Salmon vs Beef - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Salmon and steak are two of the most popular choices for dinner at restaurants. Besides taste and origin, they also have many differences in their nutritional compositions and impacts on health. In this article, we will talk about that and much more.
Salmon classifies as part of the oily fish species, that are known for containing a high level of oils and, therefore, fat-soluble vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Beef, commonly referred to as just steak, is the meat from the skeletal muscles of cattle, that is cows or bulls.
Stake is classified as red meat, whereas fish is considered to be white meat.
Salmon and beef are distinctly different from each other by their appearances. Salmon usually has a red or orange hue when raw, which loses its colour as it gets cooked, becoming closer to shades of pink or white. Salmon meat also has visible wavy white lines, called marbling. These lines can appear to be stronger or barely visible, depending on whether the fish was farm raised or wild caught.
Raw beef, on the other hand, has a bright red colour that gets darker when exposed to oxygen. Beef also has marbling, however, it looks irregular and less orderly compared to salmon. The marbling in beef depends on the cattle, as well as which part of it the meat is from.
Taste and Use
Salmon, being high in fats, tastes rich and oily, whereas steak has a more tender and juicy flavor.
Both salmon and beef can be used in similar ways in the kitchen: grilled, broiled, stir-fried and more.
Beef is arguably more versatile in use. One of the most popular dishes from beef is beef steak or just steak, others include roast beef, burgers, beef stroganoff, casserole and shepherd’s pie. Salmon can also be eaten as a steak or burger. Most often it is fried, grilled or broiled and consumed with flavourings and sauce.
Several species of fish are combined in the term salmon. The six major species of salmon include the Atlantic, King (Chinook), Sockeye (Red), Coho (Silver), Pink (Humpback) and Chum (Dog, Silverbrite). Depending on the species, the taste and nutrition may differ. The King salmon is the biggest among them, also containing the highest percentage of fat. In contrast, Chum contains the lowest amount of fat. The different types have similar contents of protein.
You can also find a difference in salmons depending on whether they were wild caught or farm raised. Farm raised salmon may be higher in certain toxins, contaminants and antibiotics compared to wild caught salmon.
There are different varieties of beef based on the cut of the animal. The popular cuts of beef are the chuck (shoulder), brisket (breast), plate (belly), rib, shank (leg), flank (abdominal muscles), loin (back, above the abdomen) and the round (back, above the legs). These varieties can differ in texture, nutrition and taste.
Based on the level of marbling and maturity, beef is divided into eight grades. The top three grades for beef are Prime, Choice and Select.
For this article, we are using the nutritional information about the wild Atlantic salmon and ground beef with 85% lean meat.
Macronutrients and Calories
Beef is more dense in nutrients, as it consists of 58% water, whereas salmon consists of 69%.
Beef is higher in most macronutrients and is, therefore, much higher in calories, compared to salmon. A 100g serving of salmon contains 142 calories, whilst the same amount of beef has 250 calories.
Protein and Fats
Beef is also considerably higher in both protein and fats.
Beef and salmon are abundant in protein. Both of these meats contain high levels of all essential amino acids. Even though beef is richer in overall proteins, salmon contains greater amounts of these essential amino acids.
Beef contains almost three times the amount of fat that salmon does. Naturally, beef is also higher in cholesterol.
Salmon fat is considered to be healthier, as the predominant type of fat found in it are the polyunsaturated fatty acids, followed by monounsaturated fats. Among those polyunsaturated fats, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is an essential fat with numerous health beneficial properties.
Beef fat, on the other hand, consists mainly of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, containing low amounts of polyunsaturated fat.
Both salmon and beef, as most other meats, contain no carbohydrates.
Salmon is undoubtedly the winner in this category, being richer in almost all the vitamins. These include vitamin A, vitamin E and all the B vitamins. Salmon also contains vitamin D, which beef completely lacks (1).
The only vitamin beef contains more of is vitamin K.
Both of these meats completely lack vitamin C and the folic form of vitamin B9.
Salmon and beef are both rich in minerals. Salmon contains higher amounts of potassium, magnesium, selenium, copper and manganese. Salmon is also considerably lower in sodium.
Beef, on the other hand, is richer in iron, calcium, zinc and choline.
Beef and salmon contain similar amounts of phosphorus, with salmon being only slightly higher in it.
As salmon and beef do not contain carbohydrates, the glycemic index of these foods is considered to be equal to 0.
Many aspects can alter the pH of meat, however, the acceptable pH value for beef falls within the range of 5.3 to 5.7 (2). This shows us that beef is an acidic product. When the pH value of beef starts to get higher, it is an indication of decomposition.
The pH value of salmon is a little higher ranging from 5.4 to 6.5, making salmon slightly acidic (3).
