast cancer (11). Additionally, non-starchy vegetables, including these leafy greens, show probable evidence to reduce the risk of aerodigestive cancers such as those affecting the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, stomach, and colorectal areas (12). Furthermore, spinach has a high antioxidant content, which may help prevent cancer (13).  

Downsides and risks

Though spinach and other green leafy vegetables are typically considered very healthful, there are a few things to remember. High concentrations of vitamin K1, essential for blood clotting and may interact with blood-thinning drugs like warfarin, are found in spinach (14). However, the information that is now available points to the possibility that initiating vitamin K antagonist medication may not require changing eating habits. The high oxalates and calcium content of spinach raise further concerns since it may exacerbate kidney stone development. People more susceptible to kidney stones should consume spinach in moderation (15). 

Article author photo Erna Harutyunyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: December 18, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian

Infographic

Spinach vs Turnip greens infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Spinach Turnip greens
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Spinach Turnip greens Opinion
Net carbs 1.35g 0.86g Spinach
Protein 2.97g 1.14g Spinach
Fats 0.26g 0.23g Spinach
Carbs 3.75g 4.36g Turnip greens
Calories 23kcal 20kcal Spinach
Sugar 0.43g 0.53g Spinach
Fiber 2.4g 3.5g Turnip greens
Calcium 136mg 137mg Turnip greens
Iron 3.57mg 0.8mg Spinach
Magnesium 87mg 22mg Spinach
Phosphorus 56mg 29mg Spinach
Potassium 466mg 203mg Spinach
Sodium 70mg 29mg Turnip greens
Zinc 0.76mg 0.14mg Spinach
Copper 0.174mg 0.253mg Turnip greens
Manganese 0.935mg 0.337mg Spinach
Selenium 1.5µg 0.9µg Spinach
Vitamin A 10481IU 7625IU Spinach
Vitamin A RAE 524µg 381µg Spinach
Vitamin E 2.08mg 1.88mg Spinach
Vitamin C 9.8mg 27.4mg Turnip greens
Vitamin B1 0.095mg 0.045mg Spinach
Vitamin B2 0.236mg 0.072mg Spinach
Vitamin B3 0.49mg 0.411mg Spinach
Vitamin B5 0.145mg 0.274mg Turnip greens
Vitamin B6 0.242mg 0.18mg Spinach
Folate 146µg 118µg Spinach
Choline 19.7mg 0.3mg Spinach
Vitamin K 493.6µg 367.6µg Spinach
Tryptophan 0.04mg 0.02mg Spinach
Threonine 0.127mg 0.063mg Spinach
Isoleucine 0.152mg 0.059mg Spinach
Leucine 0.231mg 0.105mg Spinach
Lysine 0.182mg 0.074mg Spinach
Methionine 0.055mg 0.026mg Spinach
Phenylalanine 0.134mg 0.07mg Spinach
Valine 0.168mg 0.078mg Spinach
Histidine 0.066mg 0.028mg Spinach
Saturated Fat 0.043g 0.053g Spinach
Monounsaturated Fat 0.006g 0.015g Turnip greens
Polyunsaturated fat 0.109g 0.091g Spinach

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Spinach Turnip greens
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
170%
Spinach
130%
Turnip greens
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
52%
Spinach
26%
Turnip greens

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Turnip greens
Turnip greens contains less Sodium (difference - 41mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Turnip greens
Turnip greens is lower in glycemic index (difference - 32)
Which food is cheaper?
Turnip greens
Turnip greens is cheaper (difference - $0.2)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Spinach
Spinach is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.1g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Spinach
Spinach is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.01g)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Spinach
Spinach is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Spinach
Spinach is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Spinach - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168463/nutrients
  2. Turnip greens - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170466/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.