Mango or Papaya? Spinach or Kale? Food Face-Offs

See how these favorites stack up in the eyes of a dietitian

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Once again, I've decided to compare foods that I'm constantly hearing people talk about. Consider my thoughts below and decide for yourself if you should run (or walk) to the store to buy some soon.

Papaya vs. Mango

Many people get these two confused. Nutritionally they are similar, but flavor-wise they're quite different. One cup of papaya has 55 calories and 2.5 grams of fiber, while 1 cup of mango has 99 calories and 2.6 grams of fiber. According to registered dietitian Tara Gidus, a nutrition consultant in Orlando, Fla., "Mangos are a premier source of vitamins C and A, and contain antioxidant nutrients with lots of health benefits." Papaya is also a good source of vitamins C and A, as well as other nutrients. As for taste, mango has been described as a mixture of sweet and sour, blending the flavors of peach, pineapple, and apricot. Papaya has a sweet, musky flavor, similar to that of ginger and apricots.

Bottom line: Both are extremely nutritious and are great options toward helping you consume enough fruit daily. Enjoy them plain or mixed into a salad or smoothie.

Spinach vs. Kale

Should Popeye have been eating kale over spinach or was he making the right choice? Because he was consuming spinach for iron, he was correct. One cup of spinach meets 36 percent of the recommended daily iron value, whereas kale supplies 6 percent. As for other nutrition facts: one cup spinach has 41 calories, 4.3 grams of fiber, 5.3 grams of protein, 244.8 grams of calcium, and 838.8 milligrams of potassium. The same quantity of kale has 36 calories, 2.6 grams of fiber, 2.5 grams of protein, 93.6 grams of calcium, and 296.4 milligrams of potassium. Besides being an excellent source of potassium and calcium, spinach is a nutritional powerhouse delivering vitamins K, A, C, E, and B2. Kale is also a nutrition winner, packing vitamins K, A, C. As a child, I hated spinach (even though I adored Popeye), but now I love it. I want to love kale too, but my taste buds won't oblige.

Bottom line: Nutritionally, spinach slightly edges kale, but you can't go wrong choosing either. Both are great sautéed, steamed, or added to soups and salads.

Quinoa vs. Oatmeal

I eat oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast. I've been reading a lot recently about people enjoying quinoa as a hot breakfast cereal and I wondered if I should branch out. One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, 3.6 grams of total fat, 5.2 grams of fiber, and 8.1 grams of protein. One cup of oats has 166 calories, 3.6 grams of total fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 5.9 grams of protein. Since I'm a huge fan of any breakfast that serves up both fiber and protein, quinoa has a leg up on oatmeal, since it provides more of each per serving. However, a breakfast cereal can also be about what you put on it. I cook my oatmeal in nonfat milk and top it with low-fat cottage cheese (extra protein) and chia seeds (for extra fiber and healthy omega-3 fats).

Bottom line: Starting your morning with either of these whole grains can be a home run. But if you're like me and aren't ready for a breakfast makeover, try quinoa for lunch or dinner instead.

Greek Yogurt vs. Cottage Cheese

Greek yogurt is all the rage. Almost every nutrition article you read on "superfoods" includes it. As a registered dietitian, I admit that I too am always recommending it to my patients and to the media. Loaded with protein and less sugar than most regular varieties, Greek yogurt makes for the perfect snack or breakfast item. But since I'm also a cottage-cheese lover, I decided to compare the two. A half-cup of 2 percent fat Greek yogurt contains 88 calories, 2.4 grams of total fat, 1.2 grams of saturated fat, 4.8 grams of sugar, 11.2 grams of protein, and 133.6 milligrams of calcium compared to cottage cheese with 102 calories, 2.2 grams of total fat, 1.4 grams of saturated fat, .4 grams of sugar, 15.5 grams of protein, and 78 milligrams of calcium. Surprisingly, cottage cheese has more protein and less sugar per serving than the yogurt, although Greek yogurt does have more calcium.

Bottom line: In my view, cottage cheese deserves a little more limelight. As with any food, it could be a taste thing—which is perhaps why so many of my patients don't love it. I say give it another try.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.