Turkey vs Beef - Nutrition comparison: Protein, Cholesterol & more
Beef and turkey are generally similar in protein and cholesterol content. However, beef contains approximately two times more fats. They both are rich sources of different vitamins and minerals.
Neither turkey nor beef is healthier than the other, but skin-free turkey is beneficial for decreasing cardiovascular, diabetes, and cancer risks.
Table of contents
Turkey or beef? It is often hard to decide what to eat and what is healthier. The first one is the world's second most popular poultry meat, but the second one is more traditional. Here we will explore the two from a scientific perspective focusing on nutrition and health.
Beef is classified as red meat due to its high content of myoglobin and therefore iron. Turkey is considered white meat and is lighter in color, so it has a lower content of myoglobin and iron bound to it. The main difference between these two kinds of meat is noticeable to the blind eye.
Meat characteristics can vary depending on the conditions they kept the animal in, the age or weight, and other aspects.
The turkey can be divided into three main parts: the breast, the wings, and the legs. The breast and wing meat tend to be lighter, while the leg meat is darker. It is so because the turkey is a flightless bird, and its leg muscles are better developed.
Depending on its location, beef is also divided into some parts: the chuck (shoulder), the brisket and shank (breast), the rib, the sirloin (hip), the short loin, the short plate, the flake, and the round (2). All the types of meat mentioned have different qualities and differ by preparation methods.
Here we will compare the nutritional values of a roasted whole turkey with meat and skin and a broiled ground beef, consisting of 85% of lean meat and 15% of fat. It's important to remember that the nutritional values of the meats specified here may differ from those of other varieties.
Turkey meat is richer in proteins, while beef contains more calories. Both of them do not contain a significant number of carbohydrates.
Beef contains less cholesterol than turkey. They both are rich in vitamins of group B.
Now we will have a closer look at every kind of nutrient present in these types of meat.
Animal protein usually contains all nine essential amino acids needed for the growth of the body. Both beef and turkey meat are good sources of protein.
Turkey contains 28.5g of protein in a 100g serving (3), while beef provides 25.9g of it (4). Sirloin is the beef cut with the highest protein content. For health-conscious steak eaters, it's one of the best options.
When beef is processed, its proteins suffer a great deal of damage.
Beef sausages and steaks, on average, offer two times less protein than broiled, ground beef. The protein composition of the turkey does not usually change during processing.
As a source of essential amino acids, turkey meat is rich in lysine, leucine, and tryptophan (5). Beef contains a notable amount of lysine, leucine, and valine (6). The protein found in both of these meats has significantly high quality.
Compared to turkey meat, beef is almost two times higher in fats. The 100g serving of beef provides 15.4g of fats, while the same amount of turkey contains 7.39g of lipids. There is a direct proportion in the processing of meat and fat content. Processed turkey items, such as sausages and bacon, have about 2-3 times the fat content of unprocessed turkey products. Beef also follows this trend.
Despite being higher in fats, beef is lower in cholesterol. The Cholesterol amount in 100g of beef is 90mg, while the same portion of turkey contains 109g of it. You should know that the fat of turkey is primarily located in its skin; therefore, removing the skin means reducing the fat intake. The fattiest section of the beef is the rib. For this reason, it has the highest content of calories and saturated fats. It should be broiled under high temperatures for fats to be cooked.
Turkey meat is an excellent source of B complex vitamins. It is higher in vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6. Turkey is especially rich in vitamin B3 (niacin) and provides nearly two times more of it per serving. 9.573mg of niacin is found in a 0g of turkey, while the same amount of beef contains 5.378mg of it.
On the other hand, beef covers approximately 60% of vitamin B12 daily needs. So, when you enjoy burgers or steaks, your favorite cut of beef offers lots of vitamin B12.
Turkey and beef provide nearly all the essential minerals, each of them at different levels. Beef has a considerably high amount of Iron, Zinc, Calcium, and Potassium, but the turkey is richer in Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Sodium.
Before being prepared, some turkey products, such as bacon, are cured with sodium nitrate. Therefore, turkey bacon has a higher salt content. Processed beef's sodium content is also high. It can result in cardiovascular problems. As a result, you should pay attention to the salt content of processed meat products.
It is debatable how red meat, such as beef, contributes to cardiovascular disease. A likely contributor is the saturated fat content in red meat. The American Health Association recommends limiting the amount of red meat in the everyday diet.
Furthermore, fats are not the only cause of heart diseases present in red meat. Beef contains carnitine and choline, and when being processed in the human gut, these compounds produce a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of TMAO in the blood increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and hardened arteries (7).
In contrast, poultry meat, such as turkey, decreases cardiovascular risk (8). It may be explained by the lower fats, heme iron, and sodium in white meat. Turkey meat is the winner of this category.
Most studies show that red meat and poultry increase the risk of developing diabetes. People who use meat have a higher probability of developing diabetes than those who do not consume meat at all.
People with diabetes should avoid high fat and processed meat products. They should not use prime cuts of beef, such as ribs. Lean turkey breast meat without the skin is better (9).
The risk of diabetes mellitus type two is also connected to the preparation method of meat. When cooked at a high temperature, the risk increases - grilled, roasted, or barbequed (10). Hence, cooking methods at moderate temperatures, like boiling, steaming, or stir-frying, are recommended.
There is a negative link between red and processed meat consumption and cancer. The American Cancer Society claims that colorectal cancer is the primary reason for limiting these products in everyday diet (11).
Conversely, poultry meat tends to decrease the risk of esophagus, liver, colorectal, lung, and breast cancer. Substitution of red meat with white meat is beneficial from a cancer-preventing perspective.
- How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in glycemic index||Equal|
|Lower in price||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet||Equal|