The potential renal acid load or PRAL is another way of measuring acidity. The PRAL value demonstrates how much acid or base the food produces inside the body.
The PRAL value for beef has been calculated to be 12.6, while the PRAL value for salmon is less than half of that - 5.9. This means beef is a lot more acidic in the organism, compared to salmon.
Weight Loss & Diets
Salmon and beef are highly nutritious foods, also high in calories. Salmon contains less calories compared to beef.
Salmon is the preferred choice between the two on low fat and low calorie diets. Steak and salmon both fit in a low carb or low glycemic index diet.
Unlike beef, salmon can also be consumed on a pescetarian diet.
Despite the high caloric value, a high protein diet, rich in red meat, such as beef, has been studied to help with weight loss and improve body composition (4). However, high meat availability has also been correlated to an increased prevalence of obesity (5), whereas a vegetarian diet has been associated with reduced body weight and lower rates of obesity (6).
An addition of seafood, including both lean or fatty fish, in a balanced energy-restricted diet may boost weight loss (7). Another study has found the supplementation of a protein found in salmon, called hydrolysate, to have a positive effect on body mass index in overweight subjects (8).
Overall, both salmon and beef are high in calories, however, salmon may have certain anti-obesity properties that make it the better choice between the two on weight loss diets.
Various studies have centered around the correlation between the consumption of seafood and red meat and its negative or positive effects on health. In this part, we will look at some of those studies.
The inclusion of lean red meat or partial replacement of carbohydrates with protein in a low saturated fat and low sodium diet has significantly decreased total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (9). A similar study showed that high protein diets, with or without red meats, can improve cardiometabolic health (4).
Supplementation of fish products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, during a weight loss program can substantially reduce cardiovascular risk in overweight patients with high blood pressure (10). Overall, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to possess anti-triglyceridemic, antihypertensive, hemostatic, antiarrhythmic, anti-atherogenic, vasodilatator and antithrombotic effects (11). They are also beneficial in the prevention and treatment of heart disease by improving the heart’s structure and function (11).
Research has suggested that a hypocaloric diet with higher protein content from lean red meats can improve risk markers of type 2 diabetes in obese adults (12).
Lean fish consumption has been studied to have an overall beneficial effect on type 2 diabetes mellitus (13).
Intake of oligopeptide proteins found in salmon skin has significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, expressing antidiabetic activities (14). Salmon skin gelatin has also been studied to enhance insulin secretion and improve glycemic control (15).
There is limited suggestive evidence that fish consumption has a correlation with a decreased risk of liver and colorectal cancer (16).
Due to contamination, farmed salmon might lead to an increased risk of cancer. Therefore, individuals concerned with reducing the possibility of cancer may choose wild salmon or farmed salmon with lower contaminant concentrations (17).
Intake of salmon and omega-3 fatty acids has been correlated with lower inflammation levels, due to salmon’s inhibitory properties on pro-inflammatory compounds (18, 19, 20).
Downsides and Risks
In contrast to the potential beneficial effects on heart health, consumption of red and processed meat has been found to lead to an increased risk of cardiometabolic disease and cardiometabolic mortality, as well as all-cause mortality (21).
Substituting processed and unprocessed red meats for high quality plant products, such as legumes, nuts and soy, has been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease (22).
Meat consumption has been consistently associated with an increased diabetes risk, due to its nitrate content and effects on body weight, visceral fat and intracellular lipids (23).
Another study has come to the similar conclusion that the intake of total cholesterol, animal protein and heme iron is significantly associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (24).
A diet moderate to low in meat, preferably unprocessed and lean, is recommended to people with diabetes (25).
There is a potential association between an increased risk of diabetes and the consumption of farmed salmon, as it may contain persistent organic pollutants, that cause insulin resistance and obesity in mice (26).
The consumption of red and processed meats has long been associated with an increased risk of cancer. In particular, red meat elevates the risk of nasopharynx, colorectal, lung and pancreas cancer (16), as well as breast and prostate cancer (27). In addition to those, processed meat also increases the chance of esophageal (squamous cell carcinoma) and stomach cancer (non-cardia) (16).
Depending on the preparation methods the cancerogenic effects of meat can change. Both beef and salmon, when cooked in high heat by grilling, broiling or barbecueing can increase the risk of stomach cancer (16).
Unprocessed and total red meat intake has been associated with higher C-reactive protein levels. Reduction of red meat intake could benefit inflammation (28).
In summary, beef is higher in most macronutrients, including fats, protein and calories. Salmon is richer in all vitamins except for vitamin K. Salmon also contains higher amounts of potassium, magnesium, copper and selenium, whilst beef is higher in iron, calcium, zinc and sodium.
Salmon is the preferred choice for low fat and low calorie weight loss diets. It is also, overall, a healthier choice for people concerned with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in glycemic index||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low glycemic index diet||Equal|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values