The U.S. Department of Agriculture's My Plate recommends that Americans consume green leafy vegetables on a weekly basis. Spinach and romaine lettuce are excellent choices that are easy to incorporate into a healthy diet because you can prepare and eat these versatile vegetables in several different ways. When compared side by side, spinach has more nutritional and health benefits than romaine lettuce.
Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, iron, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin K. Spinach also provides antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, manganese, zinc and selenium. The antioxidants in spinach help protect your blood vessels from oxidative stress and may decrease risks of developing atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Spinach also has many anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties that have been found to help prevent or slow the development of prostate, breast, skin and stomach cancers. However, spinach contains oxalates, which may inhibit calcium absorption.
While romaine lettuce is not as nutrient-dense as spinach, it is still an excellent source of fiber and vitamins A, K and C. The fiber in romaine helps lower cholesterol and prevents constipation. Romaine contains some of the same antioxidants as spinach that help protect the heart.
Ways to Enjoy
You can eat spinach raw or cooked, and it is delicious in salads or on sandwiches. Boil, steam, sautГ©e or season spinach with herbs and spices such as garlic or cumin for extra flavor. Romaine is a crunchy lettuce leaf you can add to many different types of salads, ranging from a classic garden salad to Waldorf salad. Use a whole romaine leaf instead of a flour tortilla when making wraps. Substituting a romaine leaf for the tortilla reduces the amount of calories and carbohydrate that the wrap has.
Food Safety and Health Concerns
Remember to always wash fresh spinach and romaine lettuce if its packaging does not state it has been washed. The Environmental Working Group's 2012 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in ProduceвЂќ indicates spinach and romaine are foods that commonly have pesticide residues. Pesticides can interfere with many bodily processes, such as the liver's ability to filter toxins. Choosing organically produced spinach and romaine helps prevent exposure to pesticides.
People who are prone to developing gout or other complications of uric acid may need to avoid spinach as it contains purines. Those with untreated kidney and gallbladder disease may need to avoid spinach because oxalates in the vegetable may crystallize and cause adverse health complications.